I’ll be honest, I didn’t really take to motherhood in the beginning. Are you supposed to admit that? I’m not sure I’ve ever really admitted it to myself, until now. It’s just something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Because – believe it or not – I really bloody love motherhood now. I know, I know, I bitch and I moan and I threaten to send the little fuckers to borstal at least 26 times a day, but the fact of the matter is, I love the chaos. I love THEM. I had a moment yesterday – Father’s Day, as it happens – and it was one of those rare in-the-moment moments; you know, when you stop and think, SHIT, this is perfect. Sunshine, kids, husband, happiness. There was nowhere else on earth I’d rather have been. (And then, of course, Alice tipped sand over Paul’s head, and my skin started to crisp up under the sun, and a wave washed over Frankie completely, so that his clothes were sodden and he cried and cried, and we had to splodge off home. But you know, for a moment there? It was fucking perfect.)
As we rode our bikes home, I said to Paul: “I really like motherhood now.”
“Just now? Didn’t you always?”
“No.” I thought for a bit. “I fucking hated it, once.”
“For real. I think I might’ve had post-natal depression.”
“Na, I think you were just sad.”
“Yeah. I think I was just sad.”
This was like a proper fucking lightbulb moment, and one that I’m kinda reluctant to admit to myself, let alone you, dear readers. But there you have it: I disliked motherhood, first time round.
Thinking about it – and I have; I’ve hardly thought about anything else since yesterday morning – there are a few reasons for this. Primarily, of course, it was down to the fact that I was young. Not young-young, but too young, I think. Too young for me. I was 27 when I fell pregnant with Ben, and still a bit of an eager-to-please dickhead. I fancied the idea of pushing a shiny red Bugaboo along the canals of East London, forgetting, I think, that there’d be a needy little human wailing inside it, seriously cutting into my pub-quiz schedule.
That’s a good point (why thank you!): my life post-baby stood in such stark contrast to my life pre-baby that I think I was in a surreal state of shock for a good two years. To explain: when I was 27, I lived in a cute little flat in the East End of London. I had a good job – an EXCELLENT job – in a riverside office close to Borough Market and the Tate Modern. I had enough upstanding homosexual friends to form an enviable weekly book group, and be the shining centre of it. I earned a good-enough wage to do my weekly shop in fucking WAITROSE, with money left over for vintage frocks and membership to a gym that provided you with warm, fluffy towels upon entry. Life was good.
And then I had a baby and gave up my job and moved to Perth and had no money or job or friends to call my own and it was all a bit miserable truth be told. I loved Ben – of COURSE I did – but I didn’t really know what to do with him. I’m going to say this next bit very, very quietly, in case the holy mothers of the school gates overhear: my baby son brought me very little joy. I enjoyed those rare moments of not being a mother way, way more than I did being a mother. There, I’ve said it.
This is no reflection upon Ben. Ben rocks. I was just so preoccupied with all that shit that goes along with being in a strange city with no money or friends that I forgot to enjoy him. You know all the funny shit that kids say? Those cute moments when they mispronounce words, with hilarious consequences? I don’t remember any of those. They happened, I’m sure, but I was too fucking miserable to notice. Isn’t that TERRIBLE?
Five years later – pregnant with Frankie – I remember walking along the beach with Paul, and admitting that I felt scared about doing the whole new-mum thing again.
“The days are long,” I told him.
“Yeah, but I’ll be there, at the end of each one,” he said, giving my hand a squeeze.
Dude’s a wise motherfucker, when he wants to be. He was right. I’m a completely different mother this time round. I’m older, wiser, and give way fewer fucks than I did a decade ago. I laugh a lot more, probably because I have someone to laugh with. My children – all three of them, apart from when there’s a trombone involved – give me a ridiculous amount of joy, probably because I have someone to share the joy with.
I didn’t know where this blog post was headed when I started writing. I just felt the need to make that confession. Turns out, it’s a note of thanks – to my husband, for thawing my hardened heart, and helping me find the joy in motherhood. That’s kind of a big deal.