Hello, firstly I ought to introduce myself. That used to be an easy thing to do.
I had stuff pretty much sorted in my head. I was a struggling writer working in the publishing industry;
I was attempting stand-up comedy; I was a film buff; a cat owner; a theatregoer;
art lover; frequent traveller; a foodie; a rampant feminist,;a long-suffering partner of a football fan; a cocktail drinker
and an MA student. I am still most of those things (travelling is a beautiful but distant memory), but to top it all off
I’m a MAM!
I am pretty new to this; my girl is two at the end of the month.
Some of you with newborns cooing in your arms might read two and feel it is light-years away but it isn’t. As the kids get older, the challenges just change, so I’m not sure anyone is anything
but new when it comes to parenting. Just when you think you have it sorted, BOOM;
they are walking – baby proof everything, buy shoes, become a regular at soft play, sorted.
BOOM, they are in nursery – deal with someone else wiping their bums,
learn to cope with the little dead feeling in your stomach as you leave them screaming in someone else’s arms,
hide your annoyance when they eat things they never do at home, appreciate how much they get out of the day,
sorted. BOOM, they are in school. Hang on; am I going to have to relearn algebra?!
The amount we change when having children is something I just was not prepared for. I was a lucky one too.
I was terrified of having a baby – so much so that I the idea of the actual birth didn’t even enter into my head
until the day I was due to be induced. If there is only one piece of parenting advice I can give you,
it is that 37 weeks into your pregnancy is too late to start considering the pain of childbirth, as you will have
left yourself no time whatsoever to research anything.
Yes, I was lucky; the moment my daughter was born I went into Mam mode. I understood her.
It came naturally to me. It was a shock to absolutely everyone. This isn’t to say I found it easy.
Just because I knew she needed feeding and changing at 3:17am didn’t mean
I found it anything other than painful to prise my gluey eyelids apart.
Just because I knew she wanted cuddles and milk didn’t mean I didn’t resent her dad for strolling out to work
each morning. Just because I knew she was warm enough didn’t mean I didn’t take it to heart
when Nebby Nellys stuck their oar in and told me what was best.
So how have I changed in the two years since we were steamrollered by the appearance of our baby?
I have no days off. We don’t have a good sleeper which does not help but even if she slept at a reasonable hour,
my days would still be filled with her big blue eyes watching me on the toilet, her tiny hands tugging on my leg
while I make her food she will not eat, her strong shoulders throwing the remote on the floor because I have
put the wrong episode of Sarah and Duck on the telly, her legs kicking as I try and change her nappy.
We do tonnes of fun stuff too and I love every minute. But it is every minute. Of every day.
Today Joe took her to soft play. Oh what a lovely rest you must have had you must be thinking.
No no, I painted three walls in our house a lovely ivory colour (to mask the drab magnolia that has been
attacked by muddy cat paws and a biro-wielding toddler for the last few years – have you ever tried to paint magnolia walls a different shade of what is essentially magnolia?
It is like trying to separate hot and cold water once already mixed, completely futile and incredibly annoying!
Then she returned, I fed her to sleep and then I wrote this.
This is definitely me-time because I love writing, I do it at the expense of any other hobby.
But it isn’t a rest. Believe it or not from these ramblings, this takes brain space and effort.
I could be watching Bob’s Burgers and eating profiteroles right now but instead I am checking grammar – yes I do love an em dash – and thinking about decent metaphors for magnolia on magnolia action.
Why? Because it’s who I am.
And I am angrier. All the time, at everything. I don’t know if this is specific to me, or a more general parent feeling.
I am, in part, talking about sleep deprivation, meaning I am quicker to snap, but mainly I am talking
about a red-hot anger at the world. How can I raise a daughter on a planet that will demean her,
try to break her, that will set different rules for her than her male friends, that will determine who she is
more than I can? A world that thinks a reasonable step towards sex equality is making the car insurance
admiral a woman? There are wars, there are governments that make detrimental decisions to our lives,
there are fundamentalists with guns in the Middle East, America and Africa, there are planes dropping out of
the sky. Now that this stuff affects her future, I am furious. It is exhausting.
I am louder. Mums in particular are swept under the carpet in this country. How many times have you heard
the phrase ‘just a mum’? Just a mum? JUST a mum? Did you not just read that I have someone watch me
tinkle daily? Only prisoners share that luxury. Dads don’t seem to get this as much and I would wager that it is
because the majority of dads are still working full time, apart from a picture on their desk and maybe a
slight darkening of the under eye area you would be forgiven for mistaking this gentleman as a carefree
bachelor. I am not saying for a second that dads have it easy, I don’t know I have never been one. I can’t
imagine being the parent that has to leave the house every morning and miss the big moments, or the parent
who always feels second best when no one else can calm the storm in that tiny person’s head. I am also glad
that I am not the parent who has had to witness my partner of nearly 11 years change into a whole new
different, sometimes unrecognisable person to me – watching as I no longer fill their world
even a per cent of what I used to. It seems no matter which parent you are we can’t win.
Now the mum at work is leaky of breast or still has the red mark where too hot formula scolded the back of her hand,
messy of hair, possibly stinky of breath (who has time to brush their teeth, serve breakfast, poo in private,
change a nappy, pack a nursery bag, drop off bag and child, and get on a Metro all before 8am?
Wonder Woman that’s who), crusty of shoulder – could be tears, yesterday’s meatballs, snot or sick,
and chipper to boot. We have to prove that being a mother hasn’t changed us – OF COURSE IT’S CHANGED US – we can still come up with amazing ideas, laugh at topical jokes that we in no way had to Google 10 minutes
later, bake for the boss’s birthday, muster ourselves for a leaving party which includes a Karaoke bar and
something on the menu called swamp cabbage, that we can get home and have clothes washed and folded…Are you tired yet? And for all of you mums who stay at home and care for your children all the time.
WOW. I can’t even imagine where your energy comes from. Not only are you project manager for a
household, you are a 24-hour round the clock chef, teacher, and light entertainer. Just a mum my arse!
I told you I was angry. So I guess this is a slight insight into my world and a not so gentle introduction to me
in my many facets. I think I am going to sign off with a hello, pleased to meet you. I am Martha.