So I am self confessed history geek. Having studied history at university, I’m always partial to a trip to a beautiful castle or a visit to any of Britain’s fantastic historical land marks, and I have to admit I find it difficult not to get sucked in by a good historical drama on TV. The Tudors, Downton Abbey, Victoria – I love them all! Now I know that more often than not, they can be very loosely based on historical facts, and the emphasis is more about sex, murder and plots, plus what ever else gets the ratings up – but hey, as long as they aren’t using the Tudors as a factual resource in schools, I’m ok with it!This weekend saw the return of Victoria on ITV. We picked up the story following the birth of Victoria and Albert’s first child. The first episode dealt with some issues that felt particularly poignant to me. The biggest battle Victoria appears to face is being able to reinstate herself as a credible and respected head of state, and not just a mother whose head must be filled with babies and nursing, “now you will be distracted by those nursery duties so dear to women’s hearts” – Urgh! Did anyone else find this infuriating?!
Hands up who could draw parallels with this one after having a baby – OK, so I know we’re not running a country, but the battle is still the same. How many working mums felt the need to prove themselves after returning to work following maternity leave? Maybe it’s the pressure we put on ourselves as women, but it does feel that there is a need to prove that we are still good at our jobs and to prove that we are irreplaceable even though our jobs have been covered for the last 9-12 months adequately without us. Equally we’re wanting to show that we absolutely do not have ‘baby brain’ and are capable of having a grown up intellectual conversation without always bringing it back to me and my bundle of joy!
Back to Victoria, the other slightly more secret struggle that she faced was the issue of bonding with the baby. All too often TV and film can show that mothers have an instant bond with their baby as soon as they arrive. It was refreshing to see a depiction showing perhaps a more honest representation. Some mothers are lucky enough to be overcome by maternal love immediately and have an instant connection with their baby. But for other mothers this can take a little time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Victoria finds herself in the latter category which she alludes to when talking with Harriet, the Duchess of Sutherland:
Victoria: “did you like them [your children] straight away?”
Harriet: “I was pleased they were healthy, I would have killed anyone that caused them harm, but like them? I think that comes later, Mam. Having a baby is a sacrifice as well as a blessing.”
In my case, I really connected to this storyline. I knew I was my son’s mother and protector as soon as he was born and I would have done anything to keep him safe, but honestly I think the feeling of all consuming love did come a little later. Pregnancy, labour, birth and the first few months of motherhood are such a rollercoaster that I think realistically you don’t know if you’re coming or going during that entire period. You’re trying to learn on the job about how to keep your little creation alive on a daily basis, you’re trying to learn who you are as a mother, recapture who you were before baby arrived, remember that you are part of a marriage and you’re not on your own – is it really any wonder why the mother/baby bonding can take a little longer for some new mums?!
Any who, enough of my ramblings, although it’s funny how stories and programmes have such a different meaning to me nowadays. I’m sure that 2 years ago I would have acknowledged the themes that were being portrayed in this Victoria episode, but now I really understand them and relate to them. I wonder if this is the same for any other working mums out there? I would love to hear your thoughts on this and whether you agree or disagree, plus any examples you have of stories/programmes/films that you particularly connected to.
‘A Soldier’s Daughter’ (2017), Victoria, Series 2, episode 1, ITV, 27 August.