Being the eldest of 5 children I thought that motherhood would come naturally. I had done my time as a ‘mini-mother’, pacing the floor, jiggling my youngest brother in the small hours when my mother had just had enough. I had seen nappies being changed, food being wiped, until the whole process seemed boringly easy.
But then, before exactly planned, I became a mother myself. Like all first time mothers I prepared for the birth like an exam; swotted, revised, and pretty much stuck to the birth plan. The baby’s arrival into the world was meant to be like the graduation certificate, the guaranteed ‘A’ grade, the afterthought to the main event.
But it wasn’t. Nobody had warned me that it’s only the teensiest, weeniest, first step of many – probably less physically painful, but equally hard.
Some of it was natural, such as my body’s aptly-timed release of endorphins post-birth, effectively giving me rose-tinted spectacles which fell over my eyes whenever I looked at my son, hence the shock, looking at photos a few years down the line, when he had morphed from ‘cutely tubby’ to ‘slug-like onion-head’.
And there was the tigress-like protective instinct – overwhelmingly powerful and with no ‘off button’, which in the first weeks after coming home caused me to force ANY visitors to remove their shoes and wash their hands before entering the premises.
But a lot of it was learnt. There was a steep learning-curve in the first few months, the parental equivalent of a freshers week, when I learnt the true meaning of ‘sleep-deprived’. I learnt how to dress a tiny, windmilling arm, strap on a bewilderingly complicated sling, learnt which cry meant tired, hungry, frustrated, or sometimes, all three. At the same time I learnt how to work as a team with my husband, how to make new and necessary friendships, how to smile when all I wanted to do was cry.
Pre-birth I was determined that I would not channel all my creative energy into ‘just’ being a mother, so in the first 6 months of my son’s life I started a book club, joined a choir and hand-embroidered a cushion cover. I was also determined that I would not change as a person, but when the time came for me to think about going back to work after the maternity allowance ran out, I found that I just couldn’t imagine giving anyone else the privilege of watching him wake up from his lunchtime sleep with his rosy, fat cheeks and little smiles of recognition and love. So, despite the financial implications (not good), I stayed at home.
Now I have two children, who are 6 and 4 and both at school while I’m still at home, although I’m very rarely in it, because ‘just’ being a mother is now the central role around which many others revolve. I am Co-Chair, Editor, Committee member, Singer. I am wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend. Being at home for my children has expanded from the obvious day-to-day routines to fulfill all my physical, creative and emotional energy.