Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Motherload, January 2013

I am embarrassed by my freedom at the moment. Be careful what you wish for.

I have spent the last six years experimenting with different modes of mothering, different employment directions, different approaches to writing, in a sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating attempt to deal with my Motherload.

In that time I have dealt with immigration, housing, education, health, psychology, economics, employment, unemployment, transferable skills, and some other stuff I can't remember now. That was just at home.

Now my son is six, my daughter nine. They go to school. I tutor. My (school) day is my own. By comparison with previous years where I was either a full-time worker or carer, this is unimaginable, golden freedom. I am almost looking for sources of stress, so addicted am I to the need to be needed, so ready for the endless volleys of comment and criticism that come at mothers from all directions.

Now I am ready to write. I am ashamed that I was unable to write my way through those years: others seem to manage it. I couldn't. There are reasons why, and can be summarised as a crash course in home economics, never before learnt, because I spent the first half of my life living, essentially, as a man, even to the point of becoming a Fellow of a Cambridge college. Men still, essentially, don't learn home economics, they may be doing more about the house, but my reality has been that unless I became the spine of the household, it wouldn't work.

That is NOT to accuse my poor long-suffering husband of laziness. He pulls his weight. But I am undoubtedly the Command And Control Centre, a role I hate beyond all reason, but which I am, sad to say, best equipped to do. Why? Because in my life as a literary critic, it was my job to notice and clear up overlooked detail. Children are like novels, sprawling, waiting to be read and appreciated, easy to misread, and needing special consideration if their message is to be heard. I might have been a Fellow, but I was always a Mother-In-Waiting.

Why has it taken me more than six years to realise that tutoring is a wonderful way to carry on the teaching I loved at Cambridge? In the end I haven't needed to transfer my skills at all. My journey around management consultancy, and writing for an education information service, my time as Chair of Govnernors, the freelance consultancy and coaching I've done and still do, have all taught me the value of being a wide achiever, as opposed to a high achiever. So many women make or are forced into that choice. What I would like to aim for is serial achievement.

Perhaps now that my children can make their own breakfast, I have seen the last of cereal achievement, and can get back to my books.


Anonymous said...

That blog post is excellent contraception and the best case for remaining child-free that I've read in a long time. If having children means ending up as self-referential, self-satisfied and self-absorbed as you seem to be in this post, it would be better for women if they didn't have children at all.

Tuesday said...

Love the 'wide achiever' as opposed to the high achiever. I call myself a Jill of All Trades, good at so many things, a master of none! I agree I should cherish my skill set and be proud of my amazingly diverse accomplishments. Thanks Ingrid.

Daniele Ickes said...

It doesn't matter if it took you six years to realize that tutoring is a great way to channel your passion for teaching. What's important is that you're doing what you love to do. You have enough time to pursue your passion and be of help to students who need extra time and effort to feed their minds with knowledge. Thanks for sharing!