Thursday, March 19, 2009

The ten things they never told you about motherhood

It's going to be Mother's Day in the UK soon, and we've been (I work with a British Asian mag) ploughing through mothers day messages by the truckload. Apart from the fact that I think mums need to make their kids spell better (I mean the grown up ones) and that flowers are so bloody expensive in the UK, I might have just given the whole festival a miss, till I received this in a forward.

Interestingly, it's from a dear friend, R, who is single, and who surprisingly gives the most sane advice on balancing kids and married life and sanity, ever. This is one of those irreverential lists, the one that cocks a snook at this life-changing decision. It's a good laugh in places, and comes especially recommended for new mothers. Us old ones, well, we're too jaded with removing curry stains from hair and clothes and sofa to eek a smile.

The things I personally related to, are points 4, 5 and 7. I'm a beached whale with whiplash-like stretch mark scars: and I haven't fit into anything remotely S in three years. This was a big part of my lows after motherhood: I remember walking into changing rooms in malls armed with only XS and S (my size before Nino came along) and then crying for hours in the changing room. M was for Mum, and well, that was what I was. Though I try to crack a joke at it now, my weight affected my disposition, my drive for physical intimacy, lead to huge fights with the husband whose every 'but I think you look great' snowballed into his being an insensitive jerk. I'm not completely okay with it, yet, but I'm getting there. (who am I kidding?!)

Then there's school politics. Tales of wit, wisdom, brilliance and otherwise, as I've tried to bond with the folks who send their kids to Nino's school. I've managed a few friends, and that's because we're not talking about our kids and their capabilities.

Finally, one serious recommendation I'd make you, is to have a friend who is single. Preferably a woman. Needless to say, she needs to be prepared for your Momzilla side, but heck, her importance in your life is one of those things that they don't tell you about motherhood.

Tell me what clicked with you on the list and what did not. Or do you have your own list? And if you're a single friend to a mommy, what's it like for you to be surrounded by poop-tales and teething-worries? Tell, tell, tell!


Ten things they never tell you about motherhood

- Sarah Vine

There's a conspiracy of silence about motherhood, argues our writer. From schoolgate gossips to bed-wetting, here is her guide for Mother's Day...

Motherhood is one of the great obsessions of our age. Everyone seems to have an opinion, even those who will never experience it (men), and those for whom it is a distant memory (grumpy old ladies). Whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed, give birth naturally or deliver by Cesarean, stay at home or return to work, the impression is that whatever you are doing, it's almost certainly wrong.

The most curious aspect of this is that much of the pressure comes not from some patriarchal conspiracy, but from women. Even the National Childbirth Trust recently stated that it wants to see the use of epidurals during labour reduced by 40 per cent to “boost traditional births” - aka “agonising pain”.

Most confusing of all is what a friend of mine calls “the conspiracy of silence”: the abyss that exists between what people will tell you about having children and what it really entails. The truth is, as my mother once remarked darkly, that if women thought properly about having children, no one would ever give birth again.

Here then are ten things about motherhood that no one will tell you.
1. Bottoms
Motherhood, especially in the early years, is a scatological business. You will find yourself responsible for more dung than the keeper of the elephant enclosure at London Zoo. As a result, things that would once have made you gag are now mild inconveniences. At 3am, when your youngest, all snuggly next to you, covers your side of the bed in a wet, warm pool of wee, you don't leap out and strip the sheets. Oh no: you stagger to the bathroom, grab a few towels, cover the wet patch and go back to sleep. You get to the stage when having “a little bit of wee, Mummy” on your trousers is normal. You will get used to sharing a lavatory cubicle with at least one other person, sometimes two or three on an outing. With a son you will, at some time, have to hold his willy when he goes to the loo.

2. Partners
You know those frazzled couples you used to see around at weekends? The ones who don't appear to have washed or ironed their clothes? They call each other “Mummy” and “Daddy”, even though they once had names of their own. Their vocabulary now consists of a series of stock phrases: “You can't have another Lego Star Wars Space Ship”; or “You can have an ice-cream, but only if you eat your broccoli.” Don't get too cross with these couples. Remember, they've been up since 6am and they probably haven't had sex for, ooh, about a thousand years. And crucially, one day that might be you.

3. Making a fool of yourself
It doesn't matter how cool you are, once you have children you will snort like a piggy-wig, neigh like a horse, run through the park shouting “Here comes the wibble-monster”. Sometimes this can be liberating. Other times it's just very, very embarrassing.

4. The body
Despite what the manuals tell you, pregnancy is not a return journey. Your back may go; your arches may fall; you will get brown spots on your skin. There may be whole areas of your body that you no longer recognise: Cesareans leave you with a weird stomach overhang; a natural birth means you will never again perform star jumps with confidence. Pilates, yoga, Power Plate. All these help. But unless you work at it like Madonna, you will never be box-fresh again.

5. The school gate
For some, an opportunity to display to the world their offspring's brilliance. For others, a Dantesque vision of Hell. You'll know which within seconds of your child's first day at nursery.

6. Celebrity mothers
The only secret to the marvel of the celebrity mother, with her flat stomach, her 6in heels and her sexy husband, is this: 24-hour childcare. Don't believe the hype.

7. Single friends
It can be hard, not to say very dull, for your childless friends when you turn into a milk-obsessed insomniac whose idea of spontaneity is giving her baby puréed avocado instead of banana for tea. Your friends' obsession with the banal issues of life, such as whether to invest in this season's new jump-suit, can seem absurdly indulgent. Besides, you are secretly jealous. Yet if you can both curb your tongue, a childless friend is often the best a mother can have - someone to talk to about the important issues in life; someone who will remind you that you once had an identity of your own and that there is more to life than school admission procedures.

8. Sleep
Unless you happen to be SAS trained, there is nothing that can prepare you for the effects of the prolonged sleep deprivation that comes with having children. They will wake you once, twice, three times in the night; if you have two, they will wake in relays, so as to inflict maximum damage. Should you attempt any sort of alcohol-based evening celebration, you can guarantee that the children will wake an hour and a half before they usually do, with twice the energy.

9 Birthing pools
If you like the idea of sitting in your own bodily fluids, then fine. If not, well, not. I know a man who had to perform an unpleasant fishing operation using the kitchen sieve during the later stages of his wife's labour. He has never recovered.

10. The Fear
The most agonising aspect of motherhood is the terrible fear that you may lose your child. With the fear comes guilt, worry and, occasionally, panic. There is little you can do about this, except push it to the back of your mind, avoid listening to certain news reports - and pray that it never happens to you.


In love with my life said...

hi..i had to de lurk and comment. Loved the article..

I personally related to 1,3,7 and 10. There have been shades of 2 and 8 on and off..but it is better than before.

And yes, having friends who have no kids around are a great way to make you feel normal.When i had V, everyone came home with gifts for the baby..the single one of the lot came with gifts for me-lacy lingerie sets in red:-) Need i say anything more?

Aneela Z said...

1 and 10...and may I add one that is not on the list (but then it could just be me) it takes some time before you remember what your 'boundaries' are, as in I had to re-learn who can see my breasts and who cannot (this was post birth and settling into breast feeding as the whole "village" and then some helped me with it)...I am pretty sure the greater Melbourne area will remembers me as the flasher.

Anonymous said...

I am not single, but I'm in the this-will-never-happen-to-me denial mode. I'm in the I-will-be-superwoman-mom-and-CEO mode. One look at the dirty dishes and 4 foot pile of laundry this morning tells me this *might* just not be true given that it can only go south from here. So all 1-10 scare the bejesus out of me. Thanks NM; you're the best.

maidinmalaysia said...

my response is too long...

so doing a post,

come and read

choxbox said...

8 and 10 nino's mum.

n4 had mild reflux or so we thought. she hardly cried and put on weight beautifully but we were completely convinced she had reflux because she brought milk from her nose once plus felt uncomfortable when put down after a feed. so we held her up for one whole hour after every single feed. 13-14 feeds in every 24 hours. you do the math re how much i wouldve slept. add to this the mommy guilt of neglecting n3 who'd be reading away to glory and making me even more guilty. despite mom and husband pitching in completely plus having help (cleaner and cook). all because of my stubborn refusal to put her on any kind of drugs. she outgrew it after 6 mo (if she had it that is). but i now know one thing - there is nothing worse than sleep deprivation.

and 10. god. the other day there was a holi lunch in our complex, and i was chasing n3 for something she'd forgotten to take when she was taking off to a friend's. hubby was still at home getting something for n4. n4 suddenly ran away from me and from the corner of my eye i noticed n4 fishing something out of the pool. she lost balance but managed to gain it back. for one brief moment my heart stopped.

late at night after everyone was in bed, the whole scene flashed in front of my eye. phew.

and LOL at aneela z's comment - she is right! sense of privacy and all - totally gone for a big revamp!

thats a post sized comment!

Musings in KL said...

can't believe it. Everything is soooo true. in fact, was directed to this article by my friend after I wrote one titled "did they tell you this before you had the kids" on my own blog :)
Cool. Lots of minds thinking alike...

nitya said...

All of it to some extent would be a good answer. And most of all I miss being able to just walk out to the house to do something, anything without worrying about nap time, food time, cranky time... :-)

Anonymous said...

4,8 and 10.

The sleep especially had been horrible when I had my youngest. It was crazy, my dh and I were playing night time bed musical chairs type game with a 4,2 and a new born infant. I have blocked out most of everything from that period.

Another one that should be on the list is no matter what happens, how tired one gets, how saggy the boobs get, you will do it all over again.

Anonymous said...

my topmost would be 8. I always needed 8 hours of non break sleep, else my days would be a disaster. That now feels like a distant dream!

Nino's Mum said...

OMG are we a sleep deprived generation or what?!

In love with my life - Welcome here. Loved the annecdote about your babyshower gifts. You nailed it!

Aneela - LOL! I remember once when I thought I'd flashed a bit too much, and asking the husband if he thought so too. Well, he said, whoever will look at you will think you're the salvation army!

GirlOnTheBridge - Just goes to show what a super mum you're going to make :) hugs.

MinM - coming right over!

choxbox - jeez, chox, the pool thing gave me a dry throat. Actually I would have put 10 on my list too: Nino's inherited the husband's antics for precarious behaviour, but I'm just so worried about it, I don't think of it. At All. Nuh nuh.

Musings in KL - welcome here. Now I'm heading to your post to read up. Also, it's pandemic isnt't it?!

Nitya - I know! They should have put that on the list! Wow, you made me nostalgic :)

asaaan - welcome here. You're a wonder woman, and I know you by reputation! hahaha :) howz that for a lurker, huh? That we'd do it again should be on the list too, but the list should be called 'Ten good things they never tell you about motherhood.'

Preeti: sleep deprivation tops it for almost all of us :) beauty sleep just turns into sanity sleep, no?

choxbox said...

(lots of typos/errors - sorry!)

Swati said...


And then 8. Yes.

Sujatha said...

May be it's the distance of time since I had C (D always slept through the night), but the only thing I relate to is 10.

Nino's Mum said...

chox - silly girl. I spy some in my post too... wanna try?!

Swati - LOL, I hear you babe!

Suj - I thought as much. The 'list of how we made it through all this' tends to wear off with time.

wordjunkie said...

The only one that bothers me, the one thing I can't do anything about, is 10. And it only gets worse with time.

Number 9, ewww!

I've actually felt quite liberated with 3, fooling around with my kid and her friends in public places. Motherhood makes me less uptight or concerned about public approval.

5.. the school gate is even worse when you're surrounded by mothers whining about their kids' eating habits, lousy handwriting, poor performance in class, etc.. and I'm talking KG kids ere!

6 had me laughing, but there's also another conspiracy isn't there - the one that assures us that yummy mummies are negligent, self centred,and nowhere as good at The Job as us flabby mummies :)

I'm not sure the single friend thing is always true, since the ones I have seem more overwhelmed, or overly excited by kids than the ones who are moms.

BluePixo said...

Experienced nursing mothers, who have successfully breast fed several babies take a little advance in planning, so that they themselves are free to relax and enjoy the new nursing baby without unnecessary obstacles to their physical well-being or their peace of mind.

Come and Join BluePixo Entertainment - A place for mom and dad to share topics about parenthood.