Monday, 29 February 2016

My Mum is Awesome. I just didn’t always know how much.

♥ My Momma ♥
My mum was a stay at home mum. From the day she had me, 39 years ago until the present day she hasn’t had much paid work. How LAZY. What a LUXURY. What did she DO all day? Did she spend her time going out for lunch, shopping and going to the gym like a footballer’s wife? I know she at LEAST went for coffee every morning after school drop off! All my other friend’s mums had jobs or even careers. My Grandmother and my Nana also worked. Why didn’t my mum work?

As a teenager I struggled with this. Those were my judgemental, critical, ill-informed thoughts.

Hark, the ignorance of youth!

In my younger school years, my future career choices had varied wildly… from vet (too thick), to speech therapist (why?!) to farmer (too veggie/precious city-ite). But I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise because what I really wanted to do was be a mum. A mum like my mum. I thought her life was BRILLIANT! She got to stay at home and play with her kids and have loads of fun whilst all those other fools went off to work on the sweaty Tube every morning! Ha! She had it SUSSED! And I loved kids. LOVED them! I spent all my weekends babysitting from age 13 and my first summer job was childminding a 9yr old when I was 16. It was the PERFECT plan for me! I was going to be a stay at home mum too because I was BRILLIANT with kids too! Yes! I was going to have 20 of them (OK about 6) and we would have amazing “Swallows and Amazons” style adventures every day! Yes I just wanted to be a mum for my “job” please!

But then I started to grow up. And I began to see that this wasn’t actually a realistic or viable option. Or even something I should admit to amongst my ambitious, burgeoning Feminist, career-focused peers. I had to come up with a career choice to appease my teachers because I needed to choose GCSEs and A-Levels (but I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do). And I needed a career to live because I wasn’t ACTUALLY going to try and find a MAN to support me, duh!

And hang on, why DID my mum just do NOTHING all day….God didn’t she have any self-respect?! She’s just a lady of leisure! She should get a flipping paid job!

I had some harsh, harsh thoughts about my mother’s career or what I perceived as “lack thereof” back in the day. I had me some learning to do.

As I got older, the thick mist of selfishness which descends in teenagedom began to lift. And with age comes experience and wisdom. The older I got the more I saw and understood what my mum had REALLY been doing all those years when we were in school. And yes there had been a few lovely lunches and coffee every morning. But life had been pretty tough for her years before that. She’d moved from crazy, busy London to the sleepy valleys in Wales at the age of 19. Her and my Dad had no money (the story of the £1 a week family allowance and one rasher of bacon for the weekly macaroni cheese is now legend in our house!). Not only did she have to make new friends whilst my dad went to work every day, walk everywhere because she couldn’t drive (the doctors was a 2 mile walk) she also had to adjust to living on the breadline. On top of this she had to cope with 2 miscarriages and my pregnancy in which the hormone injections to prevent further miscarriages made her sick as a dog every day.

I’ve talked before about how I struggled with motherhood when I finally achieved my life’s goal. I wasn’t the natural I’d arrogantly assumed I’d be and it was a massive shock to me. The respect I had for my mother increased exponentially.

She was only 20 when she had me. She had none of the support or information that I’d had from my friends. There were no NCT class mates, extended family, internet forums, soft play centres, One Born Every Minute, breast feeding support nurses and all the rest of the barrage of PARENTING STUFF you’re given these days. In 1976, you had your family and your neighbours and you “just got on with it”. But living in the valleys, my mum didn’t even have family within walking distance. So she did just “get on with it”. AND she didn’t get postnatal depression or become a raging alcoholic! How the hell did she do that?! I had all that support and I still went mad as a box of frogs!

Her brilliance didn’t end with her “just getting on with it”.

Staying at home with 2 under 2 for four years is flipping HARD WORK. Something I actively chose to avoid. But once my brother and I were older and going to school, she didn’t get a job. And now, as a mother, I understand that decision. She chose to carry on the support she’d given us every day of our pre-school days. She wanted to be there for us when we got home after school every day of the week.

She started to help out in the school as an unpaid teaching assistant. She'd help teach kids to read (she read to us every night until we were about 10) and do things like pottery with them. She became actively involved with the PTA so she was always helping to organise fundraisers. But her real talent was the creative side of home-making. She would cook delicious meals every night from scratch. No ready meal crap allowed! Every birthday heralded a very good attempt from Jane Asher’s iconic cake decorating book and inevitably some sort of fancy dress celebration. She spent hours at the sewing machine creating things like fabulous dressing up outfits or dens, or painting things like “space ship” control panels with bottle top buttons and Kraft cheese steering wheels. She decorated the entire house herself, from wallpapering, glossing, and painting to making Laura Ashley curtains, bedspreads and Christmas table cloths. She was there for us every day after school, carting us off (on foot) to our various clubs/sports/music lessons etc. She was fantastic.

And only really recently, since my son has been in school, have I realised that actually, I would LOVE to be able to be there for them after school every day. It hadn’t occurred to me, when thinking about having kids in the future that I wouldn’t be. But then it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d find it all so hard either. I’m clearly not great at having things “occur” to me.

I do feel really sad that for the majority of my kids’ school lives I won’t be there to pick them up. I already feel the strain of trying to organise play dates for Gus on the one day I currently pick him up, juggling between my selfish desire to spend time with him to his need to socialise with school mates. In a way I feel like I made the decision to opt of the hard years by working part time so I should suck up the consequences now. With my mum, she did hard time with 2 tiny kids in the middle of nowhere with no money or PLAY CENTRES and she reaped the rewards of after school fun and holidays later.

But as I said. The main thing my experience as a mother has taught me is just how bloody awesome my OWN mother is. So mum, just in time for Mother’s day this year, a mahoosssive THANK YOU.

A selection of things she made, And a pic of her and me at my first birthday. ps I LOVED that tutu!

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