Learning to see myself as both a feminist and a carer is a joyful surprise | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett squib

The work involved in taking care of a baby is unpaid, hard and often overlooked – but I now find pleasure and validation in it

I’m supposed to be writing about joy, but I’ve just been crying my eyes out. Nothing major, just the physical aftermath of illness, sleep deprivation and a baby whose Celtic roots are manifesting themselves in an extreme hatred of hot weather. The thing I am learning about parenthood is that the lows can feel very low, but they are also transient because the joy, oh my God, the joy! It carries you through.

The cult of motherhood, of course, needs no more cheerleaders. The fact that we are all supposed to be so happy-clappy about child rearing has been the source of much maternal unhappiness and frustration. Several women have confessed to me that they didn’t feel that powerful, golden oxytocin high you’re supposed to feel after giving birth. Instead, the joy grew and grew as they got to know their babies, but still they felt guilty.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a Guardian columnist and author

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