Motherhood Under Pressure

I often wonder, as I juggle children, husband, work and house with varying degrees of success: would early feminists and suffragettes be happy with the way things have panned out for modern working mothers? I would love to pluck the brave and relentless Kate Sheppard from the history books, and ask her opinion over a cup of tea. I ponder this because my friends and I are part of a generation of women that are incredibly lucky in a lot of ways. Don’t get me wrong: we are far, far from a feminist Utopia, but compared to the life and times of Kate , we are streaks ahead. But modern mothers are under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure comes mainly ourselves, and maybe, sadly, a little from each other. It grows from a tiny seed of good intention: the desire to be the best mother to the children you love so greatly, to be a good wife, to have a respectable and clean home, to run a successful business or hold down that great job that is an essential contribution to the economic well being of your family. To be everything to everybody all the time. These days, there is an expectation of perfection that flows down to the tiniest detail -even school lunches :Packet foods are out; sugar free organic lunches served in BPA free lunch boxes are in. Children need to participate in as many after sports school activities as you can possibly manage. Housework , gardening, school fundraisers, parent help and coaching responsibilities all contribute to a manic schedule that is quite likely unsustainable. This maybe a slightly exaggerated state of play, but I guarantee you at least some of this will apply to most modern mothers, regardless of whether they are working out side of the home full time, part time or not at all. I know plenty of women who use coffee as a way to remain alert and focused to cope with their busy schedules during the day, and then use wine as a way to wind down at night. It is scarily common , and incredibly unhealthy. At some point, something has to give. The average Mother has only seventeen minutes of ‘me-time’ per day. I wonder though: is this a choice most of us make in order to live up to an unrealistic and unachievable parenting ideal? If we are feeling over stretched and over whelmed, things are very out of kilter indeed., and everything suffers as a result—including our children. As we hopefully continue to move forward, shattering glass ceilings, achieving pay equality and all the other things Kate Sheppard and all other feminists and suffragettes fought so hard for: I only hope that we don’t replace the shackles of the past with invisible prisons we have created ourselves from the desire to have everything perfect always. It is an unachievable ideal that will make us slaves to a life that is unattainable and unhealthy. Lets cut ourselves some slack. Lets swap unmade beds and dirty windows for a few minutes for ourselves, and ditch the guilt. We owe Kate Sheppard that much.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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