“So do you just love being a mum?”
It seems that shop assistants in particular, think this is a good question to pop, as I drag my dishevelled self to the till after trawling shelves and aisles in great haste with a toddler and wee baby in tow. “Aw do you just love being a mum?” they coo, all gooey and lovey. “Er……” how do you respond to that? What a ludicrous question. And it is not of course confined to shop assistants. They, afterall, are just making polite small talk and the fact that I am a mother is abundantly clear so why think further than the obvious right? I have also been asked this by old family friends. They haven’t seen me in years, and suddenly encounter me with my tribe: “So Miranda dear, do you just love being a mummy?” “Er…do you really want to know how I feel about this or are you expecting me to sing ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! I adore it. My life had no meaning until now! I am entirely fulfilled. I could die tomorrow a happy woman…oh…no I couldn’t because I know I’d be leaving two children without a mum. Mum mum mum. Um…’” They don’t have time for the real answer. I just say something like…”Mmmm ‘love’ is not the word I’d go for Valerie. Ha ha ha! (laugh to keep it light) It’s a challenge isn’t it? (Deflect so that they are forced to give their own opinion on the matter and slowly back up and suddenly realise I have a nappy to change before I am expected to trifle any further on this silly question.)
So how can someone like me, answer a question like that? I am so far from being black and white on any issue, least of all my life. Least of all about motherhood. Oh I have some pretty strong opinions about things but motherhood has set me up with a whole new world of questions I need to ask about myself, and I was already grappling with a fair few. People who know me, do not ask me that question. Do you love going to work every day? Do you love catching the train? Do you secretly love picking your nose? Do you love sitting in traffic? Do you love waxing your bikini line? Do you love lobster? Do you love sex? Do you love learning Spanish? What did you eat for breakfast this morning? How many times did your baby wake last night? Now these are easy to answer. Easy. But there is no cut and dried to motherhood. I do not love being a mum per se. There, I said it. I do not easily fall into the mum role. I have to work at it and I have to work at it hard and generally I have no choice but to work at it hard because my children push me there. But if you ask me if I love being a mum, then I feel some sort of pressure to respond positively, to keep a good mood, to make you feel comfortable and so on. No-one really asks that question, hoping to be dragged into my messed-up little head. “How do you feel about being a mum?” would seem a little less confronting as it doesn’t presuppose that I am loving the experience, but I would again be surprised if a total stranger asked me this as, quite frankly, it is a personal question and none of their cotton pickin’ business!
Do you love your children? Now there’s a question. And a silly one for a different reason, because the answer is clear. Yes, of course. To the moon and back and then some. So much that it literally hurts at times. I cry with love. I laugh with love. I ache with love for my children. But my love for my children and my family does not, of itself, mean I love being a mum. Not necessarily. Sometimes. Sometimes not. I love the joys and rewards which motherhood has thrown my way. I realise I am incredibly lucky. I don’t take my family for granted at all. I have beautiful, healthy, vibrant, dynamic, challenging, affectionate, wonderful children. Yes I’m so lucky; lucky to be able to conceive, lucky to be able to snuggle these incredible characters, lucky to hear and see them grow, lucky to commune with them, to be surprised by them, to be enlivened by them, to give to them. Lucky. I think my partner and my children are extraordinary and I have moments of intense elation and triumph and hope and accomplishment.
But I also have a lot of moments when I wonder how I got here. I’m tired. Through and through. I have never known exhaustion like it. New lines sit beneath my eyes and I feel weathered and worn. I feel all of my age and then some. Sometimes I feel desperate that this is all there is, and this will define me forever. I was never a baby person, or a kid person. Never. In fact I vividly recall a time in my life when I would happily have foregone the whole having children thing. Admittedly I had a juvenile and foolishly selfish head on my shoulders at the time, but I was happy with the scenario which I had rather superficially circumnavigated in my mind. However, I grew up and realised that children were an essential part of the bigger picture. It took some getting my head around. It took a little longer than I had expected, to conceive my first bub, and with each month that went by, my desire, my need to have a baby grew and grew and became a wee obsession. These children are wanted. There is no doubt about that. But I cannot deny that sometimes I feel entrapped by this new role. I sometimes feel that the light, the eccentricity, the vibrancy, the creativity, the humour and the spontaneity have been sapped out of me. Have I become dull? Do I have anything to say? Where am I going? Will I ever create music again? What interests me beyond this baby bubble? I crave the freedom I had before motherhood. My life as a singer/songwriter. My life as a traveller. I allowed myself to dream because there was nothing tying me down. Look I’m not silly (of course I am but it helps the sentence flow) and I have done a reasonable amount of work on myself over the years, so I am not deaf to the voices saying “oh come now, you can be anything you want to be, children need never hold you back; they are possibility itself, they will soon be less dependent upon you and you will be able to claw back some time of your own to redefine yourself again in this life.” I know. I can be rational as well as hugely hormonal! We have relocated to Australia and everything is new and I have none of my music network or my 13.5 years of friendships nearby. I am also utterly sleep deprived and unmotivated and I know it will pass. But it means that I need great reserves of energy to dive in and find my brave spark. It will happen. I’m not asking for a shoulder rub or sympathy sighs. It is in my nature, for good or for bad, to always have a wee toe in the past. I cling to memories, experiences, places, feelings and I wallow far too readily in what-ifs and if-onlys. A total waste of time of course. I need to find the space to allow myself to stick my nose into tomorrow and take a big, dirty sniff and own it. Take it on. I need to dream again so that I can be an inspiration for my kids. There’s work to do. Being a mum is hard work. Get over it Miranda. You’re lucky. Yes I know. But it’s way more complicated than that. So if you ask that question (I need not repeat it), I’m certain you don’t have the time for the answer, so save it. Next!