In The Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown berates Modern Mothers for self-centredness; me and my-little-darlings-first, the rest nowhere. She cites the site Mumsnet as an example: full of threads about taking your kids skiing and coping with nannies; virtually nothing about national politics, or domestic violence, or global inequality. Mumsnetters have since disputed this, but basically, she’s right. I used to go on about mothers myself before I became one. Why is it, I used to think, on and off down my child-free decades, previously engaged people seem lose interest in the wider world, in politics, in anything that doesn’t touch on Me-and-My-Family as soon as they give birth? Well, now I know.
Maybe YAB has forgotten, now her children are college-age – but as a new mum time goes out the window. Books, lengthy articles, films, decent TV programmes – into the bin it all goes with the disposable nappies. No time even for the back page of the Evening Standard. All you want to do with your virtually-non-existent me-moments is sleep/eat/take a dump. That’s it, pretty much, until your youngest starts school. I’m not one to go on about maternity hormones – maybe they play a role, maybe they’re just a convenient shroud – but I don’t find it surprising that minds contract in the circumstances.
You might, occasionally, get a surprise gift; your partner, or your mum, takes your kids out for the day. Your kid attaches himself with passion to another family in the playground leaving you thinking, hey, I could have brought my book along! But these moments are the exception to the rule. You can rarely plan for them. So overall, they amount to little. It must be different of course for the nannied classes, or those paying extensive nursery fees; or perhaps more accommodating families. These mums may even be keeping their brains in gear at work. My sister was not the first mum to confess that basically, her day in the office was her day off. There at least she could count on her lunch and coffee breaks. Lucky her.