asunset

I’ve seen much written about the ‘categorising’ of mums you see at various places you often (wish you didn’t) find yourself as a parent-play groups, soft plays and other establishments that you’d often rather not have to visit, but they entertain the little ones for a while. These places usually also offer the chance to attempt conversation with other adult humans, might have passable coffee if you’re lucky, and you can tick ‘socialising’ from the list of enrichment activities you have planned for the day (ahem…)

You read much about the ‘supermum,’ the ‘hippie’ mum, the ‘fitness fanatic’ mum, and it’s nice to laugh at these stereotypes, because they do exist, and sometimes these mums are painfully easy to immediately put into ‘boxes.’ I usually do a quick scout of a room if I go somewhere for the first time, and in my mind, I take in everyone and my inner monologue quickly sorts out for me who I’d like to sit near, and who looks like they would be most like me (or like they’d parent similar to me to be fair-that’s what usually matters.)

Recently, I realised that I’d subtly labelled one particular mum, who I had never actually spoken to, ‘that miserable lady.’ I seemed to come across her often, and bypassed her, because her pinched face, and almost permanent scowl, meant that I had instantly labelled her ‘not my type.’ I am also parent to a child who doesn’t always understand physical boundaries (read: a total assassin child,) and I had noted, with a regrettable air of smugness, that her child seemed to have absolutely no regard for other children at all. I don’t think I ever saw him not hitting/punching/scratching. One day, I overheard her telling one of the playgroup volunteers, that both of her children take turns, every night, to wake up. That they could spend a couple of hours awake, at each of these wake ups, and that she basically never slept. She then sat down with a coffee, and took one sip before another mother was tearing shreds off her, because her child was ninja kicking hers-vilifying her for ‘ignoring your child while you drink coffee with your mates.’  Poor woman, she never gets to sleep, thinks it’s safe to take a sip of her coffee, then gets embarrassingly pulled up on her parenting skills by another parent. No wonder she’s bloody miserable.

Similarly, my little ‘over physical’ child, who had been flying high on a ‘gentle touching’ (cringe) streak, relapsed quite magnificently, over several visits to the same soft play. I realised that other frequenters of the same place also eyed him, (and me,) with suspicion when we arrived-obviously worried that their offspring might come under attack. In one mortifying culmination, I was put in the position where I came under verbal attack for my parenting skills, just like ‘that miserable lady,’ (and I’m sorry, I don’t know your name, and I’m still only referring to you as miserable for the purposes of the story. Besides, you have every f***ing right to be miserable-own it, I’m right there with you.) I went through every emotion-mortified, hurt, angry, even angry at my child for putting me in that position. Judging by the looks I received, I suspected that everyone’s inner monologue might refer to me as ‘the assassin’s mum,’ or ‘that parent who can’t control her child’s dreadful behaviour.’ That makes me feel those same emotions, to think that people might label me like that-I’m mortified, hurt, and angry all over again.

I do my absolute best with my children, and sometimes, children are children-they get aggressive, they can lash out. Some do it more than others. I usually watch my little assassin like a hawk-but I have another child, I need to at least say a few words to other adults, I’m human, my son is human, and I have needs too: I need to have a bloody drink (albeit shit coffee,) I need to eat (my body won’t nourish itself you know-it needs that calorie laden ham and cheese toastie to make it through the day,) and I need to pee (especially now my pelvic floor has been trampled on by two tiny humans.) Sometimes I f**k up-I miss warning signs that my child will attack, I dare to look after my own needs for two seconds, and he slips away from my reach, and out of vision from my hawk eye. But do not define me by his behaviour-I’m so much more than the label given to me by his victims. I’m a mum desperately trying to do her best, who gets to see that little assassin wanting to hold her hand while he sleeps at night, and who showers her with kisses while she’s trying to help him eat his dinner. The label applicators don’t get to see that, or the million other parts that make up who I am.

Mums will certainly still fall into categories, and I doubt my instincts will ever not let me walk into a room, and do ‘the scan,’ so I’m not going to wax lyrical about dropping the labels, because it won’t happen. But what I would like, is for people to look beyond those labels. Don’t define people by how you perceive their parenting style to be. Don’t think that someone isn’t worth talking to because they look miserable, I’ve learnt that you should probably make these the first people you talk to. And don’t judge people’s parenting by their child’s behaviour (yes, sometimes a child will be a dick, and it’s obvious the parent is a dick too-use your discretion,) but for the most part, there is a parent who had a whole different identity before their children, who is desperately trying to hold on to that. They are not that fleeting glimpse you get of them at playgroup-just remember that.

'Karma' in large capital letters

I’m a strong believer in what goes around comes around. Every negative thing you do, or thought you give out, will come back and hit you hard. Karma, it can be a real bitch, right? It wasn’t until after I had children, that I realised I in no way been living by my own rules… As I constantly ponder how life was before children, and how I expected I would be performing in my life’s ultimate starring role as Super Parent (*coughs and ahems whilst surveying the house which is a tip, and the cupboard filled with bribe treats*) and how I also continue to be overly optimistic with how well I’m going to do in this role, the role that karma has played in these ponderings frantically sprang to mind. Pre children, I had committed some terrible sins, and here are the five most prolific times that karma came galloping around the corner, and bit me hard on the bum in order to show me that I need to heed my own mantras…!

Waaaay Before Children…
So, we’d be off to meet our friends on a Saturday night. We’d have napped most of the afternoon, having had a massive lay in already that morning. When it came to getting ready, we’d sit on the bed drinking wine, listening to loud music. We’d also have had little digs at our friends with children, who had dictated the time we met, and where we met (why did it have to be so close to where they lived? Why did they have to arrive so late? Couldn’t the babysitter put the children to bed??) So clearly, Karma swooped in as soon as we had our own children, all dark and moody, annoyed that we had dared to naively dig at our friends, and gave us our first child, who now will ONLY be put to bed by my husband, followed by child number 2, who will ONLY be put to bed by me. They will also only be settled by said favourite parent, should they wake up of an evening. Thus, karma dictates that now, our friends can have a dig at us for dictating what time we meet and where, that it’s close to our house, moan that we are late, and ask why the babysitter can’t just put our children to bed. Or, they can just forget about us entirely, because we are too frightened to go out, ever….!!

2 images, one showing makeup, dvds, music, and hair straighteners. The other showing some 'going out' clothes to choose from.

(Getting ready to go out was a leisurely affair…)

Immediately Postpartum
So pretty much my whole life, (well, as soon as I was aware that being pregnant might change your body,) I was going to be one of those people who pinged straight back into shape. Of course I would be, the baby would come out, and my tummy would be flat, yes? And if this wasn’t the case for other women, they had definitely taken to ‘eating for 2,’ (clearly not necessary.) Well, karma was on this one like a rat up a drainpipe. I was stupefied to find that I had put on 3 stone post baby. But, I ate sensibly all the way through? But, I forced myself to run on a treadmill until I was 7 months pregnant? But, I was still running around doing 14 hour shifts until the week before he came out? HOW COULD THIS BE?? Not content with that, once the initial sack of spuds tummy had started to deflate, karma then decided that for being such a judgmental dufus, I was to be given a large roll of skin on my belly, that will never shrink or go away, and be a permanent reminder of my douche baggery.

When weaning
I had friends who had total weaning nightmares. Babies who refused solids, and seemed to despise anything solid going their way, for months on end. I had friends who quickly realised their children had intolerances to a lot of foods, and had the pain of checking every single thing that went in their mouths, to the letter. My baby, however, ate everything. He gobbled up my beautifully blended purees, at the times Annabel Karmel dictated he should have them. Then he moved on to positively delighting in a fish pie, or vegetable lasagne, with a side of extra veg to chew on, while I tidied up. I secretly delighted in my victory, and marveled at my perfectly weaned child, his obvious innate love of fruit and vegetables (he gets it from me!!) and wondered if I should contact Nigella, and tell her she was out of a job-my cooking prowess was obviously up there with the best of them. But of course, Karma was having none of this. Karma loved wiping the smile from my face, by making my child reduce his diet to include only 3 things:
Cheerios on the rocks (dry, no milk.)
Cheerios with a side of peanut butter.
Cheerio dust (crushed ones from the floor.)
An occasional foraged raisin from the floor may also occasionally make its way in there, just to mix things up a bit.

2 imges, 1 shows cheerios with a side of peanut butter, the other shows cheerios covered in dust from the floor.

(And todays menu: Cheerios from the floor, some crushed, and covered in dust, and cheerios with a side of peanut butter…)

When my first child was so beautifully placid
My first baby was the definition of chilled. Open a dictionary, look at ‘chilled,’ and there he’d be! Anywhere I took him, he played quietly, and was never intrusive to anyone else’s activity. I’d get so upset if another child hit or pushed him, because he always looked so shocked and wounded. Under my breath, I’d be cursing the parent, and wondering how they’d managed to raise such a monster. Of course, by thinking that, I was basically opening my arms to Karma, and inviting it to do its worst. As a result of giving other mums my best resting bitch face when their child hurt mine, Karma sent us baby number 2, who isn’t nicknamed Mini Assassin for nothing… He bites. He scratches. He kicks. If there is a scuffle, and a child is left is running towards its mother screaming like its being chased by the devil itself, I know that Mini Assassin will be the perpetrator of the crime. Now I just feel massive sympathy for any mum whose child hurts another, and is getting an ear bashing from the perfect parent army-karma has definitely seen to that.

2 pictures, one shows a small boy throwing a punch, the other, a small boy putting his hand up to the camera, as if to say 'leave me alone.'

(An assassin child in action…!)

Thinking about the future…
Karma often makes me pore over what I feel are my parenting mistakes, and beat myself up over my parenting regrets. It has made me see the error of my ways, and laugh at my pre-baby self’s naivety, and my lapses in sympathy for parents of other difficult (*assassin*) children. I hope that karma hasn’t noticed the times I’ve tutted as I’ve walked past a group of noisy teenagers, high on a heady mixture of cheap cider, teenage hormones, and the tiniest touch of their first sense of freedom. I know what karma will do with that judgment, by turning the future image of the angel teenagers I have in my head, swotting over extra homework that they’ve asked for voluntarily, into *ahem* images of myself as a teenager, also high on the same things… I’m one step ahead of you here karma!!

Remember-Karma is always watching, and is always ready to swoop in and make you see the error of your ways!

xoxo

This post first appeared as a guest post for Motherhood: The Real Deal as part of her #MyFiveThings series.