“Is that an eruption under my pillow?” I sleepily wonder, my eyes reluctant to face the light of day. “Oh crap! It’s my alarm!” Yep, the same alarm I have reset nine times over, but to no avail. I’m under the false illusion that these 8-minute power naps actually serve me well, but reality has a different story; one that has me frantically tugging up my jeans with a slice of toast dangling between my teeth and cursing myself for oversleeping once again. With sweat dripping from my panic-stricken forehead, I gather my young troops and push them out of the door, one by one.
“I WILL be on time today!” I reassure myself, running like an olympian chasing gold. My children follow close behind, red-cheeked and out of breath.
Alas! The school gates are in sight. “We’re going to make it, kids!” I shriek, enthusiastically.
We didn’t make it.
The school playground was as empty as a bird’s nest in December. Not a squeal, or a shriek, or a chirp could be heard. Just SILENCE.
And that’s when I realised our efforts were defeated. Forget gold, we didn’t even make it to bronze. We were the ones collecting our “It’s the taking part that counts!” consolation badges.
Oh, the shame!
The truth is …
I am always late, I always sleep through my alarm and I always wake up in a panic. And if I’m not, well, I feel like I have hit the gold, won the lottery and all my Christmases have come all at once. Actually, scrap the last part, I hate Christmas!
Lazy, unpunctual and a Scrooge… I’m really selling myself, aren’t I?
I push my way through hustling corridors of children and their parents. I watch them fussing and cooing over their offspring; lovingly ruffling their hair, pulling at their rosy cheeks and kissing them affectionately. I hear sweet choruses of “I love you, sweetie!”, “I’ll miss you, baby!” and “Have a nice day, my darling!”
Or in my abstract mind, just a corridor of umbilical cords resisting to be cut.
And then there is me.
“Quick, get in that class!” I hiss, hurdling a lunchbox over a sea of heads like a rugby ball, and then scurrying out of there as quickly as I physically can.
As I push through a huddle of jabbering mum’s – who always insist on blocking the school exit – I realise that I am not like them. I am different. I am an outsider.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children. I really do. The love I feel for them is so overwhelming, at times, I feel like I could explode.
It’s a feeling I had never experienced until I first laid eyes on my daughter. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. As I peered down at this perfect little human being, I felt my heart grow with every little breath she took. From that moment, my life changed forever. She was my daughter, and I, her mother – the words seemed too abstract to be real. And yet they were.
17-years-old and responsible for a life I protected with my all.
As I gazed down at her tiny hand wrapped around my finger, everything else faded into the background. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore. My heart felt complete.
The physicality’s of motherhood came easily to me; Changing nappies, bathing and bottle feeding (Yep, shoot me! I said BOTTLE FEEDING!) were a doddle, but interacting with my newborn was a completely different story. What do I do with this small person staring so blankly at me? The other mothers on the maternity ward seemed so playful with their babies; blowing raspberries, making silly faces and singing sweet lullabies. But I struggled to do anything more than just stare at this perfect person lying so delicately in my arms.
Whilst many of the mothers took to parenthood like a duck to water, I found myself bobbing along without a clue as to where I was going. There were times when I felt like I was out of my depths. Times when I questioned if motherhood was for me. There were also times when I felt like a complete and utter failure. But mostly, I accepted the ripples in the current and went with the flow. I also accepted the fact that I wasn’t like those ‘mumsy’ mums cooing over their newborns on the ward – in actual fact – I was rather ‘unmumsy’. I often wondered why this might be. Why did I find it so hard to be openly affectionate towards someone I felt so much love for?
I was an unwanted child.
Okay, that sounded a bit harsh. Let’s say, ‘unplanned’ – I was unplanned. My parents were more – let’s just say – ‘animal’ people. It was like Dr Doolittle growing up; we had cats, dogs, budgies, rats (Eugh!), hamsters, fish and any other ‘waifs and strays’ my mum would pick up off of the street. She wasn’t a cat-napper or anything, she just had a soft spot for all things… well … soft, furry and homeless.
What my ‘animal loving’ parents didn’t find so easy, was this whole ‘showing affection’ malarkey. Growing up, cuddles were few and far between and the only time I recall my dad telling me he loved me was during a heated argument. It wasn’t said in a loving way, more of a “I FUCKING love you!” matter-of-fact – let’s not fuck about – kind of way (And yep, those were his actual words!) I was so shocked, the argument ended there and then. Nothing else needed to be said. And the truth was, he didn’t have to say those
three four words at all. I already knew. I already knew, because I felt it in everything he ever did for me. I felt it in his smile and his playful nature. I felt it every morning when he walked in my bedroom with a freshly brewed cup of tea (he made the BEST cuppa!) I felt it in the way he would look at me sometimes with what appeared to be a tear brewing in the corner of his eye – but, of course, he was way too macho to cry, so it was obviously just hay-fever!
I’m not bitter, nor would I wish for things to have been any different. I always felt deeply loved by both of my parents. I didn’t feel the need to be mollycoddled and bubble wrapped. Nor did I feel the need to be reassured 24 hours a day. In fact, there wasn’t a day that passed by in which I ever questioned their love for me. It just went without saying.
So maybe it isn’t so hard to see how this came to be. My um-mumsiness. Physical contact wasn’t something that ever felt natural to me, and as much as I loved to play with dolls, I only really ever liked to admire them from afar. That, or shove Playdoh down their nostrils until it bulged out of their eye sockets. Either way, I never believed that I was destined to be a mother. But here I was, with a ‘real life’ baby and, miraculously, I felt this unconditional love I had never felt before. An overwhelming love that, in all honesty, I didn’t quite know what to do with.
I remember feeling baffled when I took my daughter home from the hospital. She sat in her bouncy chair and stared at me. And I stared back. I tried to imitate the other mums by putting on a silly squeaky voice, but I quickly grew tired of sounding like I had completely lost the plot! It just didn’t feel natural to me; to let my inhibitions go in that way and ‘be at one’ with my baby. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist anyway. In fact, she didn’t have much to say at all. And when I tried to fill her in on all the latest celebrity gossip, she just closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Celebrity gossip aside, I was never one of those ‘Now, what does the baby manual say?’ kind of parents. Sure, I’d flip it open if there was an emergency, but mostly I’d just call my mum or my best friend…
Me: OH MY GOD!!! *Starts hyperventilating* Phoebe has got her finger stuck in one of the tiny holes in her knitted blanket. *Tugs at it frantically*
Best Friend: Okay, you need to calm down! Have you tried scissors?
Me: Ah, yes. That would probably be a good place to start, wouldnt it?
And the tiny finger – albeit a little swollen – was freed.
I’m pretty sure I hit the wine after that traumatic ordeal. I was starting to panic that I had an amputation on my hands. Thankfully, everything was okay once I had calmed the HECK down and realised that my frantic pulling was only worsening the situation. The truth was, I was in sole charge of this tiny screaming infant and this TERRIFIED ME! Obviously, it didn’t terrify me enough to go through the whole ‘screaming’ ordeal THREE TIMES OVER! Yep, 11 years on and I have three of the little horrors, tearing the place up and driving me to the brink of insanity. Three little horrors who are my absolute pride of joy and greatest achievement, may I add.
But still, as I walk through a mass of mothers and their children, I don’t feel like one of them. I feel like I am different. Less ‘mumsy’, I suppose. I don’t think it’s so much to do with my ‘badass’ leather jacket, nor my ‘super cool’ rapping in the car, but more to do with the fact that the other mums seem to have their ‘shit together’, whereas I’m lucky if I get through the day without LOSING MY SHIT!
I mean, you wouldn’t catch these mums crouched behind a sofa with their eyes fused shut, trying to block out the incessant screams of their tantrummy three-year-old.
Nope. They have their shit together!
I worry that something is wrong with me. I’m not like these mums in the playground; hair scraped into buns and frumpily dressed.. Oh, and not forgetting a floral-patterned pashmina to finish! You know, those mums’ who gather in huddles and natter about their home-made sunscreen …… made-from-scratch, nutrition-packed meals and the costumes they made for World Book Day… (Yep, that day I forgot all about because I had skim-read the newsletter and tossed it in the bin… OOPS!)
But that’s just it; I’m forgetful, impatient and selfish at times. I’m cranky, air-headed and easily-flustered. And while there are some mums out there who embrace every element of motherhood – shitty nappies and all – I don’t. I just DON’T. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children more than anything else in this world … but boy, do they annoy the crap out of me! I dither between wanting to kiss and squeeze their lovable little faces to retreating to an understair cupboard with a boombox blasting 150 decibels, a packet of cigarettes and bottle of rum. Heck, I don’t even smoke. Nor do I like rum all that much. But anything …ANYTHING… beats the constant screeches, screams and howls of three very hyper-energetic children.
The truth is, as much as I try to fight it, I know that I will never be a ‘mumsy’ mum.
I am the mum who lies to her children to wriggle her way out of taking them to the park. “Yep, I’m sorry kids, It’s raining!” *Quickly pulls curtains to conceal the sunshine*. It’s not that I don’t like the park, it’s just my arms get too tired …
I am the mum who avoids any form of ‘baby group’ like the bubonic plague. Sitting around discussing collapsing pelvic floors and chapped nipples. No thanks! I’ll just have a quick sip of this tea and I’ll be making my way… I’ll pass on the biscuit! I am the mum who slightly (just a little bit) resents helping her children with their ‘too-complicated-for-my-teeny-tiny-brain’ homework. Fun-filled arts and crafts afternoons? Forget it! I am the mum who POINT BLANK refuses to allow her children to paint at home. A creative outlet? …A BLOODY MESS !
I am the mum who does a little happy dance when the irritating school friend can’t make over for tea (other people’s children *shudder*) I am the mum who is
discreetly snoring at the back of the audience during the Christmas Nativity play and, worst of all, I am the mum who is impatiently counting the hours, minutes and seconds until her kid’s bedtime, so she can have a cheeky glass of wine to help shake off another stressful day.
I think it’s fair to say that I am NOT a ‘mumsy’ mum.
As the other mums sail pass me with their homemade soap and reindeer shaped treats, I’m bobbing along, content with the fact that I took a shower and kept the kids alive. But maybe I’m not the only mum who loses her temper or shouts until her voice is a whisper. Maybe I’m not the only mum who experiences those darker moments when she thinks, Sometimes I struggle with the discrepancies between the ‘reality’ of motherhood and the ‘image’ of it. I mean, it doesn’t make sense to compare myself to the other mums in the playground. Sure enough, they might be more ‘openly’ affectionate with their children than I am with mine, but this doesn’t mean I love them any less. Sure enough, they might show more enthusiasm for ‘mummy Monday’s’ and those dreaded toddler groups than I do, or cook healthier more wholesome foods than I dish up, but this isn’t a true measurement of my love for my children.
I show my love in my smile and carefree nature.
I show my love in my complete and utter devotion to them in every decision I make.
I show my love in the way I look at them with a tear of pride resting in the corner of my eye.
The truth is…
“We are all just bobbing along, doing the best we can in the best way we know how.”