Harriet started school this year, which means I come in to contact with a lot more parents than I ever did before. I like talking to other parents. I also enjoy seeing all the different types of people and their relationships with their children. Clingy mums, shouty mums, busy mums, cheery mums, perfect mums and my favourite, flawed mums. No judgement of any, at some point we are all of these things and more.
When Harry was little I took her to various baby groups. I was always shocked to see how well presented some of these mothers were. One mum rocked up to every session in six inch heels, flawless makeup and bejewelled cardigans, not a hair out of place. How the hell did she find the time to do that?! She turned up in her sparkling clean car with her perfectly turned out child and spoke of delightful baking days, crafting and no T.V ever. I used to leave feeling like a failure. I’d not managed a shower, these jeans were out of the wash basket and Harriet was ripping the fire extinguisher off the wall. In my warped brain, I was meant to be like glamorous mum too.
I am not organised. I thought having a child would somehow have a chemical reaction on my brain which would change this. It did not. I am still not organised and now I have more things to forget. I would leave the house without wipes, changes of clothes, snacks….the list went on and on. I relied on organised mums to lend me stuff. One friend even loaned me her ‘third spare buggy’ on one trip. I couldn’t even remember to bring one!
I’m pretty sure the reason I breastfed for so long was because at least I couldn’t leave the house without my boobs (nipple pads on the other hand).
To me, other mums had it all sorted out. When they baked flour didn’t end up in every single room of the house, eggs got cracked perfectly into the bowl and their child never ever ate all the mixture before it got anywhere near the oven. Crafting days were contained to a kitchen table, probably covered with a wipeable Cath Kidston tablecloth. Glitter was never spilled, sequins stayed in their little pots and glue was used responsibly. Other mums didn’t go on Facebook and let their child binge on Cbeebies, and they all made their children eat organic quinoa which they gobbled up.….no, not gobbled, because they had impeccable table manners. Other mums didn’t stop visiting Supermarkets because it was too much of a rigmarole and never wanted to run away and have two minutes peace so they could eat their child’s chocolate.
I drove myself crazy trying to be the perfect mother. Trying to do everything. Until eventually I realised there’s no such thing as a perfect mother, just the illusion. Looking like you know what you’re doing is all smoke and mirrors, some people are just better at pretending than others.
That’s why I like the obviously flawed mums. They make me feel better about life and they aren’t pretending. Every morning I see the same family running down the street to school, pink faced and breathless, sometimes a child is crying, sometimes the cardigan is buttoned up wrong. That family make me smile and I love seeing them. You’re awesome nearly late woman!
I like to see people having to physically drag their children down from trees, or embarrassed because their child has just called someone something inappropriate.
At baby group I wanted to talk to the woman with a bit of sick on her shoulder who looked like she’d not slept for a week. I enjoy hearing funny stories and exchanging embarrassing anecdotes. I firstly warmed to one woman because her hair looked a bit greasy and I felt a solidarity with her as my hair was being held together with dry hair shampoo.
It’s great not being perfect and it great to not pretend. I find people with stories the most fascinating, funny and relatable people I know. I like that we can go out for drinks together, lose half the night to Prosecco and admit the next day that we pretended to be asleep so the husbands would have to get up early. I like hearing stories about the time you totally lost your shit because the Play Doh got trod into the new carpet or bloody glitter got bloody everywhere and you ended up in a job interview sparkling like a Twilight Vampire.
As for the uber perfect Mums all I can say is, calm down a bit love, Shakespeare was wrong, the worlds not a stage. Leave the eyeliner and Gucci bag at home sometimes and admit you feed your child fish fingers. That way we’ll all feel better.