The cocoon

It was never my intention to update this blog all the time, or turn it into a ‘thing’, chiefly because that would’ve entailed finding out what a ‘thing’ is, and then doing it. It’s more a place for diarising life with young kids (because I am extremely forgetful), sharing the funny stuff (because I don’t have colleagues), and venting (because I usually do that quite angrily and out loud while I’m having a shower and I’m not sure if the neighbours can hear me through the wall – this is quieter).

I’m finally sitting down to write this post about life as a stay-at-home parent slash freelance journalist slash can you be a stay-at-home parent with a job slash no not really. It’s been percolating in my brain for a while and, unlike any notions I’ve had over the years to get tattoos, hasn’t gone away. It’s about the overwhelming blanket of nothingness that can drape itself over you when you stay at home with kids, and what it feels like to be under it.

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Don’t go changing

Browsing the chatrooms of a mums’ forum recently, I came across a post from a distressed pregnant woman. Not about dealing with labour or whether or not to test for Group B Strep, but something else that she was really dreading; not being able to shower when she had a newborn to take care of.

This lady was horrified after friends with kids told her she’d only be able to shower every few days after the baby was born and should count herself lucky if she managed a monthly hair wash. Loads of mums piled in to the discussion, some reassuring her that she’d manage a quick frisk with a damp flannel of a morning and others proudly revealing they hadn’t set foot in a bathroom since the birth of their first child because their baby’s needs came first and honestly, they didn’t mind smelling like an old fridge or having blackened stumps where their teeth used to be – DH prefers them that way!

What poor old NervousNewMummy81 didn’t know is that she has nothing to fear: in all probability, her friends just don’t mind not showering. If she, like me, has a neurotic compulsion to shower every day and can’t even go to the gym without first completing top-to-toe ablutions, the protestations of a foot-long human aren’t going to stop her. Nearly two years after the birth of my first baby, it seems blindingly obvious that your parenting will reflect who you are as a person, and responses to the challenges of motherhood will be as individual as you are. Militant about healthy food? You aren’t going to end up piling face-first into that cliched mountain of cream cakes. Love your job? You’ll work out a way to do both. Get tearful at the thought of having to drive to the doctors with an unwashed neck? You’ll find time to have a shower. Secretly see no reason to wash more than twice a week? Here’s your chance!

There is an accepted notion of the standard issue mum: a baby-brained creature putting her keys in the toaster and accidentally calling the supermarket cashier ‘Mummy’, cheerfully juggling children’s schedules from a bulging filofax, nipping off for ‘me time’ spa days, picking banana out of her hair.

And as we approach motherhood, we feel that our hard drives are about to be wiped and replaced with Mummy 2.0. Of course, motherhood shakes life up and there is a lot of change. But at the heart of it all, you’re still you.

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“It’s all worth it though, isn’t it!”

I’ve been speaking to a few midwives lately about talking honestly when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. These midwives also emphasise the importance of positivity around birth and avoiding scare stories. For a layperson and veteran of just one birth, it’s an interesting and tricky balance – communicating honestly so women don’t feel like they are failing but not introducing unnecessary fear, which can have both mental and physical effects during labour.

So. Pregnant.
So. Pregnant.

I’m in awe of these midwives, their absolute belief in women’s bodies and mental strength. Their positivity is infectious. Every pregnant woman should have people like this around them. And I’m inspired by the honesty movement, the argument that women should share the things that challenge them. It’s so important we understand that we all have tough days and don’t love every single aspect of motherhood.

So, in the interests of honesty, here are a few thoughts on something that really got to me when I had my daughter last year. It stemmed from a negative experience during birth so I’ve been reluctant to flag it up and in doing so, break that particular taboo. But, over a year on, I still remember with absolute clarity my fury at the way that, rather than acknowledging and supporting a woman after a difficult birth, people would often tip honey over it with one phrase… “It’s all worth it though, isn’t it!”

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