When I became a mum, I was initially too immersed in my newborn son to think about the wider circle of motherhood. If he was the sun in my universe, there were other planets circling around him that I had never visited before.
With every day, week, and month of motherhood I experienced (or even survived), I realised that the universe was much bigger than just the sun. My son.
A lot of the planets felt very far away, and distant. Places I wanted to visit. But didn’t ever think I would.
But time progressed and I branched out and explored.
And I think every mum, eventually, finds a place she calls can call home. Her earth. The place where she can breathe, where she can function, where she fits. And it’s there she will most likely find her own kind too (I almost wrote ‘her humum race’ but I can get carried away with analogies and metaphors, so I’m just mentioning it so you can go: “Man, Charl is so witty.” Anyway…).
And this is the thing. It’s completely normal. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to find a place and embrace the shit out of it. Because this is life, and you get one shot, and, when it comes to raising children – and the subsequent judgement, the related challenges, and the complete epiphany when you realise that life won’t ever be the same again, both in good ways and in bad – you need to find a place where you are happy and secure. You need like-minded individuals in your life. Friendship in motherhood is one of life’s greatest gifts.
I only truly realised this recently, when I made my first, proper mum friend. Yes, I know, I’m almost five years in. What took me so long? Circumstance in part. I never went to a baby group until my second baby was born, because I never had the chance with my first, because I was sat at my desk again when he was 8 weeks old. And I was the only mother in the office. I have years-long friendships, or friendships that are slightly stunted due to distance, but I had never made a friend with a mother, as a mother, before.
I met her at the school gates. She made me laugh when I was terrified that no one would speak to me because I was pushing along a baby with tubes and a lot of medical equipment in a buggy. But we speak every day pretty much. We sometimes sneak off to the local Wetherspoons to drink as many of their gins as we can. And, because we are reckless, we do it on Thursdays. We both work for ourselves. Our sons are best friends. And she makes me do my cackle laugh, that usually only Mark can bring out of me.
In the year where I needed friends the most, I found her. We have our own planet. Our earth. It doesn’t have many rules. But we share a lot of the same viewpoints. We parent identically. And we both firmly champion the notion of still celebrating the person you are, once you become a mother. Which I believe is our way of justifying the fact that we do too much online shopping. I can tell her anything. And I honestly think she is bloody brilliant.
And yeah, she is my kind of mum.
But this got me thinking.
I’m not 100% convinced that there are ‘types’ or ‘kinds’ of mums after all. It’s not like the moment we meet our child we too are reborn, and, in the way that gender, and features and attributes are decided in the womb, our fate is decided too.
I really do think that every mother has had a day where they just want their children to stop. Just stop asking questions, or pulling DVDs off the shelf, stop screaming, stop clawing at me, stop fighting. I think every mother has days where the kids are finally in bed and they do a ‘thank fuck for that’ silently to themselves, the only true sound heard is the glug of wine, gin, <insert tipple here> being poured into a glass. And I would bet money that every mother has, at least at one point (in my case, all the time), had a pack of fish fingers in their freezer. I don’t even eat fish. I bloody hate it. But they are easy and my kids annihilate them. And they have Omega 3 in I think. And my dad thinks there is nothing finer than a fish finger butty sometimes. I prefer chicken dippers myself though.
The differences between us are not because of motherhood. It’s because we are people. And the divides that the media, society, and the truly horrible individuals of the world thrust upon us.
Some of us are more outgoing. This does not make them pushy mums. Some of us are less confident. This does not mean that they have nothing to say. Some of us love to cook and know what bento boxes are. This does not make them mass weaning/lunchbox/beige-hating shamers – I think the gals have just got talent. Some are really into fashion and makeup. And they do this to make themselves feel good, never to make the rest of us feel bad. Some of us have found motherhood a gentler ride than others, for whatever reason. This does not make them fake, perfect, or not ‘real’. This also goes for those who have struggles they don’t feel comfortable sharing. For those who are just trying to make the best of it. Or for those who have been through things that offer them a different perspective sometimes. And some of us are the ones who say what the rest of us are thinking, or afraid to say sometimes. They like wine (who doesn’t?). They like gin (who doesn’t?). Freezer food is staple (I would just like to point out that frozen things retain freshness and nutrients). They have had a really tough bloody time sometimes. This does not make them slummy mothers.
Me? I am a person, who has two children. I like to cook, and it probably shows. But I also feed my children frozen (often beige food) once a week, if not more, and I tell myself it’s okay because I put on some of that frozen mixed veg to go with it, even though my daughter throws most of it on the floor. I used to be obese, according to my BMI, and I wore a lot of lycra, and hid myself in baggy clothes. But I lost three stone recently and I really like how I feel, so I’m enjoying my style again. I like to feel beautiful – we bloody deserve to. I have had a few tough times as a mother – I don’t even want to go into them because they probably aren’t anything new. I struggled a lot this past year though, and I think I went missing for a bit. I don’t know where, or quite what it was. But I tried really hard to get back to Earth again. This sometimes makes me look at things differently, I can’t help that. I’ve also got the patience of a saint, at times, and this works in my favour. But I still get really frustrated with myself. When my baby won’t nap and I can’t work. Or because the house is, as we say round here, a bloody shit-tip. I’ve always been honest. And I actively try and be a nice person. But sometimes I make mistakes. And I cry a few times a week. But I am fun. I really like to have fun. I like to get drunk sometimes, and enjoy people who feel the same way. I quite enjoy photographs of peonies, avocados on toast, and pretty floors, but I prefer candid, real photographs, to anything produced in a studio. I’m also quite good with a camera for someone who has never had lessons, and if my photographs look good it’s because I’m good at taking them, not faking them.
I have made mistakes before. I have judged people. I think we all have. I have felt threatened and intimidated by other people’s opinions, decisions, and actions in case they are directed at me. Sometimes I get a bit panicked and wonder if they are directed at me. Sometimes I know they are. And it hurts.
But I’ll tell you straight. When I was at a relatively smooth part of my life, someone would comment on my videos, quite regularly, with the word ‘smug’. When my daughter was poorly in hospital, unable to breathe properly on her own, after surgery, someone commented on a photo and said that I should stop moaning because at least she was alive.
You cannot win sometimes.
We’ve been shoehorned into thinking there is a divide, or a series of them, and most of time, it has come from misunderstandings, feeling threatened, and having to face ‘the other side’ every single day of our lives, thanks to the world wide web, the media (ah the media) and society today.
I really feel like we need to stop seeing each other as aliens. Yes, find your ‘humum race’. Love them hard. Speak your own language. But we need to stop looking at others like Unidentified Female Objects (really going with this analogy here aren’t I?). Most of the time, mothers are trying to do their best, tell their story, sing the song of their people, and they are doing this for themselves.
But we also need to be careful that, when we raise ourselves up, that we are not tearing others down, either in mistake, or in disrespect of an alternative.
You love to breastfeed? Love boobs, don’t hate formula. You love organic vegetables? Don’t diss the fish finger. You tell it like it is? Don’t make ownership of ‘real’ – there’s so many different versions of reality. You know what’s on trend? Don’t diss those that actually bloody love dressing like a mum, because it’s comfy (duh).
You don’t find parenting hard whatsoever, think the sun shines out of your children’s bottoms, and you believe yourself to be the perfect mother? Don’t label others as slummy mummies, and tell us what your fucking secret is then, rather than putting others down.
So yes. When I became a mum, I was initially too immersed in my newborn son to think about the wider circle of motherhood. If he was the sun in my universe, there were other planets circling around him that I had never visited before.
But I have learnt recently to open my eyes a little wider and see that I am surrounded by stars. They are so many mums out there doing their best. And there will always be flaming asteroids, try to target our favourite planet, our favourite people, our ways of life. And they will always be around trying to be malicious, trying to make of mockery of what we have built up for ourselves, and render us extinct.
But just look at the stars. Let them twinkle. See that we are all the same, yet different.
No more putting their lights out.
We just need to take that step.
It would be one small step for me, or you, alone, but if we all took that step together, it would be one giant bloody leap for mumkind.
Author’s note: I just wrote this, lying in my bed, with a teething one year-old who has a temperature and won’t nap unless she is physically attached to me. I am about to fall off the bed, I really need a wee, and I’m very behind now with work. This will likely make me stressed out later. And I will probably snap at someone. But I tried really bloody hard today.