Personal: `Nobody Told Me It Would Be This Difficult' ; Women Are Discovering That the Media Portrayal of Effortless Motherhood Doesn't Match the Reality, Says Marianne Brace

By Brace, Marianne | The Independent (London, England), November 12, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Personal: `Nobody Told Me It Would Be This Difficult' ; Women Are Discovering That the Media Portrayal of Effortless Motherhood Doesn't Match the Reality, Says Marianne Brace


Brace, Marianne, The Independent (London, England)


`Nobody told me it

would be this difficult'

Women are discovering that the media portrayal of effortless motherhood doesn't match the reality, says Marianne Brace

When I was pregnant, I naively believed everything I learnt from antenatal classes and child-rearing bibles. "Babies need feeding once every four hours and in between they sleep." "Impose a no- nonsense routine and get on with other things." No one told me that babies didn't read textbooks.

My first child never napped for more than 20 minutes during the day. "Other things" - work, socialising, personal time - quickly went to the wall. I hadn't been warned that motherhood entailed the sacrifice of "normal" life as I knew it.

I'm not alone - a recent poll by the parenting charity Home- Start revealed that only four per cent of the parents questioned felt that parenting matched their expectations, while 40 per cent complained the reality was markedly different.

The reasons for this are manifold. We're starting families later than ever before (today, the average age for a first baby is 29 and the numbers of women having children in their forties has risen by 35 per cent). Plus, previously unprecedented levels of equality have resulted in better jobs and greater autonomy for British women. For the woman who has put off childbirth to concentrate on her career, who has been deftly combining work and social commitments for years, the arrival of something as demanding and unpredictable as a child can often be stressful.

Furthermore, everywhere we look we see radiant examples of celebrity motherhood - Elle and Flynn (pictured left), Luciana and Lucas - and not a smelly nappy in sight. Do these women look haggard? Do they look fraught? Flick through Hello! and you'd be forgiven for thinking the secret to perfect parenting is buying the right designer papoose for encounters with the paparazzi.

It's impossible to live up to that media myth, the high-flying domestic goddess.

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