Woman to woman confession: I failed mother’s group.
At first, I went dutifully every Thursday morning. But instead of finding comfort, the other mums’ endless analysis of sleep cycles made me anxious. I had a very easygoing, snoozy newborn, so my reluctant confessions of yet another dream week made me feel –somehow – guilty and worried.
A wise friend gently noted that I didn’t seem to be getting a lot out of the experience. I had to agree. But…it’s mothers’ group. It’s what you do. Park your pram outside Brunetti’s and talk about poo over decaf.
‘Who said you have to be there?’ She asked. ‘Just stop’.
So I did. It was liberating. I cried a bit with relief.
I suspected I wouldn’t actually get away with it. Surely someone, somewhere, was taking notes of my womanly failings.
Skipped out of playgroup, can’t tong own hair and gets Subway wraps with TWO TYPES OF DRESSING.
But literally nothing happened, except I stopped feeling shit.
Because here’s the thing – there is not much you are actually forced to do in life.
But if you’re a woman? Well, the list of heavily suggested ideas is long…
You should do strength training. You should own an investment blazer. Be sexy and take-charge in bed. You need an equal number of bridesmaids. Drop 4-6kgs. Try a fringe to cover that five-head. You shouldn’t be bossy. You should love kids, but not so much that it looks desperate. You better not let your muff hair grow. Shouldn’t say muff, it’s crass.
So many rules. Rules that weigh us down and keep us in a constant, panicked pursuit of self-improvement. Somehow, we got it into our heads that we’re all supposed to be juice cleansing, ‘Leaning In’ and remembering everyone’s birthday. If we slip up, slack off, or miss pilates – we’re not trying hard enough. We’re not valuing ourselves by putting in a touch of effort. We’re lazy bitches, basically.
We don’t need to DO ALL THE THINGS, 100% OF THE TIME. We certainly don’t need to get into a vicious guilt cycle about all the ‘shoulds’ we missed again today.
Do men wallow in shame like this?
‘OMG, I cannot even look at that sausage roll, I haven’t been to footy training at ALL this week, I am so bad.’
Don’t think so. They eat the sausage roll. Or not…whatever, mate. Make a choice, then let it go.
The depth of this lady insanity hit me when I was flicking through a mag recently. A quote from the beauty pages leapt out:
‘Once you turn 30, you need to be curling your eyelashes daily’.
This time, I laughed. Because I finally got it.
We get thrown 5,945 suggestive Rules For Good Womanhood every day. We must, we must, we must…or else what? What terrible, awful thing will happen? It’s not our official duty to wear mascara. It’s a choice. We don’t ALL have to do it. Back off, Marie Clare. That shit is optional.
Nothing is a must-do or a must-have. Feminism isn’t about rejecting beauty, or shying away from softness, or hating on anything girly and sweet. It’s about having choices and reserving the right to opt-out – without guilt. Freedom to say ‘that’s cool, but it’s not for me’, and being truly ok with not looking back.
I’m never going to mother’s group again. I’m not buying a statement fragrance for winter. I don’t want to tone my thighs. I don’t really like diamonds. I use daycare so I can work, but sometimes so I can lie in bed and read gossip blogs. Thousand Island dressing is delicious.
What does that mean for me, as a woman? I’m doing it wrong? I must feel bad and try harder tomorrow? It’s ok to turn down something that’s not benefiting you in a positive way, and no woman ever needs to apologise for that.
When a male co-worker bristled and told Amy Poehler her smutty jokes weren’t ‘cute’, she didn’t second guess herself. She didn’t even hesitate.
‘I don’t fucking care if you like it’. That’s a guilt free woman, right there.
A couple of years ago we were talking about #YesAllWomen. We were firm, united and proud in the face of sexism and inequality. It was potent, but short-lived. Days later, and the overriding message is back on-brand:
Women everywhere are doing the #30DaySquatChallenge!
Bullshit. Sneaky, unfair bullshit.
There are no rules. But given the choice, we should care about what’s happening here. And we should talk about it. At a loud, piercing volume that can’t be ignored. Chicks are good at that, right?
What ‘rule’ do you refuse to follow?