It hit me like a freakin’ freight train as I skulked out of the house on that damp and insipid Wednesday morning. Where the fuck am I going to go? I’m a mother, in my late, but still thirties. I have a my bonny blue eyed baby boy, just three and half months old at the time of writing, a home, clothes on my back, a lanky, slightly scratchy female chocolate Labrador that will lollop all over your lap but protect me and my kids at the slightest hint of danger (dawdling man in late 60’s approaching wearing flat cap and fishing rod flung over his shoulder) and a mildly huffy, often too tired to talk husband and partner of 15 years. Yet I left the house that morning, and I walked. Not knowing where the hell I was going to go.
If like me your second child was ready to start big school and give you all the freedom a frustrated creative could ask for, but instead you thought, no I’ll have another baby (bag one before i’m 40 syndrome I think we’ll refer to that one as), then you could be feeling my pain at this stage.
I walked out of the house and realised everything had changed. The visitors had stopped, the gifts all found homes and the baby shower clothes already grown out of and sitting neatly in charity pile. Mums had stopped approaching me with that crazed look of a woman in need of gazing at a newborn (it’s innate right?) and saying things like, ‘I love a newborn, but I couldn’t go through it again (Stick to ya guns girl), instead they amble past with a quick “He’s getting big now isn’t he” (yes and he’s fucking heavy when you’ve been carrying him for a mile up the hill cos he aint a buggy baby – care to offer a bicep?).
That’s it, babymoon is officially over. As I left the house that morning it may as well have been announced in a nasaley voice over a tannoy. “The babymoon is now closing. Could the lady leaving number 60 please just crack on now parenting 3 kids. ”
Where have all the mothers gone ?
It’s not until you are rampantly navigating that three way travel system up a rickety uneven path (I’ve had smoother outings on a Welsh hiking holiday) and the drizzle starts hitting you in the face and the baby is wailing that sort of wail that made you look on unfavourably at the neglectful parent before you had your own kids, that you feel the loneliness seep through. Motherhood can be very lonely place, I’ve been there twice before, this is the third time. You would think I would have learnt by now.
Then it hit me. Communities and society are changing. We no longer live within spitting distance of our families. Our friends are all segregated, many have had to return to work or are running businesses as one persons income is no longer sufficient to keep one parent at home full time. The mothers with young infants aimlessly ambling along trying to pacify junior with a ‘shhhh’ that creates more saliva than a disgruntled bloodhound are few and far between. They have wisely removed themselves from the streets (in the non prostitute sense) and gone online, where it’s safer, cosier and you don’t have to mount a three way travel system in treacherous conditions just to show your infant the trees in an attempt to feel purposeful.
Me “look at the trees”
Yesterday I wrote a post on my other site http://www.thereddit.blog for my bookie fans about World Mental Health Day. I talked about the importance of emotional cues and how reading fuels empathy, unlike the digital world most of us hibernate in for vast parts of the day. Simply seeing a slight curve of a smile when someone speaks or a raised eyebrow is how we have evolved to relate to and understand our fellow humans.
The old saying “If you can’t beat them, join them’ couldn’t be truer for me right now. As much as I crave real tangible connection with others, I know I have to be where the action is and right now the party is online. So I launched an Instagram page and gave it a name. The Mum Chums. Yes the name bears a hint of a dog food brand but it was all my mangled baby brain could cobble together as I hiked those lonely lumpy streets alone. ( I will be updating the brand name as it evolves so suggestions are welcome)
I am a mum on a mission. Once upon a time I wanted to find some friends who were like me and read lots of books and wanted to talk about them. So I put a post out on Gumtree. This would seem like the days of a carrier pigeon or even communicating with smoke to those crazy millennials but guess what? It worked. Book fans came forward and then 3 weeks later I was passing a tray of nibbles around to a handfuls of complete strangers whilst asking their opinion on the latest Lionel Shriver novel.
So I don’t see it as an unrealistic challenge to cobble together a group of mums, dads, carers, grandparents…whoever you are (child in tow is the key to this not so exclusive club) who like me, sometimes feels there’s something missing. A real life conversation, a bosomy hug, someone to hold the baby whilst you try out that new hairstyle you saw on youtube (even though you know it’s two decades too late for that look on you), hearing the words, ‘I’ll get the coffees in’ or just being a pair of empathetic eyebrows, raising and lowering at the right times to woeful tales of calamities.
I’ve never been one for sitting in a chilly village hall in a circle with 10 complete strangers bouncing a bewildered infant up and down to the wheels on the bus. My mind would always wander to those mums on the bus who would “natter natter natter” and wanting to be one of them with a strong soya latte in my baby free hand.
So wherever you are, ill find you and I’ll hunt you all down and then I’ll drag you and your eyebrows out into the real world so we can navigate those precarious paths of parenting together. One unpredictable day at a time.