Two glasses of wine

The dawn of the internet era and the rise of ‘honest’ parenting being available for all to see, has seen (in my opinion,) the evolution of The Wine O’ Clock Mum come full circle. I’m certain it’s always been there-my nan enjoyed a large brandy once her brood (of NINE! WTF nan, how did you even…?!) were in bed (the little ones,) or off down ‘Spin A Disc’ (the hangout of choice for the older ones.) My mum enjoyed a sherry (the only thing I judge there mum, is that sherry is VILE, but I’ll let you off, Prosecco wasn’t a thing then.) and I’m sure they sometimes (gasp,) had more than one, and I know from the stories they’ve told me, that they both had friends who knocked it back during ‘working hours’ too.

They didn’t have large whatsapp groups to post pictures of themselves at 7.01pm, holding a large glass, with thumb well and truly up. They didn’t have blogs to read, that told them that all the other mums were doing it too, so it was ok. They just did it, and probably poured another while dutifully getting dinner on the table, and sighing about what was in store for them the next day.

What the internet has done is:

1. Make it known that other mums found being a parent a bit hard.

2. Make it ok to want to reach for the wine at the end of the day.

3. Make it divisive-it’s ok apparently to openly call these parents out for being ‘slummy,’ and to put those who don’t choose the same end of day treat, into a different category.

4. Turn it into a cliché-the ‘war cry’ of the pissed off/tired/stressed/delete as appropriate mum. Enjoying wine as a parent, is apparently different to enjoying it when you aren’t.

I recently saw an advert looking for a parent to write a (click bait, troll inciting) article on why the end of day roll call of the parent shouldn’t be to reach for the wine-it wanted the writer to explore how life has come to this, and why it’s wrong. Why has it become such a cliché.

Well, I for one, love wine. I did before I had children-in a wine tasting holiday to the south of France kind of way. In a going to the pub after work kind of way. In the taking the edge off a stressful and shitty day at work kind of way. Nobody however, ever turned that into a cliché-it was just normal, and nobody ever gave it a second thought.

I have a grievance with these ordinary things, that you do all the time before you have children, being turned into something entirely different once they’re here. What’s the difference in a pre children instagram snap of me and my friends drinking after work, to one of me as a non working parent, drinking with my non working parent friends? It’s not always a ‘look what they’ve driven us too Lol!’ or ‘look, wine time before bedtime #badmum!’ It can be quite simply, ‘oooh, I’m going to sit down, now it’s quiet, and have a lovely glass of cold wine,’ like I used to after work. Like my parents still do now.

For me, I savour my husband flitting in from work and taking over bedtime, having the quickest shower, so that I can get into my pyjamas, and enjoy that lovely Gin and tonic-that is nothing to do with my children’s behaviour, or trying to be part of some post bedtime alcohol club-just simply because I like Gin.

I don’t do it to be cool, I don’t do it to try and put myself into some sort of parenting category. I don’t even do it every day-sometimes I have a herbal tea and go for a run instead. My appreciation of alcohol, and the fact that I’m a parent, are completely separate things. I am not the Wine’ O Clock cliché that the internet would have everyone believe, I’m just someone who appreciates good wine, who happens to be a parent.

Imagination: a fairy next to arailway line.

My children always want me to play with them. They seem physically incapable of playing by themselves, and I often have to ignore their pleas of ‘please mummy, PLEASE-WE DON’T WANT TO PLAY ON OUR OWN,’ not only because my house is a total shit tip, which is in grave need of my attention, but also because my imagination appeared to be completely dead.

They can hand me a Darth Vader, and they’ll be shouting: ‘And Luke Skywalker is going to jump out of God’s mouth, fall through heaven, collect eleven five ten thousand bajillion stars on his way down, then use the light power he collected to kill all the baddies, and the Ewoks will see him falling from God’s mouth and use power from their minds to save him. He will use his pants as a parachute, and use fart power to jet propel himself to somewhere safe, and the Ewok’s minds will stop him hurting himself, and build him a castle of chocolate to live in. What does Darth Vader do then mummy??’

‘Erm, get out his lightsaber and hurt some people?’

‘No mummy, that’s boring.’

‘Ok, yea, I am kind of lame…’

I always think that I could never write a children’s book, because I’ve lost that part of my brain that delights in simple, magical adventures. I can’t think of anything remotely exciting to bring to their games-I don’t know why they insist on trying to include me to be fair. I did think I’d completely lost all imagination-a brain deadened by a mundane adult life. That was, until a few recent car journeys…

I was getting really annoyed by someone driving a few inches from my bumper, recently. It’s the kind of driving offence I put up there with people who drive in the middle lane, and people who don’t indicate at roundabouts. ‘If he gets any further up my ass, he’ll need to use a condom,’ I muttered. ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY MUMMY?’ ‘Nothing!’ And my brain then proceeded to imagine a world where all bumpers were fitted with sensors, which when another car got too close, made a neon flashing sign rise up in the rear window, saying ‘STOP VIOLATING MY ASS, THIS IS YOUR FIRST WARNING.’ If they continued to drive so close, they’d get a second warning, then if they still didn’t back off, cars would spray theirs with condoms, which on impact, would cover their car with a corrosive material-surely a sure fire way to get people AWAY FROM MY ASS. Maybe repeat offenders could then have their heads placed on spikes at the entrance and exit to motorway junctions, along with those of people who drive in the middle lane, to serve as a deterrent to not be such a dick.

I realised I’d gotten massively carried away. I also realised I did in fact, have an imagination-just translating that into the innocence of my children’s games, is just a whole different ball game, right…?!

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I am not the sort of mother I thought I would be. I can hear the Mexican wave cry of ‘haha! Nobody is!,’ careering at me, in a tidal mass of I Told You So. Yes, it’s an absolute motherhood rite of passage to laugh at yourself, and denounce all of the things you were 100% never going to do as a mother, as you tutted at those eating a quiet lunch while their children watched random people opening Kinder Eggs on Youtube, and felt sorry for the children of the mum who was begging them in a deranged hiss, to ‘please just stop bloody fighting’ and offered them a lifetime’s supply of Haribo if they did so. Yes, I’ve been there and done that with the rest of you-nothing new there.

What I’m talking about, runs a lot deeper than that. I had gotten to the point where the only days I enjoyed, were the days my children were at nursery. On those days, I’d feel a prickle of dread about having to go and collect them at the end of the day. I’d scramble around on the other days in between, desperately trying to get my mum, my brother, my dad, anyone, to come over, so that I didn’t have to be alone with them. I’d feel a white hot fury, if my mum took them to the park for ‘a couple of hours,’ and came back after one hour. I wondered how I had got to the point where I woke up dreading each day, and wasn’t sure how I would get through it. Questioning how I had so fantastically failed in the one job in life I was sure I would succeed at-did my children start every day moaning, screaming, and being difficult (and manage to keep this up for an entire day relentlessly,) because I had done something so very badly wrong, that I didn’t know about? I even started to wonder if I was actually innately evil, and this had somehow been missed throughout the rest of my life, manifesting now in motherhood-because absolutely nobody should feel like that about their children, should they…?

A lot of my questions were answered when both of the children had health scares. After a series of Drs visits, the littlest was eventually referred to the children’s hospital-nobody was really sure what was wrong with him. On the days leading up to the appointment, I couldn’t sleep, of course, going through every worst case scenario in my head. I felt sick, as he skipped down the hospital corridors, no care in the world, with no clue as to why he was there. It turns out the consultant put her finger on what was wrong with him immediately, and it was nothing that a short course of medication wouldn’t fix. I cried with relief. No sooner did we have that out of the way, when we were at a friend’s birthday party, and my husband thrust the eldest in my face, telling me to ‘do something.’ He was grey, and waxy, and his lips a strange shade of cyanosed. The horrified gasps of the people around us was audible, and as the ex nurse, everyone was looking right at me. I just stood there. At that point all I could think of was that I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to do paediatric life support. I wasn’t really aware that the fact I was thinking that, meant that my child, right there in front of me, might actually need it.

Again, a simple explanation was offered to us, as to why this had happened-nothing to do with the cardiac dysfunction I had talked myself into believing we would be told he had. In the days afterwards, I checked him hourly overnight, sleeping fitfully in between, wondering if five minutes after I had checked him, he might have another episode, and how would I contemplate existing, if anything happened to him.
It was in that moment, that I realised that I wasn’t the terrible, evil person I had convinced myself I was. I’m not the mother I thought I’d be, but raising children is also nothing like I thought it would be. Sometimes (99% of the time at the moment for us,) children will be assholes. And sometimes, no amount of expert advice, raiding the internet and your local ‘what’s on for kids’ directory for new ideas, will change that. Sometimes, you will wish that your children could go to boarding school, and you could have an extended break from them, and when they’re in bed, you might announce ‘those f***ers hate me,’ to your husband (by you, I mean me, but it might be you too.) But I am the mother who barely slept, for checking my children, and although sometimes I wake up wondering how I will get through the day, I still go out of my way to make the day fun and entertaining, through the screaming.

I am the mother who gets a prickle of dread at going to collect the children from nursery, knowing that the coming bedtime debacle might give me a nervous breakdown, and might have nicknamed the days they aren’t at nursery Twatface Tuesdays, Wank Wednesdays, and Thank F**k It’s Nursery Again Tomorrow Thursdays, but will still hug and squeeze their faces when I collect them, like I’ve missed them with every inch of my being, in some sort of juxtaposed mind f**k. The fact that I care so much about why the children’s behaviour is so bad at the moment, and the pain that I sometimes don’t want to spend time with them, defines the whole situation. Because if I didn’t care, I’d just stick my feet up, wack on The Walking Dead, tell my children Negan is coming to get them, and let them fight to the death. I care about changing things, and I realised that sometimes, everything being bollocks, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t die for them-they don’t need the mother I thought I’d be-I’m sure they’re more than happy with what they’ve got.

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