In defence of moaning

Bibi Lynch, I love you. Even though you probably think I’m an over-privileged cow, what with me having children and not being deliriously happy all the time. I try, honest I do. Who cares, I still think you’re ace.

Lynch has written an article entitled Mothers, stop moaning! It is basically a rant about how much it pisses her off to hear mothers complaining about the trials of having children when to her, as a woman who wants children but is unlikely to ever have them, mums are “the luckiest people on earth”. I’d say this was at best debatable, but would have to confess, smug as it sounds, that certainly my children are fucking brilliant and I’m lucky to have them. Doesn’t stop me having a good moan every now and then, though. That’s just being human.

Even so, I think Lynch does hit a particular nerve. There’s a real cult of Mummy Moaning that can suck you in if you’re not careful. It’s not serious, mind. I think women do it at baby groups in order to have something to talk about, and then do it outside of said groups because it’s almost like sharing a bad day in the office. Then rich and famous women join in so that they can pretend they’re Just Like You and Feel Your Pain. It’s all a bit of a game, really. A game that fetishises and to some extent legitimises genuine injustices in the division of labour between mothers and fathers, and beliefs about what motherhood is meant to entail. Truth be told, it’s not always a bed of roses. We’re not really that miserable, though. We just say we are.

I can see how it’s all rather annoying to someone like Lynch. That said, her reaction is a little, well, extreme:

I will never be pregnant, never be protected by the father of my child, never be loved as the mother of his child, never love like you love, and never be loved as you’re loved. I will never mean as much to anyone as you do. Imagine that, mums. Believe me, you don’t know you’re born.

Crikey. Well, for starters, being “protected by the father of my child” kind of creeps me out, but as for the rest of it … I seriously wonder if I’m not doing motherhood properly because that’s not how it feels to me. Should I be feeling the love much more than this, given that it’s something others don’t have? Perhaps. Mind you, I don’t spend all day in the office adoring spreadsheets because there are people who are unemployed. And I don’t enjoy eating All Bran or pork pies on the basis that “there are starving children in Africa”. I guess I’m just a bit of an ungrateful bitch, but then, aren’t we all?

Obviously Bibi Lynch is upset, and I shouldn’t be being this flippant. Moreover, I really do empathise with just how angry she feels. Six years ago my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I was fucking furious at the ongoing celebration of fertility which seemed to be going on around me. To be honest, I was much more furious even that Ms Lynch seems to be. If I saw a pregnant woman I wanted her to miscarry. I wanted her to feel what I felt, instead of trotting around as though the blessing bestowed on her was somehow normal. Benevolence directed at pregnant women felt like a slight against me, the barren one. Pregnancy, a process of random luck, was suddenly a morality tale and I had been found wanting, cursed.

I remember returning to work and listening to people discuss the “agonising” twelve-hour labour of a colleage. No one discussed the agonising twelve hours I’d spent writhing and expelling bloody clots that I didn’t dare look at. Fuck you all, I said. But I said it in my head. Thankfully no one suggested I write an article for the Guardian.

In Lynch’s article, the author really lays her soul bare, and whatever venom might be directed at women like me, I can’t help thinking go for it. It’s about time someone said this, or something like it. I’m sick of pain wrapped up in the “wisdom” of hindsight, of people learning to accept all the shit that surrounds them. Of no one admitting that unhappiness can make you selfish and cruel. Sometimes it’s cathartic to lay it all on the table. Or if not cathartic, at least it helps others feel less alone, not that that’s why you’re doing it. I wouldn’t have said all this but I’m glad Lynch did. This may not be the reality of everyone’s experience but this is how bad it genuinely feels for her. And other people’s pain should make the rest of us feel uncomfortable.

I think this is why, when it comes to breaking-up songs, I’d always choose Alanis Morrissette’s “You oughta know” over Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive”. Sometimes you think, no, I won’t survive. I don’t bloody want to. But still, just as long as you know how to piss other people off with your ill-judged salvos, you know you’re still alive.