Anna Edmondson shares her thoughts on how becoming a parent has a bigger impact on the identity of women than of men. (And whoopee, her contribution to this month's theme of motherhood and identity also inspired her own blog...!)
This month’s theme, I’m a Mum and a… inspired me to start a blog that I’ve been meaning to start on that very topic – parenting, multi-tasking and holding down a job. Given the inspiration, I thought I should overcome my feeling that I’m not qualified to contribute to story of mum, and dive in!
I've always wanted to believe that there aren't too many fundamental differences between men and women, and their roles. I was helped in this belief by having parents who had a pretty equal split when it came to domestic chores, and a husband who does pretty much all of our cooking, although I wouldn't say we have an equal split on other areas of domesticity!
Domestically things changed – I’m in the house more, it makes sense, we decided a cleaner was a worthwhile way to spend money…this all makes it ok! The thing which I have struggled to process is this: once you’ve had a child, you can't get away from the fact that men and women have different roles.
The traditional female role doesn't necessarily have to sit with a woman, but it does still tend to be the mother who reduces working time or gives up work entirely. For me, this took the form of realising that, by default, my life had changed fundamentally, far more than my husband's.
He has a job which involves travelling; if he has a late meeting, or a conference which involves an overnight stay, or a meeting which involves a very early start, he books this in without checking with me. The assumption is that I will be available to look after the baby, take her to nursery etc.
My job doesn't involve travel at the moment, although it has in the past, and may again in the future, As and when it does, I won't have the luxury of booking travel, meetings etc without checking his availability to do the nursery pick up.
The point I'm trying to get to, and I don't feel that I'm making this very clearly, is that although new parenthood is a massive change for men, the rest of their life tends to stay much the same - they only have to wear one hat at a time. For me, and probably most other mothers, the motherhood hat is firmly fixed on my head; I put other hats on over the top, and hope that I haven't left too much of the other one showing.
In contrast, I think fathers get to compartmentalise more. I may be at work, and fully concentrating on what I’m doing, but somewhere in my mind there’s a constant ticker tape of practical details: “what’s the time? Mustn’t forget to leave to pick her up”; “have we got anything in the house to feed the baby for tea?”; “does she have any clean clothes for tomorrow?”; and so on. My friends are the same.
My husband, and my friends’ partners, generally have the luxury of knowing that someone else will be thinking about those details!
To complete the sentence, I went for “I’m a mum and a... bookworm” – when I have a choice, my default setting is to be curled up with a book.
However, this obviously isn’t the full story – my day to day mindset is always, now, affected by parenthood. Whatever I’m doing, I’m always “a mum and a…” and never just “a…”. I’m not complaining, by the way; this is just the reality of parenting!!
You can find Anna's book blog here.
This month we’re sharing self-portraits that complete the sentence “I’m a Mum and a…” What’s the first word that comes into your head? Write it on a piece of paper and take a photo of you holding it up. You can see what other mums have told us about their identities and share your photo here.
For more posts on motherhood and identity, try
And you can read other mums' thoughts on motherhood and identity at our recent Mums' Make Date:Who are YOU now you're a Mum?