Published in the Daily Mail, I saw her story being discussed on Facebook, where the prevailing sentiment was that being honest with herself about that is fine, but she should have kept it to herself.
A few implied she was mentally ill, two admired her honesty, but most said that she should have kept her mouth shut. Many categorized her as selfish and unloving.
If her children were young, I’d feel differently, but they are in their thirties. They know how their mother feels. She loves them, did her best, but did not enjoy motherhood.
Every day I hear women discuss the frustration and drudgery of motherhood. As long as they throw in, “But I love being a mom,” it’s acceptable, even humorous, that they voice their complaints.
Dutton did not love being a mom. She said that she took parenting very seriously and did her best, but never had strong maternal feelings.
Are moms not allowed to say that?
Personally, I have insanely strong maternal feelings. I had enough to spare, and would have willingly shared the abundance with Mrs. Dutton. But that is not the way it works.
Mrs. Dutton had children because she loved her husband and knew he wanted children, not because she wanted to be a mom. She hoped she would change her mind, but did not. She felt she personally would have been happier without children, but she loved her family. She did not abandon them to pursue her ideal of a childless life.
After her children had grown, she looked forward to regaining a life apart from mothering. Instead, she became the full time caregiver for her daughter, bed ridden with multiple sclerosis. She expects to spend the rest of her life caring for her daughter.
She doesn’t sound unloving to me. She sounds stoic and sad, numb with years of grief.
Even with my excess of maternal instincts, I can relate to her sense of loss.
Mrs. Dutton’s story is lamentable, not because she was a bad mother or an unloving mother, but because she was a joyless mother. Her mourning never turned to dancing. She has spent her life believing that she would have been happier if her life had been more carefree. She missed countless moments of joy because she could not wipe the tears from her own eyes.
What is to be gained by condemning her, or silencing those like her with shame?
Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to every woman, and there is more than one right way to be a mom. (For the record, there is more than one wrong way, too.)
None of us should let expectations – our own or anyone else’s – determine our path. Take your responsibilities seriously, yes, but find joy, too. Mrs. Dutton admits that she might have enjoyed motherhood more if she had not been so “conscientious,” i.e. determined to do it all the one right way.
Parenthood can be exhausting and challenging, but it shouldn’t be “oppressive,” as Mrs. Dutton describes it. If you feel oppressed by life, please seek help. I’m not an expert, but that sounds like depression to me.
If you cannot wipe away the tears of your sadness, find someone who can. Your circumstances might never be ideal, but there is still joy to be found in them.