The Doctor's away, the car alarm has mulfunctioned, Littleboy 2 has just had the mother of all tantrums. And I'm feeling just a little bit indignant, so I'm going to post this now, before I get over it....
Finally getting the chance to look at my copy of Observer Woman last night, as the Littleboys were splashing chaotically in the bath, I noticed that there was an article by the journalist Rachel Cooke, entitled 'Dummy Mummy'. Oh, that'll be interesting, I thought. Rachel Cooke is a journalist whose stuff I usually enjoy; she writes witty, incisive reviews, and did a brilliant intervew with Peaches Geldof recently, in which she managed to imply what a nightmare the girl is without actually saying it.
Anyway, Rachel has this week written the following article, which I suggest you read, but if you can't be bothered here is a summary: mothers these days are smug, obsessed with their offspring and can't talk about anything else. They do 'mad' things like 'post chummy comments on the Alpha Mummy blog', bore on about their children at parties and obsess about which stroller to buy. (No doubt spending their time blogging about parenthood would be regarded as equally crazy). They can't talk about anything except breastfeeding, Annabel Karmel, baby gates and In the Night Garden.
Now Rachel does not have children, nor does she wish to. And that is absolutely fine. I don't blame anyone for not wanting kids; with an over-populated planet, it's frankly a good thing.
But I've got to take issue with what she says. Yes, we all know that there are parents who are baby bores. Who obsess about every detail, worry that little Harry might eat something not organic, drive everyone nuts with their rigid adherence to Gina Ford-type routines. And yes, they can be incredibly irritating to the childless; I have heard of one couple who insisted that their childless friends find, and put up blackout curtains for their baby when they came to stay at their house.
And yet I still found this a strange attack, smacking of a lack of thought about her fellow females; those of us who have chosen to have children. Rachel cites one friend who told her that she 'doesn't get to see films any more' now that she's had kids. Well, neither do I. And there's a good reason for this. When you have to pay a baby sitter £8 an hour in order to go out with your partner, the last thing you want to do is go to the cinema, sit there not talking to each other for a few hours, and then come out to find all the restaurants are shut because it's 11pm, and anyway, your baby sitter needs to go home.......no. You wait for the DVD.
She says that when she goes round to see friends with newborns, she waits to see whether they 'ask me a proper question (and really listen to the answer), or make mention of the outside world and their own temporary absence from it' - only then, she says, will she know that they haven't turned into a total nutter who posts comments on Alpha Mummy. Well, yes. It is like that. But when you've just been through labour, which may well have been the most traumatic experience of your life so far, and are just about coming to terms with sleep deprivation, a baby who won't feed and a Stasi-like health visitor, you don't particularly want to discuss last night's episode of Spooks or your friend's love life. Littleboy 1 was born during the 2005 General Election. I normally love elections, but after three nights in the postnatal ward from hell l I was just too damned tired, stressed out and brain-dead to take in any of the coverage. But bear with your friends, Rachel. They will recover.
Also in the line of fire are women writing reviews of buggies and strollers on mothers' websites (which she seems to hold in particular contempt). Back in her mum's day, she argues, there were just two brands and you got on with it. Well, I am sure that is true. But the world has moved on. There is so much choice now over everything we buy - whereas our mums could have gone to Littlewoods or M&S for their clothes, we have a bewildering array of retailers to choose from. They couldn't buy olive oil - we can choose from about 40 brands. Yes, we live in a consumerist society where we have everything and, as Rachel says, half the world starves. But are mothers any worse than anyone else?
And with buggies (even the cheap ones, Rachel) costing hundreds of pounds, simply picking one randomly out of the Mothercare catalogue is not realistic. If you were buying a new TV or stereo system, you would probably read some reviews first, so why not have reviews of pushchairs? Hell, we read book reviews before buying a £5.99 paperback (and you write them, Rachel). Why not get worked up about the different brands? After all, you're going to spend the next three years of your life pushing the damn thing around, you might as well get something you like.
I could go on. But I won't. Becauase next to this article is another one, by Polly Vernon, in defence of her desire not to have children. Polly (who is NOT a hack whose work I generally admire) also complains about what she calls 'the pampering cult of Bugaboo-wielding, Mumsnet-bothering masses'. From a woman who usually writes mind-numbingly dull articles about her obsession with ripped jeans, rockstars or diets (she once wrote an incredibly obnoxious piece on how she loves being thin) I find this bizarre. We've all got to obsess about something, love. And when, for a few years, your whole life is taken up with child-rearing, it's no wonder you want to talk about it with other women on web sites. Why is it any different from posting bitchy comments about Lily Allen on Popbitch?
Being a parent is bloody hard work. Rewarding, yes, I love my children desperately and I'd never have chosen otherwise, but it's tough, it does overtake your whole life, at least for a few years, even if you still work, as I do. That's why women 'bore on' about it. It's not because they had kids late and are just sodding grateful. It's not because they are smug and self-obsessed. It's a fact of life. So stop tearing a strip off mothers, Rachel and Polly. We're an easy target, so save your vitriol for someone else and have some feminist fellow-feeling.
Anyway, I must go now; got to post chummy comments on Alpha Mummy, bore my friends about childbirth and discuss strollers....