If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed me talking excitedly about chairing a panel at Exeter’s WOW Festival, which took place last weekend.
The Women of the World Festival was founded in 2010 at London’s Southbank, and is “a celebration of the achievements of women and girls and looks at the obstacles that stop them from reaching their full potential.” The Festival has grown globally and can be found across the world, including at Exeter. It’s a fabulous weekend of talks, debates and performances.
I had the delight of chairing the motherhood panel, which recognised that “[with] every step we take towards gender equality, women’s roles in society change. And with them come a whole new set of challenges to motherhood.” I was joined by Nina Farr, Steph Douglas and Natalie Lee. What an incredible panel they were! Each of them brought different perspectives and experiences to the discussion, which was vibrant and incredibly honest.
There were three main discussion points that stuck with me and I wanted to share with you.
1. Social Media and Motherhood
It’s safe to say that social media has an effect on most mothers. For some it enables them to find their tribe, to find a collective of women who will be there for them through thick and thin. For others, it can make them feel inadequate, as they compare their lives with those they see online. We all agreed that what we see online is not always a reality. We championed the ability to ‘unfollow’ someone who makes you feel less than you are and equally ‘follow’ someone who inspires you, motivates you or keeps things real. Remember, you have the power to curate your own feed and what you see. Use that power!
What are your experiences of social media since becoming a mother?
2. Sharing the load – equality in parenting
For those mothers who are in a partnership, they can often (although not always) feel like they carry the majority of the household ‘duties’ and family admin. Steph spoke about having a ‘ticker tape’ in her head – a constant stream of information and thoughts much like one you’d find on a 24 hour news channel. The ticker tape is non-stop, running through all the things you need to achieve, the appointments you need to remember, the chores that need doing, the catch ups that need arranging, the ‘life admin’ that needs attending to. It can be so overwhelming when faced with having to hold all of this in your head and be responsible for so much.
We agreed that communication between partners was vital in order to share the load and ensure that expectations are met. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where you feel let down by someone not doing something…even though you never actually vocalised what it was you wanted them to do! Being able to talk about what needs doing, how this can be shared between both parents can help to lighten the mental load.
3. Body positivity
How we feel about our bodies after we’ve had our children can change, and not always in a positive direction. We discussed the importance of consciously thinking about how we talk about our bodies in front of our children. My own feelings about my body oscillate - there are times when I’ve looked at my stretchmarks and my ‘mum’ tum and I don’t like my post-childbirth body. There are other times when I look at myself and think “these stretch marks and this tummy are a result of my body growing two humans.” A woman’s body is incredible (don’t get me started on breasts – since my breastfeeding peer supporter training I can’t stop talking about them!) and we all need to start shouting about it from the rooftops. This not only reminds ourselves about how awesome our bodies are and builds our self-esteem, but allows our children to grow up seeing what ‘normal’ bodies and self-love look like. My eldest daughter is 5 and she’s just started saying things about my body and I try to respond in a way that is positive. Two recent examples are “Mummy, your tummy is big” (You and your sister grew in my tummy, isn’t that amazing?) and “Mummy, you have a big bottom” (yes I do, and I like it!) I might not always feel like I believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I am not going to let her hear me doubt the capabilities of my body or think that I don’t love myself.
Honestly, the discussions were open, honest and frank. We didn’t always have ‘the answer’ but it was so good to know that you were in a room with other women who had similar experiences to you. It felt like one big group hug and therapy session all rolled into one. It reminded me that no matter who we are, Motherhood is something that can unite women with. We can rise up and support one another. I felt an appetite for that at the weekend and it’s something I want to explore taking further. What do you think?
Were you at WOW? Did you come to our panel? What are your thoughts about social media, sharing the load and body positivity in Motherhood? As always, I’d love to hear from you!