I don’t often write about being a mother. But this week, on the day my baby started nursery for the first time I felt compelled to finish a post I first started many months ago.
Pretty much ever since Baby Arabian Notes was born, I’ve spent a lot of time agonising over one question:
“what’s wrong with me?”
I think for at least the first six months people often asked me “so are you enjoying motherhood?”. It’s one of those things isn’t it, that people ask, just to be nice, or because they don’t know what else to say, or even because it’s one of those things that you’re ‘meant’ to say to new parents. And it should be an easy question to answer, but every time I’m asked, even now, 18 months later, I never quite know how to respond. I suppose the right (or expected) answer is a unhesitant “yes, of course!”, followed by some gushing about how wonderful everything is. Trouble is, I’ve never been a gushy person in any way, so I’ve often found myself struggling to put my feelings into words and in turn therefore, to relate to many of the other mothers around me that all seem to be so immediately comfortable and happy with their new-found status of ‘mother’.
And that’s not to say that I’m not happy. Truth is, it is a wonderful thing – but perhaps with a disclaimer to say that ‘it really is just a wonderful thing… in general’. I mean of course it’s wonderful. In fact, it’s nothing short of miraculous! I still can’t quite believe that we have a baby, and he’s not even really a baby anymore – he’s a toddler and turning into a small person faster by the day. I still look at him and find it amazing that he’s ours – that we made him, that he grew inside of me for nine months. It is a truly amazing thing alright.
But in reality, the answer to the question as to whether I’m enjoying it probably depends – on when you ask me, on how much sleep I’ve had the night before, on how many poops I’ve already cleaned up, on how many times I’ve had to change baby’s and my own clothes already, on whether I’ve attempted to defuse any monstrous tantrums that day, amongst many other variables…!
I’ve spent many hours pondering why I seem to feel so different to the other mothers, why I’ve never felt particularly comfortable with baby talk, the endless conversations about whose baby did what and when, the whole cooing and clucking over babies and kids of all ages. And again, it’s not to say that I don’t do those things, I just feel like my limit on these things is more, well… limited. I’ve attended my fair share of baby classes and mothers groups only to look around and instead of feeling part of something, making new friends and gaining a sense of belonging amongst kindred spirits it’s often only served to make me feel more alone, more different, and all the more desperate to get back to my laptop and my work, where I’m not lost – where I do know who I am and where I fit in.
It’s almost as though there’s a piece missing. I don’t know what it is. I’ve wondered countless hours about what it is. I’ve wondered if it’s them. I’ve wondered if it’s me. I’ve wondered if there are other people who feel like I have but maybe they just don’t dare to say it out loud. Maybe it is me – I mean, it’s certainly difficult to believe otherwise when so many people seem to be the same, to have clicked into it all as easily as if flipping a switch, and yet I seem to feel so differently. I can’t help but wonder again and again, “what’s wrong with me?”. I’ve just always sort of felt that there must be some kind of ‘mum gene’ missing in me…
I’m the one who forgets the toys to keep baby entertained when we go out and feels like a huge failure when everyone else rolls out their perfectly thought out bag of goodies complete with specially homemade and handcrafted items for the event. I’m the one who wonders whether I’m meant to scrape the excess poo off an item of clothing before putting it in the washing machine and then chucks it in regardless of the consequences. I’m the one who most definitely doesn’t gush on about how special and wonderful every milestone is. I’m the one whose child answers to a number of names aside from his own: ‘monkey’, ‘sausage’ and ‘stinker’ are all frequent favourites. I’m the one who doesn’t spend every weekend in soft play – I’m the one who doesn’t even want to spend every spare moment in soft play or doing these usual ‘mumsy’ things…
I’ve grown more used to the fact that I seem to think differently, that I do appear to feel differently, though I’m not sure I fully accept it – there must be other people out there who feel the same way I do?!
But for the very first time, this day was different. I’ve drafted this post a hundred times since Baby was born and every time decided never to publish it. But this day was very different. This day I drove Baby Arabian Notes to his first day of nursery feeling unexpectedly nervous about this milestone, about leaving him, about how he would settle – would he cry?, would I cry?! If you’d told me a few months ago that I’d feel like this I’d have laughed – I’m not, what you might call, ‘a cryer’ and I’ve never related even slightly to those ‘feeling all the feelings on the first day of school, #sadface’ type facebook statuses before. It really crept up on me, I hadn’t expected to feel this way at all. I’ve spent the last few months positively excited for this day and wishing it would come sooner. But now that it was here, these were very confusing feelings. I was so nervous even, and so deep in thought about these unusual feelings that I almost missed the turn and drove straight past the nursery! The awkward traffic jam I caused as I tried to rectify my path and move slowly into the turning lane jolted me back to reality – and suddenly, for what may have been the first time since Baby Arabian Notes came into our lives – I couldn’t have felt more normal. It occurred to me that everything I was feeling was being felt by hundreds, thousands, even millions of mothers all over the world in the same situation. And there was something very comforting about that, knowing for certain, for once, that I wasn’t alone in feeling these feelings. Perhaps I’ll never have an answer to my question, but for this day, for this day at least, I knew, there’s nothing wrong with me.
If you can relate to this in any way, I’m sure you’ll love Hurrah for Gin and The Unmumsy Mum who, through their candid and honest accounts of family life have made me laugh out loud, and serve as a welcome reminder that you can be certain of one thing – that there is most definitely someone, somewhere, feeling the same way you are.