I have yet to see so much as a brass plaque commemorating the unsung heroines of motherhood, to whom we are all indebted for whatever approximation of human civility they manage to wrest from the delinquency of our self-absorbed adolescence.
Three months ago my husband and I became long-term carers for a seven-year-old boy called Algernon (I’ve changed his name to protect him from the potential malevolence of my fan-base. I’m not sure that ‘fan-base’ is the correct term, as it derives from the word ‘fanatic’ and usually implies a substantial following. And not one of the modest collection of visitors to my blog has yet accused me of being either a genius or a raving lunatic, so I can’t really justify attributing the word ‘fanatic’ to any of them). Where was I? Ah, yes, Algernon.
In my more egocentric moments I would characterise my new role in Algernon’s life as a relentless crusade against the ever-threatening gap between the parent I would like to be and the inescapable reality of my day-to-day parenting performance. I frequently fall short of my own self-imposed KPIs.
But, if public perception is at all important to me (ok, just a smidge), I am aided – as a 50-year-old gay man – by the cultural presumption of my absolute unsuitability and certain incompetence* as a parental figure. I am assured that, if by some fluke I manage to adequately feed and clothe dear Algernon and steward him safely into adulthood, fundamentally unimpaired, I will undoubtedly be lauded as an iconoclast – possibly worthy of sainthood.
Now, I am embarrassingly aware that young mothers, the world over, endure a far greater burden upon their shoulders than 2.5 kilograms of newly occupied BabyBjorn. They also bear the societal expectation that they are the natural heirs of a primordial lineage of inherent maternity. No pressure! So, while I muddle my way through my induction to parenthood, to the soundtrack of kind words and commendations – “You’re doing such an amazing job, Chris!” – women everywhere are going about the business of protecting and shaping our next generation in relative silence and anonymity.
A newborn bub would find it hard to spit a dummy in this town without hitting some or other monument to a pompous pollie or champion of colonial conquests, but I have yet to see so much as a brass plaque commemorating the unsung heroines of motherhood, to whom we are all indebted for whatever approximation of human civility they manage to wrest from the delinquency of our self-absorbed adolescence.
So, from the lofty mantle of white male privilege and a social media presence which strains under the pressure of unrivaled popularity (just go with me), I pay respect to the mothers of the world, with this humble tribute:
We honour you, the mothers, who, moments after giving birth, gaze with unadulterated love upon the very creature that, minutes earlier, caused you more excruciating agony than you will ever know. We honour your grace and composure in accepting the reality that your tireless efforts are unlikely to be rewarded with remuneration, massage, a Brownlow medal or the rest of the week off. We honour your resilience in facing the guilt of not being the perfect composite of Mother Teresa, Angelina Jolie and Rosie Batty. We honour the working mothers, the stay-at-home mothers, the single mothers and the may-as-well-have-been-single mothers. Lest we forget.
Now, can we just get a damn plaque?
*I would historically have defaulted to the infinitely more expressive adjective, fuckwittedness, but, alas, responsible parenthood has incrementally robbed me of my ability to freely revel in the more festive embellishments of the English language.