Tomorrow, my eldest ‘child’ (daughter Elissa), will reach the ripe-old age of twenty-two ... and next month, my ‘baby’ (son Mitch) will turn twenty... where have the years gone?!
Reflecting on the past twenty-two years, and with Mothers’ Day still fresh in my mind, I felt inspired to write a post about my own thoughts on being a mum, about the pleasures and pains, and about the amazing, often unpredictable, roller coaster ride that is Motherhood.
Where to start? Well, I guess, at the very beginning... giving birth! I won’t go into too much detail here but, after a relatively pleasant and uncomplicated first pregnancy, my forceps delivery wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Second-time round was quicker and easier, but it still hurt like hell! Having said that, difficult as it all felt at the time, I had the best medical care I could have hoped for, and effective pain relief to help me through. It was at this point I had a renewed and deepened respect for my own mother, and women like her, who have gone through childbirth without any pain relief whatsoever, and without their partner by their side to comfort and encourage them. Apparently in ‘the olden days’ (yes, I was born longer ago than I care to remember), your other half was banished from the delivery suite, and left to pace the hospital corridors alone – thank goodness times have changed!
So, having gone through all that pain, you have this delicate little bundle of joy to take home and care for. You are totally responsible for this tiny person’s every need. They will pull at your heart (and purse) strings, for at least for the next 18 years of his/her life, and quite possibly beyond that, although to a lesser degree (you hope!) Very scary and yet wonderfully exciting, all at the same time.
Okay, what comes next? Well, I guess some things are inevitable for all of us new mums and babies. I bet there’s not a single mum out there who can’t relate to what feels like the constant juggling act of everyday life, particularly in those early days. Feeding, nappy changing, endless washing and mountainous piles of ironing, shopping (that is of the grocery sort, not the shoes, handbags and lunch with the girls sort), and mopping up baby sick... all on little more than two hours sleep (if you’re lucky!)
And that’s just the practical side of things. Even more of a shock to the system for me, were the emotions. Oh my word, I have never experienced such a mixed bag of love, pride... and worry! I also remember the feeling of depression as I doubted I would ever leave the house again without a huge baby-changing bag slung over my shoulder. Nor could I envisage a time when I would again have time to spend styling my hair or putting on a bit of lippy, or even just going to the loo in peace! As the years go by, well, the pleasures and pains continue, they just change.
You delight in watching them take their first tentative steps, whilst worrying that they might fall and hurt themselves. You’re proud as you wave them off for their first day at school, but at the same time have a tear in your eye thinking ‘what if they don’t cope without me?’ (or is it that you might not cope without them?) You watch them in their first school play, front row, tissues in hand, hanging on to their every word and movement, hoping they’re not feeling too nervous, and clapping ‘til your hands are sore once their performance is over.
Your heart breaks when they’re unhappy about something (even if it’s only the fact that they had a fall out with their best friend... which lasted all of three hours!), and when they’re happy, well, the world is a marvellous place.
When they’re older, you’re excited for them when they discover the fun to be had at wild parties, nights out, and on crazy holidays abroad with their mates. Yet it doesn’t seem that long ago that you were doing those things yourself, and you know all too well that this stage may also involve experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol, and possibly worse! When they're out painting the town red (now there's a 'mum' phrase for you), any attempt to go to bed and sleep soundly is futile. You wait for them to come home well into the early hours, settling only when you hear them fall through the front door as the birds begin to sing.
A knowing smile spreads across your face when they find love, and you want them to have that feeling forever, yet a part of you is preparing yourself to help mend a broken heart if it all goes wrong. Yes, you’d be there at the ready, with an over-sized duvet and an extra large tub of their favourite ice-cream... true Bridget Jones style!
You know through it all, at times, they will face disappointment, temptation, peer pressure, stressful situations and relationship difficulties, to name but a few of life’s challenges. But you also know that you’ve done your best ... that is, your best to guide them, teach them right from wrong and to instil moral values. At the same time, and I believe just as (if not more) important, is to let them know it’s okay to be human, and that we all mess up at times (goodness knows, they’ve seen me mess up more than once). They will make mistakes in life, but they can get over them, and what’s more learn from them.
You’ve done your best to equip them with the skills to become confident, sociable, independent and decent young adults who will hopefully go on to contribute to society, and the world, in a positive way. If you’re really lucky they might even go on to become parents themselves (and bless you with grandchildren to worry about... and of course be proud of!)
It’s not an easy job, being a mum, and most of us enter into it not really appreciating the enormity of the responsibility, or the impact it will have on our lives. So why do so many of us go on to have more children? Because, as well as realising motherhood can be difficult and challenging, we also come to realise that it is the most rewarding and worthwhile job we will ever do, and with it come feelings of love and pride that you never imagined possible.
You know the stage I described above? The one where you’re bogged down with the struggles of running a home as well as being a mum, and can’t see an end to it all? Well... don’t blink. Those times are gone in a flash, and together, you and your ‘baby(ies)’ will race through all of the above, at break-neck speed. Then, before you know it, that baby-changing bag has been replaced with a stylish clutch and once again, you’ve got all the time in the world to do your hair and lippy (and take as long as you like on the loo!). But wouldn’t you love to cast that lippy aside, turn the clock back, and hold your baby in your arms once again?.. well, maybe just for a little while.
As I write this, my son Mitch, is on his way back home for Easter, to Leeds from Guildford, where he’s studying for a degree at The Academy of Contemporary Music. I miss him, and am immensely proud of him, on a daily basis. From adorable brown-eyed little boy, to strong, handsome, and talented young man, he has enriched my life more than he will ever know (he’s made it quite stressful at times too... but we won’t mention any of that ;-) )
Anyhow, as it’s Elissa’s birthday tomorrow, I suppose I better just say a word or two about her.
From not so bonny baby, (she won’t mind me saying that, only the other night we were laughing together at some less than flattering photos from her early years... I blame the forceps!), to beautiful, smart, successful young woman, I have to say the last twenty-two years have been a privilege – perhaps easy to say on reflection as, like all mums and daughters, we’ve had our moments!
Packing her off to Newcastle University almost four years ago, it felt like I was waving good-bye to my little girl forever. She returned home, almost a year ago now, bringing with her an English Literature degree. No, she’s not my little girl any more, she’s a woman in her own right, working full-time in digital marketing, with her own thoughts and opinions. I don’t have my little girl any longer, but I do have a very special, and hopefully life-long friend. Who else would allow me to borrow their clothes on an almost daily basis, and give me such blunt (though I have to admit, useful) hair and make-up advice, telling me straight out if I’m starting to look, or act, anything like a forty-something year old mum of two (god forbid!! ;-)
Like all the other stages in her life, I know having Elissa home and being so close, won’t last forever. Indeed, both of my 'children' will find a permanent place of their own at some stage, and move out of the family home for good (she says... hopefully!) But, wherever they are and whatever they do, I know one thing’s for sure... the pleasures and the pains will continue, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I guess that’s just part of life... just part of motherhood!
Happy Birthday Elissa x