Mothering vs Motherhood

I’m in the process of writing a post provisionally entitled Motherhood Sucks. The phrase is a succinct description of my experience of motherhood, and is deliberately provocative. But it requires some elaboration.

Motherhood is not the same thing as mothering.

Mothering is the act of looking after a child. It’s a verb, a do-ing word. Motherhood is a noun. It’s the state of being a mother.

Mothering does not always suck, fortunately for my child. But motherhood often does. In other words, I often actively enjoy the acts of mothering. I like reading stories to my child, I like cooking, I get some satisfaction from keeping the house clean and tidy. I enjoy her awkward questions that make me think, and make me clarify what is sometimes woolly thinking. I’m happy that being a mother means I get to visit adventure parks.

Motherhood, on the other hand, often sucks. The state of being a mother means the following things at this time and place in my world:

  • I am entirely and solely responsible for a small human. This true in a legal sense (I’m a single parent and her biological father is dead.) It’s also true in the sense that when any kind of provision for her fails, whether educational, social, financial, etc., I and I alone am the one picking up the pieces.
  • If the education system fails my child, which is has, the responsibility to educate her falls to me. It’s a big responsibility. It’s time-consuming.
  • The time and energy it takes to mother significantly affects the time and energy I have available to work for a living, to pursue my professional goals, to pursue hobbies and relationships that nurture me.
  • My financial situation is far, far worse than it would be if I were not a mother.
  • My health is worse than it would be if I were not a mother.

For other women, the state of being a mother can also mean choosing to stay in an unsatisfying or even unsafe relationship because of the children and/or the logistics and/or the money.

These burdens are not the fault of the child and have little to do with the acts of mothering. These burdens are the result of motherhood, the state of being a mother.

So yes, motherhood can really suck.