‘My friends are married and have kids – that seems to be enough for them.’ ‘Everyone’s moving to the Dandenongs, having kids, and not wanting to have fun anymore.’ These are just a few of the things that friends, and friends of friends, have said to me. I’m an artist. I’m 29 years old. I’m also the mother of a two-year-old girl. I live in Berlin, and since Anja’s birth I have moved three times – from Cardiff, to Melbourne, then back to Berlin, where I had lived for six months in 2009. I have spent the last two years trying to move my family back to Melbourne – my hometown. And yes, we’ll probably live in the ’burbs.
When I was pregnant, I read of lot of literature that told me how I should behave when returning to work and seeing friends. These books and articles warned me against talking about my baby all the time because not everyone cares; not everyone has a baby. They instructed me on how to fit myself back into society, friendship groups and the workplace. I was being told that I had to extend myself to make friends and colleagues able to relate to me again, because I had made this enormous change to my lifestyle. There was nothing about how they should try to understand me.
For most of my daughter’s life, I’ve tried to fit in to other people’s routines. A lot of my time is spent analysing and worrying about things I’ve said to friends. Did I ask about them enough? Did I mention Anja too much? Oh my God, I talked about leaking boobs! Oh my God, I talked about birth! I laughed too loudly when someone compared contractions to period cramps! Did I act too offhand when someone talked about how having a baby will not change them?
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