Maria Lally’s ‘I was happier before I had children’

Maria Lally writes a rather sad article in this week’s Grazia about feeling that she doesn’t love motherhood.

She describes motherhood as a chore and how she feels she was happier before she had her daughter. Apparently there are some incredibly happy moments but by and large she seems to begrudge motherhood and feel her marriage has suffered as a result. She is jealous of her baby-less friends and feels other mothers who appear happy on Facebook might be trying to pretend to the world they’re enjoying motherhood more than they like to let on.

She describes a wedding, where she is looking after the child, of not going out, of a babysitter being too much hassle, conversation that revolves constantly around their daughter. And the whole way through I couldn’t help but feel that of course you feel trapped. But the trapped is not because you’re now a mother and you weren’t before. You feel trapped like anyone would if they had one topic of conversation and never left their house, ultimately through their own choice. If you were only allowed to talk about your job and you had to stay at work all evening every evening, you’d feel trapped. And probably try and do something about it.

I think it’s like anything in life; you can’t just do nothing and then bemoan your lot. I know motherhood is exhausting and takes a lot of organisation but I’m sure it’s possible to discuss all sorts of things, especially once the baby is asleep; that every so often a baby sitter must be possible.

I see my brother in law and his new little family and whilst their life has changed, there is still time to talk of art and politics and music. Going out is still possible, that family may travel to help out, that everything can be enjoyable.

I also think Lally misses the point. Life always seems better in the past. You grow up, get responsibility, stresses, a job, maybe a partner. At 29, I look back fondly at 25. And at 25, I still wanted to be 21. That isn’t going to change just because you don’t have a baby. It seems sad she doesn’t think she’ll regret having the baby when she looks back when her daughter gets married. She might not regret choosing to have a baby, but she might regret wishing away 18 years of her life on unhappily wishing she was in another situation.

I’m not saying you can’t admit when life is hard and you’re struggling. Of course not. But wishing that your holidays, social life and finances could go back to the way they used to be pre-baby doesn’t seem insurmountable. Or, a problem any different to most other 30 year olds, with or without children.

Did anyone else read this? Or is it only me that picks up Grazia when it’s a £1.

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11 comments

  1. I didn’t read this but I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying. That you can make choices about what you talk about, about what you do and that a lot of people will be very willing to help if you need. A wonderful post.

  2. Sophie Gunn · · Reply

    I take your point but as a mother I read her article with great interest and I did agree with quite a bit of what she said. 80% of rearing in the very early days is pure drudge to be honest – constant nappy changing, feeding, trying to stop them crying, playing boring games. It may sound harsh but for lots of mothers it is a reality that you feel this way. I have a 4 year old and an 18 month old and I can honestly say that I enjoy motherhood much more now. I think Lally still has quite a young baby so is still at the business end of motherhood! She was telling it like it is really. Very few of my friends wax lyrical about how wonderful it is in the early days because quite frankly it isn’t. Good on Lally for a well written article.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sophie, really interesting to hear your viewpoint.

      It’s not that I don’t think baby rearing is hard work, as I actually think it’s going to be very tiring and repetitive, it’s just that I was wondering if part of her unenjoyment of the situation was the feeling trapped, which she could, I would argue, do something about.

      After I wrote that first post, I googled the author. And found an interview she did for another publication where she spoke /was quoted about how much she loved being a mother.

  3. Sophie Gunn · · Reply

    I thought I ought to add that I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was happier before children. It was just different.x

    1. Don’t worry, I didn’t think you weren’t enjoying it. :)

      I think every stage of life is just different. Sometimes I look back on my early 20s and think maybe I was happier then. But I don’t think I actually was, it just sometimes seems that student life was less stressful than work life.

  4. This is quite sad. I haven’t read the article, but to look at your child’s childhood as a chore or with a grass is greener attitude, probably doesn’t make for either you or your baby to get the most out of it.

    From my experience, different people need to balance motherhood in different ways. For some, that means working (full or part time), for others staying at home with the baby. But like you said Rachel, there are parts of every aspect of your life that are sometimes hard, sometimes relentless and sometimes boring. In parenthood they don’t last long – every stage is fleeting, you are so quickly onto the next.

    I think you have to make parenthood work for you. The happiest parents I know work for balance. Your life will obviously change, but it can be for the better! For us, making time for ourselves, talking about everything that we used to and generally being the same people, but with a bigger family, is important.

    Sophie – Just about the ‘80% of rearing in the very early days is pure drudge to be honest’ comment.. Certainly that is how *you* feel. But to your friends who think it’s wonderful, maybe they actually do? I did. Not every day no, but I certainly would not say 80% was drudge, much the opposite. Everyone has a different experience, and enjoys different aspects I think.

    1. Of all the parents I know with small babies or young children, I’m pretty sure that whilst they would all agree it’s hard work, I don’t think any of them would say 80% of their experience is drudgery. (I may be wrong but most seem delighted with their new status. Albeit extremely tired).

      1. perhaps your friends wouldn’t say it because it’s considered taboo to admit that actually, this whole bringing up a baby business is a lot harder and more draining than anticipated?

  5. I haven’t read the article so can’t comment on it. But the thing I’ve learnt from motherhood, the most important lesson I think, is that happiness is a choice. Being happy isn’t dependant on your situation (excluding situations of desperate need, pain and/or sorrow of course). You can always to choose to see the upside of a shit day, a rough night or a tough week. The thing is that it’s just mentally a whole lot harder to do that than to wallow in ones own puddle of self pity. I don’t profess to be an expert, I just know that when I get it together life is a WHOLE lot easier.

    The best thing about motherhood is that it’s fucking hard work, all the best things in life are.

  6. I haven’t read the article either but I totally agree with your perspective, Rachel. Yes it’s true, going to weddings is frankly pretty shit compared to how it was pre-children. And looking after small children is hard work at the best of times. But…

    Of course her marriage is going to suffer if she decides that getting a babysitter is too much hassle. And as for not going out… I can imagine single mothers reading that and cursing her. She has a husband right there and she doesn’t take the opportunity to go out and enjoy herself occasionally without the baby?! No wonder they have nothing to talk about!

    I think some people are more suited to parenting small children than others, some enjoy it more than others. For some people it does feel like 80% drudge, at least some of the time. But it’s your responsibility to have a life and make sure you feed your marriage, whether you have kids or not.

    Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, especially in the beginning. I remember reading that a baby is like a bomb going off in your marriage and thinking yeah, maybe not a bomb but definitely a grenade. BUT what I didn’t know was just how amazing it would be to fall in love again, together, but this time with someone else. Someone who is half of each of you. It’s magical.

  7. @upyoursginaford

    I think they would say it was hard work but I still dont think they would say 80% is drudgery.

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