Society expects women to transform into cooing mothers
Jo Martin is mum to Juliet, 2, (pictured left) and newborn Eleanora. The English teacher found her first maternity leave isolating and says this time she will take time out for herself. She says: “It was a horrendous transition to maternity leave for me the first time. I found it very difficult going from an incredibly stimulating adult environment to the isolation of being at home with a screaming baby.
I tried to counter that by throwing myself into the mum culture and making organic purees and going along to rhyme time and all the stuff you’re supposed to do, which I found did make the days go quicker but it offered nothing in terms of meeting my needs for adult stimulation and conversation and to be intellectually challenged.
I think society expects women, and other carers, who are used to being challenged and creative to just transform from thriving in productive careers to becoming smiling, cooing mothers who are content with having little to do.
I just felt so isolated. Even something as simple as the news becomes a luxury. When you’re at work, even if you don’t have time to read the papers, people will be chatting about the big news items of the day, whereas on maternity leave, you’re cut off from a lot of those casual adult conversations. I think groups that offer the chance for mums to follow their interests while their children are looked after in the room next door are really promising, because they try very hard to give women the opportunity to go beyond the baby conversations.
And having the opportunity to hand the responsibility of your baby over to a nanny for an hour is like a breath of fresh air, I guess it’s putting down a bit of a weight for a bit. For me it’s getting the chance to stretch and relax and find a way back to my premother self.”