It takes a while for one’s identity to become that of a mum. It took me a long time to remember to write down my own name in the forms that ask for “mother’s name” – and not my mother’s. I felt surreal in discussing with my son’s nursery teacher – how could I know anything about children and bringing them up? I was, after all, the woman who had forgotten a pram and the baby sleeping in it in a shop.
When I returned back to work from maternity leave I felt like a double agent. I just loved having my lunch with adults and being that same old me, known by my given name and being asked for insights on point 1.2.1 of the new strategic plan.
Then I had another child. In the best of days I could breath just about the length of my legal coffee break, if I didn’t fall asleep before that. There was not a puff of doubt: I was a mum.
After I moved to Malaysia my identity crisis got even deeper. In all the millions of forms I had to write “home maker” as my profession and all the people I met assumed automatically – and rightly so, I have to admit – that we were in the country because of my husband’s job. On the other hand, it seemed I got extra points in the eyes of the locals when they found out I had two children. And a boy and a girl! Aren’t you so lucky! Nobody wondered why I wasn’t working either, quite the contrary.
After soaking a while in the tropical sun the crises started looking pretty silly, and I quickly started to wonder how lucky I was. And just like that, I was a better mum – although only thanks to the circumstances.
Just when I had raised myself into a selfless, present mother, who offers a safe and stimulating environment for the tiny humans, it struck me: “Stupid mum”. It came suddenly and without warning. I told myself that she didn’t really mean it, just didn’t have another word – but I know I was just fooling myself.
That was the start. Small slaps followed (aimed at me, not her), sometimes toys were throw. There were threats: “You can’t play with me anymore” and the most horrible one: “I don’t like you anymore”. This loss of trust was caused by me pausing the children’s programmes in order to serve dinner or the completely unreasonable request to wear pants first and only then shorts. But just like in working life, your skin gets thicker pretty quickly and you learn to search the literature for the right answers and present them at the right time.
And then it was over, the time when your babies are small and helpless and it is difficult to be angry at them. As they start to have opinions of their own, motherhood becomes something else than just caring. You become a guinea pig in relationships, a coach and a listener to the wildest ideas. You also get to take a good look at yourself, because when you listen to them play, it’s like looking in the mirror.
“When I will look after my own children, and they have an accident, I will shout at them. But only a little”, said my first born one day.
To balance this unconstructive criticism, it may well be the best thing in the world that declarations of love flow freely, unsolicited. In addition they are really cheap to buy. You only need one extra episode of Octonauts, or permission to soak those little paws deep in the bread dough. Little boy is forgiven anything buy saying: “Mummy, you are my treasure”.