Today I found myself indulging in some motherly bullshitting. I normally don’t partake of this all too common practice as it generally just makes me laugh when someone tries to Uber Mother me - that, or on a bad day run away and cry. Today, though, a very smug mother dangled the bait for too long. I was visiting a nursery undergoing the painful selection procedure which unfortunately seems to involve nursery staff deciding whether YOU deserve a place rather than your deciding whether you’d like to entrust your child’s tender brain to their care. One mother seemed to think that it was necessary to bang on about how brilliant her poor child was (possibly because her child kept shoving her finger up her nose and eating what she'd unearthed). Apparently, her child can already count to five, write her name and dance a bloody Russian jig blindfolded. Usually, I’d announce that my little one can already speak and write Sanskrit at this point, just to take the piss, but I WANTED a place at that nursery and the mum was just too bloody smug (gosh, I’m swearing a lot in this blog ...it’s a good job that my son can’t read, yet as he’d no doubt repeat my expletives at his current nursery, thus adding to his usual repertoire of ‘oh shit’... twas a proud moment in my mothering history when I was pulled aside to discuss this with his key-worker, I can tell you). So, I found myself considering what a feasible blag would be. Actually, that’s not true, I first found myself wondering what swift damage I could do to the annoying mother and make it look like an accident. After that, before I could stop myself, I blurted out over-loudly and too quickly ‘my son can count to 10 really fast’. I then looked a bit shifty and started to slowly sidle off into the ‘sleeping corner’ as everyone but Annoying Mum tried to pretend I hadn’t said anything. Narrowing her eyes, she fired ‘prove it’ at me. She really did. At which point, I pushed her down the stairs. No, I didn’t... At which point, my son started to shout in a way only he knows how - loud, long and abrasively. It’s a bit like someone repeatedly bashing you over the head with a metal kettle - the beautiful soundtrack of my new life. He then tried to sink his teeth into the arm of the tiniest little girl he could find. I’m pretty sure everyone was very impressed and he’s going to be given the first available place.
Anyway, the moral of this story is that motherly bullshitting gets you nowhere. There is absolutely no point in pretending that your child is something they aren’t, or pretending that you’re having an easy time when you’re not. When it comes to staying sane (or managing your insanity) through motherhood, I’ve found the best tactic is to be truthful about what you’re experiencing. There is no shame in it. There’s nothing to lose. This isn’t a competition. There are no rosettes out there for Best Mum (although there IS an impressive array of mugs), but there are many sympathetic and supportive women who will breathe a sigh of relief when you open up or fill your glass when you admit to needing a wine-based escape. With honesty you win incredible friendships.
When they’d read my first blog posting, several friends of mine said ‘I had no idea that you’d suffered from PND’. That’s because we’re all clever masters of disguise, we mums. Whatever we’re going through, we feel compelled to pretend everything is OK. I felt that if I admitted what I was experiencing, everyone would assume that I was a nut-job who wanted to drop-kick my baby out the window and should be banged up before the inevitable occurred. I should have had more faith, especially when it came to talking to other women. Feeling compelled to bullshit to each other really is underestimating most women out there. Not one person I’ve told about my difficult times has reacted in any way other than with solidarity and sympathy. Yes, in the end I got professional help - a wonderful therapist and a very open-minded, non drug-pushing psychiatrist ( yes, two doctors, I’ve always been greedy). These two brilliant people dragged me away from the precipice (gosh, that sounds dramatic - it was actually more like I was slowly seeping between some cracks in a rotten floor somewhere), but the other mothers I spoke to ensured I didn’t ever tread so close to the edge again. So, my point is, TALK to other people about what you’re going through. Even telling just one friend, relative or even friendly stranger you’ve just met at a baby group will help prevent you from trapping yourself in the dark side of motherhood. If it’s how the hell to get your baby to sleep, or how to stop them freaking out when you put them in the buggy, or how to prevent your losing it when they throw on the floor with disgust the well-balanced meal you’ve carefully prepared, or that you feel that you’re an utterly crap mum altogether and all you want is to escape just for a little bit....JUST SAY IT. It’s the bravest and most productive thing to do. I promise.