Motherhood is a bewildering time for even the most level headed; it brings a myriad of emotions that no baby book can prepare you for. Guilt, heart swelling pride, resentment and an overwhelming desire to kill anyone who hurts your cub. It’s confusing and can be a very lonely time, too, especially in the early days. At six weeks pregnant, it became apparent that I was to be a single mother, not a prospect I relished, but hey, I come from a very strong matriarchal family and they were great. It’s just a pity I had three different people telling me the five different ways I was doing it wrong.
Guilt came early, as I gazed at that tiny little face and sobbed – “I’m so sorry. I have no idea how to look after myself, let alone you.” Cue my mother – “Oh do shut up. She could be going back to an absolute dump and thrown into a basket and she’d just have to get on with it.” Message received and understood. Later, I found it far easier to sleep with my infant beside me, in terms of night feeding etc. “That is the rock upon which you will perish, you’ll never get her out of your bed.” Well guess what? I did get her out of my bed. Just last year, in fact.
Every phase brings it’s own challenges. New parenting is honestly believing this must be the worst part and it gets better. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for the hyper active toddler who necessitated a quick exit from several restaurants with her tucked under my arm. In the end I found it far easier to apologise on the way in, and just get it over with.
Or give me the six year old who drew some impressive smiley faces on the kitchen wall and blamed the cat. Forever will I mourn that missed opportunity to enter him into ‘Pets Win Prizes’.
What about the eight year old who carefully explained to my father that she had to be in bed by nine even at weekends, because myself and my then partner liked to play “hide the sausage”? He still brings that up. Every. Christmas.
The Teenage Years
Okay, I’ll even settle for the twelve year old who dragged me around Britain every weekend to compete in disco dancing competitions wearing costumes costing more than I’ve ever had in my bank account. Not to mention subjecting me to a weekend of thumping music and screaming divas. Dream as I might, the fact remains I am now the proud mother of a sullen, argumentative and confrontational teenager. As in – next mood swing arriving at Platform 2 in six minutes. It’s hard work. Cue my mother – “This is Mother Nature’s way of helping you let go. If they stayed nice you couldn’t part from them.” Couldn’t part? Right now I could cheerfully pack her bags myself and send her to Outer Mongolia, one way. In a final piece of imparted wisdom, the other day my mother exclaimed – “Hang tight! Just when you’re looking up the addresses of local pig farms, they turn nice again. Sadly that’s when they move out.”
Rather than wish each phase back or press fast forward, perhaps it’s better to enjoy the moment and what you have. I still smile when I think of last week’s dramatic meeting of teenage ankle with coffee table corner. There were tears and tiaras, sure. But in the end only a hug and a brisk rub of that ankle from me made it better. The Kevin the Teenager mask slipped and I was reminded for the umpteenth time of my mother’s very favourite mantra – “No-one has ever yet given birth to the perfect child, let alone the perfect parent. Remember that, and you’ll be fine.”