On becoming a parent

My dodgy pelvic floor serves as a reminder of my status as a woman who has given birth. All genuflect. There’s also a child knocking about somewhere. Last time I saw her, she was gazing up at imaginary stars through the net windows in her little circus tent from the discomfort of a bed of Lego, explaining her version of the solar system to Ernie.

My version of this form of relaxation is to hide under the bed covers and gaze up at the light-shade wondering what possessed me to buy one that resembles a tumble-weed. Then throw my eyes up at its aptness. Next time, I’m buying one in the shape of planet Earth.  A safer distance all round.

tumbleweed

Probably the most apt image for this post

In the invisible space that is my heart, I feel privileged to be her mother in the classic definition of the term.  And frequently hope I won’t spectacularly fuck it up.  Last count, I had a list of 563 potential ways this could happen.  A future blog post draft perhaps.

At home, I am known mostly as Mammy, or Mama, when she’s indulging in a bit of regression to wrangle something out of me that’s on the list with the other 562 not-to-dos. Her Dad will refer her to her Mum when chickening out of saying no.  Lately, she has taken to addressing me by my first name.  At four syllables, this was one of her more impressive feats of speech until it was overtaken this week by Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  She learned this at her childminders, where I am known as the colloquially hard-vowelled Mummy.  My own Ma refers to me as her Mam, while my best mate will order her into the frame with her Mom so she can snap a photo of us both.

To the rest of the world, I am known simply as A Mother™. In the modern media definition of the term. A word that has come to be hyper invested with the overbearing weight of responsibility and sacrifice. Imbued with guilt and heartbreak.  Burdened with agonising decision-making, and persistent re-shaping of a sense of self. Subject of ninth degree scrutiny. Growth topic within the comment and publishing industry. Heart of the fall-out of social and fiscal policies. Line in the game of tug o’war between feminists. Guardian of the supreme human bond. Secular saint. Unpaid hero. Doer of her best. Battler for choice.  Holding-it-togetherer. Journeywoman. Protagonist in the mummy wars. Judged. Juror. High-fiving keeper of the flame of camaraderie.

It’s so exhausting; it’d nearly have me reaching for a bottle of wine. Oops.  A mother self-medicating. Quick, Morag! Shoulders up against the flood-gates.

It’s not that I can’t relate to much of it, or have any desire to deny the common experiences of many. In reality, the common denominator of sharing similar genitalia is the first and last time women who have children are at one. The rest of childrearing and the experience of being a mother is beyond consensus, but not camaraderie. Camaraderie still allows for difference of opinion, and difference of opinion isn’t tantamount to judgement of another.  A clash of views doesn’t constitute a mammy war. Not all contested terrains can be classified as bloody battlegrounds. Grounds for having a different point of view doesn’t equate to a betrayal. When views are relative to individual experience, there’s going to be a few curled lips among the thumbs up.

So, I’ve decided to stop passively letting the enormity of such a word define me. To unmoor myself from its double-edged function of acknowledging my role while ascribing all sorts of assumptions, many of which I’m not altogether sure about. Instead I’ve decided to stick with being a…. parent. It works for her Da.

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8 thoughts on “On becoming a parent

  1. I don’t think of my status very often, at least probably not at the right times. I do remember I’m a Mum when I’m withdrawing some child benefit from the bank so that we can get to pay day! I think I like the cosiness of the word “Mum”. I never use “parent” for the same reasons I avoid calling Him my “partner” – it sounds too detached to me. In company I’ll just refer to Him by His name, and let others work out our status. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll call him my Bidey-in; though it’s a phrase lost on most of the natives these days. By they way, now is the time to start prepraring some excuses for your wee one when you have to politely decline to run in the Mums’ race on Sports Day 🙂

    • Bidey-in. Love it. Hadn’t heard it before so looked it up.

      “Traditionally carried an air of scandal and therefore a long time favourite term used by sweetie wives over a cup of tea.”

      I still wince on saying husband, so don’t use it. Wife is just as bad.

      “Dear teacher

      I regret Penelope is unable to attend Sports Day due to a rare medical condition.

      I regret any inconvenience caused.

      Signed
      Parent”

      Another tradition to pass on. I might even copy my own mother’s handwriting for authenticity.

  2. Good excuse. But as a Working Mother you’re probably sorted anyway! He used to ask me to marry in the early days. But I had this thing about not wanting to be owned – yup, I don’t know what’s that’s about either. As time went on, I ran out of family to come to any wedding, so that put me off. Now I wouldn’t marry Him because I’d know what I’d be getting! Still, I think I’d quite like to be somebody’s wife…..

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