I always wanted to be a mum but I have to admit I've struggle with my four kids

I HAVE only had one true ambition in life and it manifested in me at the tender age of ten.

It was to become a mum. It was an aspiration, an intention and a longing which coursed powerfully through my veins like nothing I’ve experienced before or since. I felt, I knew, it was my reason for being.

Fortunately for me, it happened four times. Having spent a total of three years of my life pregnant, I feel I’ve come to know motherhood quite well.

But I have to admit that despite my dominant maternal instincts and parental passion, we didn’t always rub along well, motherhood and me.

It’s taken me some years to finally admit I found a lot of it a struggle.

The changes in my body were sometimes tricky to accept. I was never that cute yummy mummy who snapped back to a size ten as soon as the placenta had been delivered.

I found a lot of it lonely. I had mistakenly hoped and presumed it would bring me company but I’ve never felt so alone as I did when I was on my own with a baby.

I found aspects unbearably competitive — the persistent appraisal of Baby’s achievement and development always found me lacking.

I have experienced a fairly wide range of motherhood. I’ve done it on my own a lot of the time, I’ve done it smug and married, I’ve done it with a chronically ill child, I’ve done it with other children around, I’ve done it young and I’ve done it old.

But none of the challenging taboos I describe have really been part of our public discourse over the last few decades, and throughout the 27 years I have been mothering I’ve rarely aired my conflicting feelings about it.

It would have been unthinkable because it would somehow suggest I didn’t love my children.

And I have never loved anything or anyone more.

Whichever way we turn it, motherhood as an institution is a social construct.

Women who become mothers are policed and regulated during pregnancy, forced to give up so much — work and ambition, often.

Then there is a subliminal perception motherhood always has to come at the sacrifice of the woman’s self — her individuality and being a person in her own right.

Not something which is ever applied to a man when he becomes a father, incidentally.

As women, we are fully expected to surrender a huge part, or all, of ourselves to motherhood.

When I first became a mum, it was all about perfection. There was either a wrong way or a right way of doing things. No grey area in which you could find the freedom to do things your way.

It made it incredibly hard, nay impossible, to show signs of failure.

You should breastfeed this way, wean that way, make your baby sleep like this, bring it up like that. And worst of all, stay calm and dignified throughout the proceedings. ­

Added to which, society expected you, while juggling children, no sleep, anxiety and life itself, to constantly harp on about how much you adore your children, how utterly divine they are.

That insistence on perfection left no room for lament or defeat.

On this front, at least, I have always been honest about the failings and imperfections of my children.

I have been frank about how unpolished, fragmented and annoying they can be — making them fully deserving of that collective noun The Ungratefuls, which I use on my Instagram page.

That is also what contributed to my youngest daughter’s accusation that my USP is that I “hate my children”.

I do not. I will be honest about their shortcomings rather than perpetuate the myth that all is perfect.

Now, I sense a shift in our dialogue about the expectations and reality of motherhood.

We are finally starting to explore those feelings of loneliness, boredom, anxiety and competitiveness.

And we know society casts upon women many heavy burdens.

On top of all the other tricky obstacles, mothers get that extra thorn in their sides — guilt. Something that never leaves you, no matter how old your children get.

We are made to feel guilty because we are constantly being calibrated and evaluated. I’m not sure fathers experience the same.

Finally, now, I find myself at a new stage of my life where, after years of utter dedication, struggle and endeavour, I want to focus on myself.

I have surrendered so much, willingly, for the most important things in my life, my kids.

But now I need them to know how hard motherhood was and continues to be, how it’s been a constant tight-rope of compromise, exhaustion, demands and imperfection.

I want the next generation of women, and men, to be better armed, better prepared and ready to support each other in a greater capacity.

Most crucially, I wish that becoming a mum does not have to mean surrendering your identity as a woman.

I think I’m a better mum for finally taking 25 years or so to realise life has got to be about me, too.

Perfect motherhood is just a myth.

Cheryl’s been busy with Bear while Liam heads back in right Direction

LIAM PAYNE, multi-millionaire former member of One Direction, has talked openly about his mental health issues and how ill-prepared he feels for life.

On account, I guess, of having enough money to get other people to do life for him.

But the thing that struck me most was his desire to spend more time with his son, Bear, who he had with Cheryl.

It is not my intention to make every subject I write about a feminist one but God keeps handing me them as if they are never going out of fashion.

Question: How often have you ever heard a woman say that? When do you hear a mother say, “I’d like to spend more time with my child”?

Not often, I would hazard.

A woman might say it if she’s gone through a particularly punishing time at work.

But I guarantee she will still be splitting herself into a thousand pieces to sustain her maternal duties.

Even if she’s working, she remains industriously dedicated to motherhood.
Payne just perpetuates the experience to which so many of us constantly bear witness, that for men, spending time with their child is somehow optional, non-compulsory or even elective.

There are amazing dads out there and I will forever fly their flag, despite the fact we are less good at flying the flag for amazing mums.

But why does it always feel as if, no matter how much a man loves his child – and I don’t doubt this young chap does – seeing his son cannot always be a priority.

Mainly because, I suspect, there is a woman – a mother – standing there holding the child for him when he decides the time is right.

A little harsh? But also a little true.

Cruel dating game

CRAIG MOFFAT took a train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen in keen anticipation of his first date in two whole years.

He documented it all on TikTok. And became a viral sensation.

All because the woman he was meeting stood him up.

He may not have won the woman’s heart but he won the world’s sympathy and adoration.

I suspect he’s been inundated with offers since and I sincerely hope the woman in question is hanging her head in shame at the same time as she kicks herself good and hard.

I’ve been engaged in the “dating game” for four months now and it’s changed me as a person.

I think it’s made me more unhappy, less confident and quite pessimistic about what is out there.

I’ve yet to be stood up but I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had some really good, fun experiences.

But before I went on a dating app, I had no idea how ruthless people could be. Now I’ve learnt the ability to be the same, too.

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