When mums meet mums

Some mornings feel hard…… Proper, I-don’t-know-how-we’re-going-to-get-out-of-the-house hard.

You get used to hard mornings when you become a mum. And hard evenings. And hard days too.

But once I open the front door, somehow the hard morning feels more manageable. Because with the sight of other mums comes the realisation that it is probably not just me who has had a battle to get out this morning….. Or who has driven themselves mad asking their children to put on their socks or do up their coat….. Or has been resolving arguments and wiping up spillages and drying tears for at least two hours. It may not just be me who is feeling like a lousy mum because on some days this most basic of tasks – getting ready in the morning – feels beyond us without the whole house ending up in tears.

There are probably other mums who would also like to write off the whole morning and start again.

I always feel better at the sight of these lovely people, many of whom I see day in, day out. There is the mum who understands every bit of what a hard morning feels like. Who knows if I’m close to tears, will pop an arm around my shoulder and will probably message me later to tell me she understands and that she’s had a hard week too. There are the mums I know I could call on if I needed help with a pick up or drop off. Mums I can stand chatting to outside the school gates and not even realise that 20 minutes have passed. There are the mums who know that my eldest boy loves soup and maps and train timetables; and are thoughtful enough to pass on things they know he’ll love. There are the mums with whom I can happily while away an evening drinking wine, eating cheese, and discussing everything and nothing. Our husbands ask what we spend so long talking about……little do they know that we could easily have spent much longer if we weren’t so aware of needing to get some precious sleep. There are mums who make me laugh, mums who make me think and mums who make me feel better. Mums who reassure me that just because you sometimes find motherhood hard doesn’t mean that you’re not a good mum. It just means that it IS hard sometimes. Amazing mums who juggle demanding jobs and busy homes and are still there for each other.

When you have a baby, everyone tells you to get out and meet other mums. So that’s what you do. You try baby groups and baby yoga and baby music. You feel your way through the crowds and gradually find your group.

You force yourself out on no sleep, because you know this is the way to stay sane. You scout out the baby friendly cafes and sit with coffee and cake and a tiny baby in a pram. You talk, you listen, you laugh, and sometimes you have a good cry. Crying is ok, because there is always a shoulder and no-one thinks you’ve gone crackers…..everyone gets it.

You talk about routines, naps, dropping feeds, weaning, babies’ bowel movements; and whether your pelvic floor will ever recover. You never envisaged that this would be how you would make new friends; but it seems that when your bodies have been through childbirth, nothing is too big or small a topic.

You go to the park with big mats and toys and plenty of snacks. You walk the streets with pushchairs trying to get tired babies to sleep.

You delight in milestones and do the rounds of birthday parties.

As big things change, so your group changes too. Mums go back to work, children start school, people move house. Your network of mums will shuffle around and maybe change entirely. But what doesn’t change is the need for a strong and supportive group around you. The need for reassurance, for laughs, and for a cup of tea or glass of wine with people who understand the everyday ups and downs and reassure you that yes, your little worries are relevant and important.

So here is a pretty sunflower for all the wonderful mums who help each other to navigate their way through this oh-so-confusing parenting jungle. It would be a much harder journey if we didn’t all have each other. x

Sunflower

Giving advice, taking advice

You develop many skills when you become a mum, and one of these is giving reassuring advice to mum friends who are having a bad day/week/month.

‘Don’t worry’, you say, ‘it’s completely normal.’

‘Don’t beat yourself up. It’s hard. We all have days like that.’

‘He’s tired, he knows how to push your buttons. You get the worst of it because you’re his mum. He’ll have forgotten all about it by now.’

‘Yes, there are days when I hate it too. It’s perfectly normal to want to hide away in a cupboard for a few hours where no-one can find you.’

It’s easy to have perspective when it applies to someone else. When it’s someone else’s child who just can’t hold it together after school. When it’s someone else’s child who refuses to co-operate in the mornings. When it’s someone else’s child who is a jolly, happy, functioning 4 year old until the second he sees his mummy, and then every last ounce of upset, frustration and exhaustion comes spilling out. When it’s someone else’s child who hurls his tea all over the floor in a fit of rage.

It’s easy to put all of that into perspective when it doesn’t apply to your child. It’s easy to nod and give advice and offer an arm and say, truthfully, that we’ve all been there; we all know what it’s like. That trying your very hardest to raise decent and kind human beings whilst also wanting their childhood to be full of warm and happy memories does sometimes take its toll.

The hardest thing? The very hardest thing of all is taking your own advice. Because when it applies to you, when it’s your child who can’t keep things together, when it’s you who feels like everything is spinning out of control; it is just so much easier to tell yourself that you are not doing a good enough job. That you should have done this and you shouldn’t have done that. To analyse and over-analyse and convince yourself that you could and you should have done things better. To tell yourself that you’re not up to it, that your children deserve better than you’re giving them. To think about how much better things might have turned out if only you’d made a different decision in that split second when all of your children were making competing demands of you.

It’s easy to say ‘don’t beat yourself up’ to someone else.

It’s also very easy to beat yourself up.

And so, as a mum, my resolution for 2017 has to be this: listen to your own advice. Sometimes children are horrible and cruel. Sometimes it is difficult to think straight when you feel like you always have a small person hanging off your cardi. Sometimes, you probably don’t do things in quite the way the parenting manuals suggest. That’s ok.

Make a cuppa, move on; and save your energy for the next challenge. Because you know that won’t be far away.

boys-at-bridge