I remember the exact moment when I lifted my head up, looked around and noticed that there was still a world going on out there outside of mothering.
I was sitting in a pub having a Christmas meal with colleagues and friends when I looked up and noticed that there were other people in the pub talking about things.
I’d forgotten about these places where issues of the day are thrashed out amongst ordinary people and all the problems of society solved, I hadn’t been a part of that for many years. I used to debate issues fiercely in pubs and I wondered what had happened to that part of me.
It wasn’t as if I had completely lost my identity, I’d always worked; when the children were little I worked from home and if I had a meeting outside the home I would take along the latest baby in a sling and participate in serious stuff while my breast was being grabbed and mauled and the latest baby slurped so much louder than usual as I pretended nothing was happening and all the men in the room gallantly feigned indifference.
But I digress. In short it’s not that I never got out, but my view of the world had grown very small during those years of intensive mothering, so that moment in the pub felt like a revelation. There was a wide society out there, a culture which was developing and moving forward and I was missing it. I felt outside the debate. I didn’t even know what the debate was.
The mothers of young children are the best experts on how society impacts on children and how political policies affect the family so we should be right in the middle of the discussion and a big influence on policy, but there has never been a real platform for mothers. And I certainly didn’t have the energy to go looking for one when my kids were little, the job of mothering tends to use up a lot of energy.
But the advent of the internet has changed all that: it is a perfect means of participation in society for the exhausted mother of young children. The most influential platform of cultural and political debate for mothers stuck at home is Mumsnet, which not only gives mothers a voice but also has real political clout. It’s like the new pub that we can all manage to get down to once in a while, and not only that, it’s a pub where politicians and policy-makers hang out and actually listen to people’s views! Mothering can be a lonely job so it’s also a great way to feel part of a community.
I am loving participating in the wider debate and grateful to Mumsnet for providing the means. And in case you couldn’t get there, this is what I was holding forth on whilst propping up the bar down the pub last week.