Enjoy being a mum today ...before the very concept goes the way of the dodo
dmg media (UK)
TODAY, as if you didn’t know from the millions of marketing emails you’ve probably received over the past few weeks selling you everything from bath salts to sleep remedies, is Mother’s Day. A joyous annual celebration of mothering, not to mention an excellent excuse to pick up some discounted Whispering Angel at your local supermarket. Up and down the country, mums will be sitting up bleary-eyed in bed being presented with trays laden with cards, flowers and an assortment of more or less edible attempts at breakfast. But at the risk of sounding ungrateful (which I am emphatically not: my darling daughter Beatrice, I cannot thank you enough for your gift of an Oliver Bonas aroma diffuser – it will come in very handy combating the ‘aroma’ from your darling brother’s football boots), if the world really wants to celebrate mums everywhere, we could start by ditching the schmaltz and the grand commercial gestures and show a little more respect. Where to begin? The recent decision by several NHS Trusts in England to impose a ban on the use of gas and air during labour because of concerns about perfectly manageable risks to hospital staff? OR THE fact that women are repeatedly being denied epidurals or made to feel guilty about requesting them because of a midwifery culture that glorifies ‘natural’ birth? Or how about the fact that mothers who can’t or – shock horror – don’t want to breastfeed (it is, after all, a choice) are made to feel evil and feckless. The moment you become a mother – no: the moment you realise you are pregnant – the world decides it owns you. Everything about your life, your choices, your decisions, seemingly becomes the preserve of others. Whether you do sleep-training or just go with the flow: judgment. Naughty step or so-called positive parenting: judgment. Stay at home, go back to work: judgment, judgment, judgment. At every turn there’s always someone who knows better. Hilariously, they often seem to be men. Meanwhile, you’re just trying to get through the day. But all this is understood, and as women we are used to it. And the rewards – for most, anyway – far outweigh the frustrations, which in any case are generally temporary, and retreat with age and experience. I wouldn’t swap my two for anything. Lately, though, we mothers and women have been under assault from a whole new angle, a whole new group of people who think they know what’s best for us and who can somehow own our identities. A group who not only want to dictate our behaviour, but also the fundamental meaning of our existence. People who, if they get their way, will eventually deny us the right to call ourselves mothers at all. People who have already done away with the term ‘woman’, preferring to reduce my sex to a series of organs, labelling us ‘people with wombs’ or ‘individuals who menstruate’ in the name of so-called ‘inclusivity’. And now they are doing the same to mothers. We must now call ourselves ‘birth-givers’ or ‘birthing parents’, and (assuming we do) ‘chest-feed’ instead of breastfeeding. We no longer give birth in ‘maternity’ hospitals because such things are deemed offensive. Instead, our maternity wards are renamed ‘perinatal’ wards, and our mother’s milk is ‘human’ milk. Mother and baby groups are becoming increasingly rare – and not because of cuts to funding, but because the very concept is deemed discriminatory against the tiny minority of trans advocates who, increasingly, seem to dictate rules for the majority. And just as these progressives believe that gender is a construct, a movable, interchangeable, multifaceted feast that can be altered at will, they also believe that having babies is not a privilege exclusive to mothers, and that anyone who claims otherwise is a bigot and a transphobe – and not just, perhaps, an ordinary mum who’s a bit sick and tired of society telling her what she can and cannot be and who would quite like not to be made to feel that her very existence is inherently offensive. I have no issue with how someone wishes to identify, none whatsoever. What I do take issue with is the idea that in order for a few people to feel better about themselves, a large number of us have to give up our identities and deny the very core of what we are: mothers. That, really, is why we should celebrate Mother’s Day more than ever. That’s why today, despite all the commercialism, is so important. Because if things carry on the way they are going, if these bold gender ‘pioneers’ get their way (which I suspect they will), the concept itself may soon go the way of the Dodo. ‘Mum’ may come to be a word that simply does not exist. And I, for one, will miss it.