The Elephant In The Room: The Dark Side Of Motherhood
September 14, 2012
By: Charlotte Gorick
The world of early motherhood has a distinct stigma attached to it; it is a wonderful new world of love and happiness and, to a certain extent, it is, because a baby is the purest and most beautiful of nature’s forms and nothing can be held against it.
But for the mother, there is also the loss of individuality, continuous sleepless nights, a never ending torrent of mindless baby chatter, a post-natal body; the stress of caring for this one lump that needs you day in, day out until there is nothing left of your former self, just an automatic rotation of feeding, nappy-changing, more feeding, some sleep (hopefully), playtime, more feeding, on and on and on and on and on. . .
Michael McIntyre said on ‘Alan Car: Chatty Man’ about his children: “They’ll look for Wally for ages and it’s great for us, my wife and I, because we just give them the book: you go look for Wally while we go look for a life we left behind before we had you.”
This side of motherhood generally isn’t talked about outside a comedic context. Except in Rachel Cusk’s fictional memoir, ‘A Life’s Work On Becoming A Mother’ which has sparked a fair share of controversy and many a discussion. Not least of which, one I had with a friend after we had both read the book.
Stephanie Merritt of the Observer wrote: “Cusk is not afraid to address frankly the grief for freedom lost, the despair, pain, boredom and guilt – all in the context of a mother’s unspeakable love for the baby.” I feel this sums up motherhood perfectly, but my friend (and others like her) seem to have overlooked the second part – “all in the context of a mother’s unspeakable love for the baby”. It’s true, at times, Cusk seems resentful of her child, to which my friend argues: “if she hates the child so much, why did she have it?”
I should say at this point that I am not a mother, but I have spent a lot of my childhood taking care of my brother who has mental disabilities, including a lot of things that come under a mother’s job description: getting him to school, preparing him for scouts, making sure he’s done his homework, cooking his meals, etc. So, I have had but a mere taste of motherhood and God knows I found it more than stressful.
Therefore, I have the utmost sympathy for Rachel Cusk: any mother who says she has never resented her child is either a liar or a fool.
A mother’s love is deep and vast and unconditional: so when a mother tries everything she can think of to comfort her crying child and yet the torrent of tears never cease, it hurts because your child isn’t responding to the mothers’ offers of love, so she starts to resent the child. In the same way anyone resents anything that causes them pain.
But no matter how much a mother resents her child, she’ll never love it any less. This is what I fear readers forget when reading ‘A Life’s Work on Becoming a Mother’, and it’s what they forget when any mother says they begin to resent their child.