Too clever to have a baby Being a mum is FAR tougher than MensaTV historian Lucy Worsley claims she’s too educated to have a baby. That only shows how stupid she is, says a high-flying mother …
22:53 GMT, 2 May 2012
When my partner asked if I wanted children, I would rather have thrown myself into the traffic than say yes. For me, mother-hood was what other women did, alongside baking and taking anti-depressants.
But by this time I had realised my boyfriend was The One and I didn’t want my refusal to have a child to drive a wedge between us. So, rather than laughing and refusing, I laughed and said: ‘We can try, but I doubt it’ll happen.’ I was 43 and knew the chances of me conceiving were slim.
Three months later I was pregnant. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Mother's days: Danuta delayed motherhood but is delighted she now has daughter, Kasia, four
I thought of this as I read TV historian Lucy Worsley’s ludicrous remarks about being ‘educated out of motherhood’ and becoming ‘the poster girl for opting out of reproduction’, as if Oxford University was a North Korean reprogramming centre for girls with reproductive tendencies.
I’ll leave aside how regressive it is to describe educating girls in such terms. But if Dr Worsley opened her mind about motherhood she might learn far more than ever she did in the dreaming spires.
While my partner wanted to be a father, I’d hit 40 without ever having had a maternal pang in my life.
If not ‘educated’ out of motherhood, I’d certainly formed a bad impression of it.
But that was more to do with what I’d heard from the mothers I knew than anything I learned in my history degree at Leeds University or building a successful career as a publishing consultant and teacher of creative writing.
'My four-year-old daughter has uncovered aspects of my personality I didn't know existed'
When I was a 14-year-old babysitter, mothers told me intimate details of their pain during childbirth before paying me: no blood-curdling details omitted.
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Joy: Danuta has never been happier since having Kasia
Then there was the sniping, intended to put down childless women like me. At the time I was having a blast, taking weeks off to travel round South America. Writing for book, music and film publications meant I went to as many concerts as I wanted and met interesting people. It was a very nice life.
When I returned from a road trip around Argentina, a soon-to-be ex-friend — a mother of three — turned on me at a drinks party and sneered: ‘I got all my travelling done before I had children.’
At a barbecue where my partner and I were the only couple without screaming kids, a mother looked at us with a smile as sweet as sour cream and asked: ‘Why don’t you have children’
I had friends whose relationships had crumbled over childlessness, others who’d struggled with multiple miscarriages and one who’d battled infertility caused by cancer treatments. How did that spiteful woman know we were not struggling with one of these problems
So fear at becoming one of these sub-standard Stepford Wives filled me with resentment towards my partner when I discovered I was pregnant.
He just grinned, but then he wasn’t about to spend nine months swelling like a melon before a 28-hour labour.
Or see his identity subsumed by his role as a parent — just two of the many awful things I expected about becoming a mother.
If only other mums had told me the truth!
More than half of teenagers whose parents have degrees score grades in the top quarter of their classes
Yes, as a 48-year-old mum I am fatter and more exhausted. I also miss being able to concentrate on one thing rather than managing home, family and work with the dexterity of a plate spinner.
But I am so happy. My four-year-old daughter has uncovered aspects of my personality I didn’t know existed.
Who knew I could be patient Or unflinching in the face of chickenpox and vomit Who knew I had a talent for song-writing (OK, one only a three-year-old would appreciate)
Motherhood has educated me in a way university did not. I’ve developed creative skills Tracey Emin would envy. Motherhood has also taught me more about people management than any other job.
Missing out: Lucy Worsley has claimed she's too educated to have a baby
Last summer, during a day out, Kasia was playing with the sons of two friends and as she knew one boy better, their play descended into piggy in the middle. Toby, the one she knew least, was crying. We could have shouted and insisted they play together, but instead, with these smart women — one a psychotherapist, the other an oncology nurse — we separated them.
I sat Kasia down and asked how it would feel to be the odd one out. She’s smart. She listens. She was mortified. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she replied, then ran to Toby, hugged him and said: ‘I love you, Toby, we’re all friends.’
And if I had listened at those boring dinner parties, I’d have realised mothers are incredibly politically engaged because they are on the sharp end of much government policy.
Last week I was on Radio Kent to debate local education policy with a county councillor — after 800 children did not get a place in the schools of their choice.
I was just a mum, he figured, whose protests were personal, not political. He then revealed private information about how I had turned down a school that had offered my daughter a place, a move calculated to embarrass me.
But it’s hard to do that to someone who’s changed nappies in public.
Mums can be clever: Danuta gained a history degree at Leeds University before having a successful career in publishing and creative writing
Hasn’t he heard of Mumsnet Mums are ferocious networkers. We are better informed about the social, environmental and economic implications of education policy than Michael Gove.
Motherhood has also given me a group of bright, funny friends who would never have entered my life if I had remained childless.
Dr Worsley, I don’t know why you have a downer on motherhood. Don’t sneer. Sit down and listen to what we have to say. You might just learn something.