Coming to terms with motherhood

Paloma Faith’s new book, Milf, is an honest account of the tempestuous transition to motherhood.


Paloma Faith’s new book, Milf, is on the one hand a love letter to motherhood, but also an honest account of the complex emotions the whole thing stirs up, particularly if you derive a lot of your identity from work.

The hugeness of the transformation is evident in every page as she details everything from her experiences with IVF, miscarriage, divorce and more and how she works her way through all of the expectations put on women, some of them internalised, to somewhere approaching acceptance.

The book itself seems to be her battling through all those ideas that swirl endlessly in new mums’ heads as they come to terms with all that motherhood is. Faith talks in the introduction of feeling burnout through trying to be all things to all people. And she also talks about her loneliness. “I didn’t just want to be a mum,” she writes. “I didn’t just want to be a commodity either. I needed to remember who I was. I needed stimulation, fun, adventure, chance and companionship. Where had I gone?”

In the midst of all of that is a sense of anger that men have not yet caught up with feminism because, despite some exceptions, they are generally not helping enough when it comes to parenting. She rails against the term ‘co-parenting’ as it suggests a 50/50 split which she says rarely exists. agonises over the break-up of her marriage, for instance, and her frustration that she needed more support and empathy and less responsibility. She says at one point that the double shift for women is a form of ‘self-harm’.


The book is very honest about pregnancy and birth, including her experience of temporary post-partum psychosis. Faith talks about hating being pregnant and feeling her body is not her own, even though she had longed to be pregnant for so long. She talks about feeling invisible and like she was “in a prison in someone else’s body”. She says feminism, in talking so much about equality, may have put extra pressure on pregnant women to just carry on regardless.

Faith discusses the post-birth adaptation, her own relationship with her mother, sex post-partum, the need for empathy, how girls are prepped for caring [Faith herself looked after her half-sister and others before she became a mum], dating after divorce and more. She wants to get it all out on the table and talk about it. “We should be able to moan and acknowledge the difficult realities of motherhood, rather than pretending to ourselves and other women that it’s all fingerpainting and bonding and magical moments,” she says. Which is not to say there aren’t magical moments.

Working parent

The book is divided into very short chapters – it’s a bit like a series of blogs or thought streams, which is appropriate, given that is how you tend to think in the first years of parenthood. A storm of ideas and emotions and sleeplessness.
The section on work is one of the most impassioned. Faith covers the mixed emotions of going out to work and preserving your identity. Many women don’t have a choice, she says, yet it feels like they are punished for wanting equality because the work structures are stacked against them. Faith talks about the juggle of where to draw the line with work, particularly as an internationally known singer. She says: “Motherhood is a perpetual cycle of never feeling in the right place at the right time.”

The book ends with Faith bringing together all her thoughts and learnings, with patience being central. The patience to give yourself time to adapt to a ‘new you’. That new you in Faith’s case can take a step back and understand that instead of wild nights out at work-related events she would rather just be at home. She says: “Mostly, I just prefer to be with my children than anyone else.” She states: “Sometimes what we want is there, staring us in the face. I looked for it in my work, I looked for it in men, I looked for it in memories, I looked for it in the beautiful, damned and chaotic world around me and then I realised it’s all there. It’s in them [her kids], everything I ever wanted.”

*Milf: Motherhood, identity, love, f*ckery by Paloma Faith is published by Penguin Random House. Top picture credit: CBI – Confederation of British Industry and Wikimedia Commons.

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