Taking To Motherhood (Or Not)

I was at my mum’s house a couple of weeks ago, flicking through the magazines that fall out of newspapers, and I read this article where Bryony Gordon (who is now my favourite) and her mum compare experiences of motherhood. One line in particular caught my eye.

“I think my mum was really shocked by how badly I took to motherhood. She didn’t say anything at the time, but she didn’t need to – the stunned look on her face said all that I needed to know.”

I relayed this to my mum, laughing, and said she probably thought the same about me. But instead of sharing my amusement, she looked at me, surprised, and said that that was absolutely the opposite of what she thought. And that, in fact, all my dad, and my older sister, and everyone else ever talks about is how much better I’ve taken to motherhood than they all expected. And that they are proud.

My initial reaction was to beam with delight and pride and do tell me more! Followed swiftly by, are you kidding me?! I’m a mess!

I was genuinely surprised that she said that. Because most days my house is a dump and my parenting skills haphazard at best. My mood is a jumble of unreasonable emotions, and I’m exhausted, and not always completely enamoured with this motherhood lark. A lot of the time I feel like I’m losing and I generally have no idea what on earth I’m doing. At least once a week I question whether I am in any way coping. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered with it all and that makes me a bad mother. Often I lose patience with the whinging and that makes me a bad mother. I bloody hate playing with the Playmobil and reading stories and watching CBeebies that makes me a bad mother. I am so much worse at all of it than I ever expected to be.

Mum tells me I’m doing just fine all the time. Every time I doubt myself. But, for whatever reason, what she said this time has stuck with me and now, every time I feel like a failure, I’m trying to remind myself that people are having conversations not about how I’m barely scraping by, but how well I’ve taken to being a mum. It makes me feel proud. I think people should be telling mums things like that more often. We’re all doing just fine, even if we don’t feel like we are.

Much later, when the toddler was in bed and I was still revelling in the glow of being a successful parent in other people’s eyes, I had another thought: just how badly did they expect me to fail that this looks like success?! But, hey, either way I’m still up on expectations. I think that’s enough for me!

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Smash Your Inhibitions

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Oh, hey, just thought I’d start a blog post with an image for a change. Here’s Liam from One Direction smashing his inhibitions.

So I took the toddler to the aquarium a couple of weeks ago. Partly because I needed to look at something new with my eyes that wasn’t anything to do with laundry or Playmobil and partly because I wanted to try out my new ‘you can walk! we don’t need the pushchair! look at us going into cafés and not being in the way!’ backpack that I’d just swapped the changing bag for. (Spoiler alert: my arm muscles got quite the work-out that day).

We’d been before, every now and then, each time with me hoping that she might at least acknowledge the fish, if not actually enjoy herself. But this time she did! She saw the fish, she named the fish (“sea fwors!” “gally fish!”), she ran up and down the ramps, she danced over the patterns the light and the water made on the floor… and she wanted me to dance too. And I didn’t want to. I felt awkward. There were people around. And however fun and silly I think I am while I’m doing the full dance routine to One Direction’s Best Song Ever in my pyjamas in the mornings while the toddler watches me with a mixture of glee, confusion and concern, I am the worst when it comes to going out of my way to be invisible when in public. I even like the people I am with to be invisible. And yet “Mummy! Dancing!”, she insisted, and it suddenly occurred to me that, even if she had been able to understand an explanation of why I didn’t want to dance, I wouldn’t have wanted to say it to her. Because what an awful thing, to assign negative qualities like embarrassment and self-consciousness to something as innocent and carefree as dancing over the patterns of light. I want her to grow up feeling as free as I feel when I’m dancing around my bedroom. In public. In private. Uninhibited. At least until someone or something else inhibits her. But I don’t want that person to be me, so from now on I’m going to have to try really hard to smash those stupid inhibitions and be the person I want my daughter to see. Starting with bopping really horribly awkwardly over the patterns of light in the aquarium. Honestly. It would have been less cringey if I’d gone all out with the dancing. I’m going to hate every minute of it but I must try harder. For her. And for me too, I guess.

Anyway, overall we had a lovely day. We ate cake. We looked at boats. And then on the way home we got stuck in an excruciating four-hour (FOUR HOUR) traffic jam, ended up having our tea at a deserted service station as bedtime approached, sang 40 minutes of nursery rhymes to stay awake on the home straight and came away from it more bonded than ever. Funny thing, motherhood.