“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Parenting is not easy. You could be forgiven for thinking it is – we are fed a diet of ‘perfect holiday snaps’ of families dressed head to toe in white and frolicking effortlessly in the waves or lolling on a plaid blanket in a field of bluebells with a gourmet picnic spread out before them.
To dispel any fanciful ideas that your holiday will look like a magazine spread I’ll just go ahead and say it – it won’t.
If you head to the beach dressed in white, you will get knocked down by a rogue wave and you’ll realise that not only is your floaty white dress see through, but so is your underwear. The youngest will eat sand and then rub it into his/ her eyes and the oldest will dig a huge hole in the middle of the beach that someone will fall into and you will spend the rest of the holiday hiding out in the hotel room wishing they replenished the mini-bar more than once a day.
Aside from self-medicating with wine, there is one thing that makes life as a parent of any age child a little easier. No, I’m not talking about locked doors. I mean a ‘mommy friend’. Every parent needs someone that they met when they had children, and that friendship goes on to become one of the most important friendships of your life.
For when you meet your kindred spirit when you are either pregnant or have a newborn, your shared experiences bind you together in a way that smoking behind the shed at school never does. I met my good friend at a tea for new mothers. I have to confess here that I am not the most sociable person, mass teas with people who superficially only have newborn babies and sore nipples in common are not usually my cup of tea. Having nothing else to do, I found myself dutifully trundling off to this particular event. The other mothers all glowed with the inward self-satisfaction of a job well done. Their babies, they declared, all slept through the night. Their other halves were sympathetic to their collective pleas of exhaustion – they made dinner for them, did the ironing, played them classical music on flutes that they had whittled themselves.
I sat amongst them silent and inwardly weeping. I had looked forward to the birth of my daughter, but once the heady days of excitement: ‘a baby!’, ‘I made this!’ had worn off, reality swiftly set in. My husband trotted back to work and a world of adult conversation, fully drunk cups of hot tea and coffee and the ability to go to the loo without feeling guilty. None of my friends had children and I admit to feeling both shell-shocked and resentful at the turn my previously wonderfully selfish life had taken.
Yet as I sat politely sipping my too hot coffee, incredulous that everyone else’s lives seemed so much happier, so much more controlled and far more like the life I had expected to lead post
baby, I felt the overwhelming urge to confess that often (and more often than I’d care to admit) when I sat in the rocking chair cradling and feeding my newborn in the early hours of the morning and happened to glance over to the supine, snoring, form of my husband I had a not too disagreeable fantasy of hitting him on the head with my new, very heavy, very cast iron frying pan (my husband that is, not my baby).
A shocked silence descended on the group – even the baby that had started to agitate in his stroller stopped and women look around at each other slightly, it must be said, aghast. But then, just as I was about to stand up and slink off, someone started laughing and I looked up and saw a smiling face nodding her head in emphatic agreement.
From that point on, I knew that I had found someone I could truly be this new ‘honest mommy’ version of myself with. New mothers have so much pressure on them nowadays to be ‘perfect mothers’. Facebook would do well to view ‘perfect family pictures’ as a bit of fake news and immediately take them down. I feel very strongly that there is better camaraderie in self-confessed misery. If we all just told it like it is: parenting is frustrating, wonderful, terrifying, and utterly compelling, we would, even for a brief moment, be able to hold our heads above the water and breathe a little easier.