Once upon a time, on the edge of the city, in a land pretty much like everywhere else, there lived a Mummy. From the outset, she was a pretty ordinary Mummy, with scruffy hair and a wobbly tummy. She spent her days tidying her house, but it was never tidy. She spent her days feeding her baby, but he always needed feeding again. She spent her days drinking her cup of tea, but it never got finished. She spent her days rocking her baby to sleep, but he never slept enough. She spent her days trying to do other things too, but they never got done.
One day, the Mummy was out with her baby, at a bright, magical place called the supermarket, and they were having fun together. Her baby laughed as she pulled a silly face and blew a raspberry at him, and he punched her in the head with delight and bit her cheek with happiness. The Mummy had everything they needed in her trolley: Nappies, wipes, rice cakes to stop her baby from having a meltdown, and chocolate buttons for when they didn’t work; plus essential things every Mummy needs like coffee and red wine.
Then the Mummy saw before her a vision of loveliness, a strange creature, who also appeared to be a Mummy from the evidence laid out. This Mummy had a trolley and a baby too, but she didn’t look much like a normal Mummy at all. Her clothes all fitted, and were ironed. Her chic cardigan swished around her, with her shiny halo of hair resting neatly on her shoulders. The other strange thing was that this Mummy’s clothes were all clean, not like the Mummy in our story who at that moment looked down uncertainly at her own jeans, with its suspicious crusty white patch on the leg and the discoloured knee from a morning of baby slobber. She glanced hopefully at her own shoulder, in case her hair had suddenly become halo like and shiny, but all she found was a bogey and a loose strand of dry hair that had escaped from its messy ponytail. The Mummy noted unhappily that she was really far too old for ponytails now.
The Mummy’s baby also cited this Goddess of Mothers, though did not appear to be intimidated, or even interested in it. Instead, he focused his attention on the goddess’ baby, and let out a loud scream of excitement, in order to make contact with one of his own kind. The Mummy cringed, as the goddess’ baby was sleeping, and this was sure to wake her; as it would no doubt her own son. The baby, however, snug under her hand knitted blanket, simply fluttered her eyes and returned straight back to contented slumber. The Mummy noticed – a little jealously, that the goddess didn’t even need to frantically search for and shove a dummy onto the baby whilst anxiously crossing her fingers and rocking the trolley in the hope of avoiding tired screams. In fact, she didn’t seem worried at all.
The Mummy passed the serene and apparently well-rested goddess and her sleeping bundle of baby feeling a little bit of something uncomfortable. Her baby didn’t seem to give a hoot about the slight shift in atmosphere and clapped his hands to regain his Mummy’s attention, in order to bring her close enough to smack once again.
What was it, she asked herself, about all these other Mums? Everyone else seemed to manage their babies, appearance and shopping trips so much better than her. Everyone else seemed to have it all sussed out.
Wishing she had bought some extra chocolate buttons for herself, the Mummy made her way through the check-outs, staving off a mini-tantrum by absentmindedly warbling a song about giraffes. Her heart wasn’t really in it though.
As she pushed her trolley through the car park, her baby decided he must be held immediately and urgently tugged at the Mummy’s top, whilst emitting a high-pitched yelp that probably had all dogs in a five mile radius howling a response to. The Mummy was feeling hot, bothered, stressed and embarrassed, on top of inadequate and scruffy. She tried to soothe, reason with and finally bribe her baby to just hang on for two more minutes until they were back at the car. He was having none of it though, and angrily screamed, waved his fists and appeared to be under the impression that it was the actual end of the whole world at that very moment.
The day had taken a pretty shabby turn thought the Mummy and, exhausted, she stopped the trolley in the middle of the car park, picked up her baby who immediately stopped crying and let the brewing bubble of upset spill out and down her face. Why was she so bad at this? Everywhere she looked, everyone else seemed to have it all sewn up, whilst she, dressed like a hobo and possibly smelling worse, couldn’t even manage a simple shopping trip without bursting into tears alongside her child. What was the matter with her?
At that moment another vision, like an older version of the supermarket Goddess, appeared from a shiny gold car before the Mummy. ‘Great,’ she thought, another perfect someone to witness my failings and most probably judge me. The vision, smelling slightly of flowers and baked goods, stopped when she reached the Mummy, instead of walking by her.
“Excuse me, are you alright?” She asked; concern etched on her kind face.
“I’m fine thank you,” The Mummy replied politely, “just having a bad day.” If she had nothing else, she had her awkward British manners to uphold. The Mummy’s baby blew a raspberry and gave the kindly woman a squeal.
“Well we all have those, dear; you do know that, don’t you?” Said the vision.
“Some more than others I think,” replied the Mummy, although it was nice to know she maybe wasn’t so alone.
“You’d be surprised,” said the vision, “everyone has their moments, you just might not see them all.” Was this true? Wondered the Mummy. Maybe it wasn’t just her, after all, although it probably was. “Now, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but your little boy is just beautiful.” The vision said, giving the baby a big smile.
“Thank you,” said the Mummy. And she felt lifted, despite her emotional state and the odd situation, because looking at and thinking about her lovely little baby did that, he made smiles.
“I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t see a Mummy looking at the end of their tether, a bit worn out and close to, or in tears.” Really? The Mummy thought; that was interesting to say the least. “It’s hard when your day doesn’t go to plan,” she continued, “And you feel like you’re the only person in the world having a tough time. You’re not though, you’re really not.”
“And then there are the good days – or parts of days at least, when you know you are the luckiest person who ever existed, and you can’t believe little old you helped make something so funny, beautiful, clever and wonderful. Those moments are perfect aren’t they?” The Mummy could only nod, they were. “Day to day life can be so cluttered and complicated, and little ones keep you on your toes don’t they?” The Mummy was now wondering, could this woman read her mind?
“The thing is though, when it comes down to it, so long as you feel OK – not perfect, but pretty good, and so long as your baby is happy and cared for, you don’t really need to achieve anything else, do you? You’re already doing so much.”
The Mummy felt her eyes sting again, and she couldn’t speak. But this time it was the kindness, truth and understanding in the vision’s words which left her stunned and caused her voice catch in her throat.
“Thank you,” she finally croaked, “I really needed this today, thank you.”
“You are most welcome,” the vision replied. “I have been where you are, and think there is a real comfort in knowing you are not alone. You’ll be back here next week, or next year, saying all of this to someone else who needs to hear it.”
And with a gentle squeeze of the Mummy’s arm, and a tickle to the delighted baby, she was gone, a pumpkin tucked casually under her arm, which was strange considering it was only August.
The Mummy popped her baby back in the trolley and as if by magic, he now sat contended and happy as she made her way towards the car. As they ambled along, the Mummy feeling lighter than she had done in a long time, they passed the goddess and her (still sleeping) baby from earlier. Feeling brave, she smiled and the goddess smiled back. They were just two women, after all; being Mothers, getting on with their day, doing their best. It wasn’t a dressing up contest (thankfully,) it wasn’t about whose baby slept more or yelled more, it was just parenthood – their chance to experience something great and difficult and hilarious and real. There would be good days, and not so good days, challenges and joys; and they would live – if not happily ever after, with love, laughter and of course, more than their fair share of mess, tears and poo.
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