The Problem with “As a Mother…”
When a sentence begins with ‘As a mother…’, it’s generally a bad sign. This rarely heralds an insightful observation, as Andrea Leadsom demonstrated. The discussion will continue around the political wrangling, but I wanted to pause for a moment and consider the idea that motherhood grants a woman anything other than the ability to cook meals one-handed while holding a wailing baby.
As a Mother…
I’ve changed. It would be impossible not to. The focus of my life has shifted, and the opinions and feelings of others need to be taken into consideration. I’m sure this is true for most parents, not just mothers.
As a mother, I became aware of different aspects of life that I hadn’t considered. When my kids were babies, I noticed that dropped kerbs and accessible buses meant that I could get around the town easier. It made me pause and consider that the inconvenience of using a pram or buggy was a temporary one, unlike those in wheelchairs, who are often prevented from using a bus because the buggy space is full.
As my children grew, their needs changed. From searching for restaurants with bottle-warming and baby-change facilities to ones with a play area or colouring books, to ones with free wifi as the kids reached their teens.
I noticed the differences in pre-school child-care between UK and Germany where we lived when the kids were little, and became aware of the high costs that were a burden to many families in UK.
They started school and I became more interested in the education systems in the countries in which we lived. The way in which the world treated my daughter in comparison to my son affected me and encouraged me to become more feminist, more politically active.
In the coming years, I’ll take more of an interest in further education, colleges, apprenticeships. We are already starting to think about paying for the college years, how to enable our kids to buy property, giving them a good start in life.
Parenting is not a science. Sure, there are studies about breastfeeding, attachment parenting, education systems and more, but there is no ‘right’ way to parent children because every child has different needs.
My experiences have given me insights into many aspects of life. Maternity provisions, child-friendly products and services, child-care and education, housing requirements for families, feminism… but this is all from my perspective, as a educated white woman with a comfortable home life and loving family. Other parents will have taken a very different view on life, based on their experiences.
And others base their world-view on experiences in other walks of life. I can’t speak with authority on what it is like to work as an academic or a researcher. I don’t know what it feels like to be so poor that you don’t know how to get through the week. As much as I can empathise with the struggles and support the rights of people of colour, I can’t walk in their shoes. Why should my life experiences be any more valuable just because I am a mother?
The insights gained as a mother shaped my opinions; they don’t make my opinions any more valid than those of the next person. And they certainly don’t make me more suited for political office than a childless person.