I’m late writing about this. The reasons are many; some of them I can talk about (a flurry of minor family illness, busy work, social obligations) and others aren’t my story to tell so I will simply say… well… let’s go for personal drama. The effects have drained me of both time and mental availability, so I’m about 3 weeks later than I wanted to be to share my thoughts on this book, which was painstakingly and lovingly written by a friend of mine, Vicki of Honest Mum. (Yes, that Vicki.)
I wouldn’t usually mention this; why would anyone reading want to know this was supposed to be published on the 5th of May? Because the reality of having to deal with difficult patches is what’s at the heart of Vicki’s manifesto for modern motherhood. Honest Mum (the blog) was born out of maternity leave following a traumatic birth, and Mumboss doesn’t pull any punches on that. It might well be difficult yet rewarding reading for anyone who has found themselves in a similar position – the promise of light at the end of whichever tunnel you find yourself in.
Because, in spite of its many privileges and joys, all forms of motherhood seem to come with tunnels. In my case a blissfully easy home birth resolved into terrible breastfeeding troubles (and swift abandonment of it, with the attendant guilt), colic and – if I’m really frank – itchy periods of crushing boredom. For others it’s financial troubles, infant health problems, family difficulties, the dynamics of older brothers and sisters, multiple births, having to work more, having to work less, physical challenges, mental health challenges, exhaustion and sleep deprivation, isolation… the list could go on and on. And while absolutely not one iota of this means that you aren’t a good parent or don’t love your child, you’ll probably feel guilty about something, at some point, because someone else is doing it differently and you’re convinced that means they’re better.
This is where a book like this makes a real difference. Another mum – especially one who appears to thoroughly have her shit together – saying that motherhood turned her life upside down and not all of it was roses and sunshine, is a relief. And then to follow that with a rallying cry and practical tips designed to help mums grasp at opportunities – instead of sticks to beat themselves with – is a massively positive contribution to the conversation.
And look, I know what some of you might think reading this. Will you feel worse instead of motivated? Like you’re not doing enough? No, you won’t. Partly because there’s a whole section on dealing with the useless act of comparison and building confidence. But also because, having crowdsourced wisdom from many busy mums working in all sorts of environments and different ways, there will very likely be something in there that speaks to you where you are. Even if where you are right now is thinking about the next step rather than being ready to launch your big idea. The point is, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. The message of Mumboss is simply that there’s every reason to believe you can do an amazing job.
On that note, there is something in particular that resonates through Mumboss that comes straight from Vicki and is one of my favourite things about her: she owns her success. There are scores of accomplishments listed here, and that is a really unusual thing to hear about women, let alone from them. If there’s one thing you’ll walk away from reading this with it’s permission to fully own what you’ve achieved, what you’ve worked for. If, like me, you’re a person who can wince writing a CV – a literal list of verifiable stuff that you’ve done – because it seems a bit self-aggrandising, it’s permission you are well overdue to receive. Try it. Say out loud “I am good at ______” (fill in the space, obvs). You might just find it tastes strange in your mouth, like a sour sweet, a little bit shocking but with a wonderful, tooth-melting afterglow. Women are conditioned not to brag, not to take up space, but what if it turns out that’s all nonsense? What if it turns out the only thing that happens if you raise your hand and say “I can” is that you get more of what you want?
This book has arrived some seven years after my last (and only) mat leave ended, but at a point in my life where there is a lot going on; in the past six months alone some significant family issues which came to a head literally on the day I changed jobs, to one that has raised new professional challenges and opportunities with all the gut-churning terror that comes with that. Also a small business idea I’ve been hesitantly fostering for 18 months now is nearer realisation. And I’ve managed to bang out 10,000-odd words of a new novel that I think I might actually want to read one day. It’s been, in short, an interesting time. It turns out just the thing I needed to read is a part-memoir, part-handbook to cover everything from imposter syndrome to managing my taxes. So it’s a damn good thing I know a very determined and passionate woman who’s written one, isn’t it?
Disclaimer: I bought this book and thought about it my very self. I might just get Vicki to sign it, though.