A warm crowd peppered with the chattering voices of children gathered at Unity on the evening of Thursday 4th August to celebrate the launch of Cathryn Monro’s book, Spilt Milk Yoga. How Cathryn found the time to write this book on top of her roles as employee, artist and mother was revealed over the course of the evening, as was the effort Cathryn has put in to keep on top of all these parts of her life.
Vanessa Williams from Unity Books welcomed all to the shop and introduced celebrity guest Linda Clark to launch the book. Linda proceeded to read an email that Cathryn sent as a young mother in 2005 in response to an interview on Radio New Zealand, Nine to Noon, then hosted by Linda, which discussed the idea of paid motherhood. In the email Cathryn expressed the sense of being completely unrecognised at what, to her, was the key job of her life – motherhood. What had dragged a very reluctant Linda along to launch the book, a job she has always avoided, was recalling the experience that Linda herself was going through at that time.
After a move to Wellington for work and the arrival of her twins, Linda set out on what she describes as four years of misery and hell. Linda offered her thoughts on how New Zealand as a society values children and babies. In short, we do not. We enjoy children in advertising when they are smiling, sweet and silent. Babies and children sell products very well. We value children with their mothers on the covers of women’s magazines. But as a society we do not value children and mothers in our day-to-day lives. It was Linda’s observation and anger at NZ’s odd societal values in respect to recognising the value of motherhood, and the relentless self-criticism mothers put themselves through, that brought Linda along to launch Spilt Milk Yoga.
After Linda, Cathryn welcomed everyone and introduced her special guest, her mum. Cathryn recalled that after her email was read out on Nine to Noon, Radio NZ contacted her and offered an interview on the program the next day. However, breaking news intervened – this time volcanic activity grounding flights over Indonesia – and Cathryn’s interview opportunity was lost. Another instance of the motherhood conversation being squeezed out.
A question on work vs motherhood that nagged Cathryn regularly at this time was, what does 5 years of mothering add to my CV? The answer is an unhappy one for most woman. The experience of motherhood adds virtually nothing of value from the point of view of employers. This is bizarre when it is considered that motherhood is at the centre of social health. Spilt Milk Yoga is a resource to support mothers and make them aware that their hard work should be valued, that it has purpose and that mothers need not be isolated and experience career death. Cathryn pushed the point that motherhood needs to be a normal part of everyday life and that this should be an important community and national conversation. It is an experience which although not often talked about is lived by so many women all the time.
Cathryn and Linda offered us all a lot to think about, and there was a good feeling amongst the audience of parents and non-parents, to have this topic addressed by such clear and articulate speakers.
Words & photos by Tamsin Grigg