Calgary Sun

June 9, 2001

No work is harder than being a mom

By LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun

Rie Fujii, the young mom being held in connection with the death of one of her babies, is right."It is hard!!!"

Raising children is hard. It is very, very hard.

As Fujii's diary said: "People think it's easy to just stay at home and look after baby but..." it's not.

The 1950s sitcoms made being a "housewife" look like some kind of eternal picnic -- of perfectly coiffed mothers gossiping over backyard fences, eating bon-bons, cooking elaborate multi-course meals in immaculate houses and doting on their "exhausted" husbands who just put in a hard day at the office with their liquid lunch and a round of golf.

In reality it's the other way around. Most "outside" work is the picnic in comparison.

With its deadlines and unpredictability, my job as editor and columnist is considered pretty high-pressured and stressful.

There are days when the stress is indeed head-spinning and gut-wrenching.

And while I have an enormous capacity for work and long hours, I can remember being utterly shocked when I had my twins.

I had bought into the myth that caring for children was easy, so I was unprepared for how exhausting it is.

Prior to having them I had gone out and bought a beautiful leather-bound journal, where I had intended to write down every observance about my babies in ALL of that spare time I was going to have.

Tyrone and Nolan are now four years old and I haven't written one word in that journal. Not one word. It is empty.

And I am lucky. While I don't have any family in town, my husband, Stephen, is a doting father and husband.

We are also relatively comfortable financially. And still, "it is hard!!!" It is very, very hard.

I stayed home full-time with my boys for almost nine months, and it was the most difficult and exhausting work I have ever done because the demands never stop. You get no breaks, no paycheque, no adult interaction and it is very isolating.

I really don't know how single mothers cope.

I think about women in past decades and centuries and wonder how they managed to do all they did without supermarkets, microwave ovens, washers and driers and disposable -- or at least leak-proof diapers.

Those women, every one of them, deserve to have a statue built in their honour.

Back when men denied women the vote, saying they were not capable enough for that right, pioneer women in Canada had to chop wood, till the fields, keep the stove lit, butcher the animals, cook the meals, can the vegetables, give birth without doctors, care for the babies, wash all of the clothes by hand and iron everything. It's no wonder they all died so young.

They just wore out.

Many women -- particularly those of my mother's generation -- believed the myth that "women's work" was supposed to be easy and therefore thought there must be something wrong with them when they found it hard.

Yes, it's true there is nothing more rewarding than being a mom. I can't imagine this world without my boys. A toothless grin from your baby is unspeakable joy.

But four hours every night of unrelenting crying from a colicky baby (or two) makes running a marathon seem like a walk in the park.

I feel deep sadness and empathy for Rie Fujii. She clearly loved her babies.

All of Alberta, I think, feels much the same way.

Alberta's Minister for Children's Service, Iris Evans, says she is heartbroken over this tragedy.

"We wept in our office when we heard about this," she says.

There are so many resources for parents at the end of their rope, she adds. So many alternatives.

Bill Meade, CEO of Calgary Rocky View Child & Family Services stresses his office gets 60,000 calls a year, it investigates 6,000 and only 3,800 children are in government care, with most of those still living at home.

"If you think there's something wrong, even if you can't articulate it, listen to your gut and call us," he urges.

"It's totally confidential and it could save a life."

But mostly we simply need to reach out more to one another, particularly single moms.

Meanwhile, if you are a parent in need, call the child and family services 24-hour crisis support line at 297-2995.

There is no shame in admitting "it is hard" because it is.

It is very, very hard.

Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at licia.corbella@cal.sunpub.com. Her columns appear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Letters to the editor should be sent to callet@sunpub.com.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.