The Facebook 'motherhood challenge' is doing the rounds at the moment, encouraging mums to nominate other 'amazing mums' and post pictures that celebrate their experience of motherhood. It has been criticised by many, including The Guardian's Flic Everett, as the ultimate, insensitive 'smug club' making other women feel inadequate and insecure about their own mothering experience, or lack thereof.
She definitely has a point but Facebook is inherently smug by its very nature and that certainly isn't limited to parenting. If you're feeling insecure about your appearance, career, social life, relationship status (the list goes on) it is the very last place you should visit - there's nothing like a carefully edited highlight reel of someone else's life to make you feel sadly lacking.
But the debate around the 'motherhood challenge' got me thinking about how motherhood defines and divides us all as women regardless of whether or not we have children. I have young children. I have friends with kids, friends who can't have kids, friends who have lost kids, friends who aren't ready to have them and friends who simply don't want them. Our relationship to motherhood still seems to define us all as women - we seem to feel we have to explain and justify our situations and decisions to each other constantly. So instead of criticizing and judging one another as women and the things we impulsively post on social networking sites (where it's easy to be thoughtless and insensitive without intention - let's face it, we all have a friend we love in person but find irritating on Facebook!), isn't the best thing we can do is pull together and support each other in our choices and experiences.
This week was a tricky one for me. I'm on maternity leave and chose to take voluntary redundancy from my job (as the company is relocating). The decision was a necessary one but now the safety net of my job has been taken away I suddenly feel like a crucial part of my identity has vanished with it, despite hoping to restart my career later this year. Fulfilling, flexible roles close to home exist don't they?! Well I do believe in fairies... Today the kids and I got off to a good start, a magical story time at a local theatre followed by a balance bike class that my preschooler loved. So far, so successful. Then said preschooler point-blank refused to eat her dinner. I felt frazzled and irritated and lost my perspective. Bedtime was getting delayed, my evening to-do list was mounting up and I shouted at her, more than she deserved. Then I felt bad, like I'd undone the nice atmosphere of the whole day in one weak moment. And then I thought that if being a Mum is the 'only thing' I'm doing at the moment, I should be doing better than that.
Jeez! No matter what we're striving to achieve, yearning for or worrying about, we can be our own worst enemies so women need to stick together - in person, at work and on social networking sites. Choices and experiences around motherhood are hugely emotive subjects naturally, but we only lash out at each when we're feeling sad, uncertain and insecure (oh, and tired). The more heated Mumsnet discussion threads are a prime example! I hope that when it comes to my female friends, I will always celebrate their highs wholeheartedly and support them during their lows, without ever feeling that I'm in competition with them. Because we all know that with the support and empathy of other women that love and care about you, without agenda - you feel like you can take on the world.