I have just spent the morning with my daughter in a children’s play-centre, and whilst there I had an epiphany. I did not like it. Not that I don’t like spending time with my daughter, I do, I love her to bits. It’s just other kids I’m not that keen on. Basically, apart from the fruit of my own womb, and a select few of my friends’ offspring, I do not like children much. There, I said it.
I realise that this is not a very PC view, and certainly not one that any mother should express, but there it is. I’m just not maternal, not really even with my own child, and that has come as a huge shock to me. When I was pregnant I was the most annoyingly blooming mother-to-be in the universe. I developed a major attachment to my bump, documented every stage of my pregnancy, had a cast-iron (or so I thought) log of things I would and wouldn’t do as a parent.
For example, I would never let my child eat McDonalds. I would spend at least 3 hours per day finger painting/potato printing/reading to my child, I would only feed my child organic food, I would not enter her to daycare until she was at least 3 years’ old, as everything I had read said it was beneficial to have one-to-one contact with the primary caregiver until that age. I would never let my child sleep in my bed, my routines would be cast-iron.
Fast forward three years and my daughter has been in daycare since 15 months, and what’s more she loves it. And so do I. I love the hours of my life that it gives me back, some days I am counting down the minutes till nursery drop-off time. My daughter sleeps in my bed with me, but mainly because I am too exhausted to embark on yet another battle of wills. Plus I need the sleep. So if she sleeps, and I sleep, in my bed, I figure, what the hell, happy baby, happy mother.
I rarely feed my daughter organic food, largely due to the cost, and sometimes, I will confess, if she’s a good girl she’ll get a Happy Meal as a treat. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. I feel like I am giving my daughter an appreciation of all different types of food, and to be honest, though the moral majority may disagree, it’s just a friggin’ Happy Meal. I’m not feeding her whiskey in her bottle at night. Chill the hell out, I say.
As for the finger painting and potato printing, well what can I say? This caper just don’t come naturally to me. Sometimes I am so disappointed that I have not turned out to be the type of Earth-mother I expected to be. I even bought a Cath Kitson change-bag for God’s sake. But you are who you are, and who I am is the type of mother that adores my child, but also has a strong sense of self that is separate to her. And whilst I love my baby, I don’t always love being a mum.
There, I said it, shoot me. I am a fully paid-up member of what Sophie Heawood described recently as the Bad Mums’ Club. I find finger-painting boring. I can’t abide the mess that potato prints create. But what’s more I find the kind of Middle-Class Mummy kitted out in Kitson an absolute snoozefest. If I have time with my girlfriends I don’t want to spend it talking about whether little Betsy is toilet trained or Casper is eating his carrots yet. I couldn’t give a sh*t to be honest. I can barely muster up the enthusiasm for this stuff with my own child, let alone anyone else’s.
I’m more of the school of thought that if I’m at a party the kids can play together while the parents (supervising them obviously) get to be adults, get drunk, swear and smoke. And yes, I smoke too. Tut tut. More boxes ticked on my Bad Mum rap-sheet. Well you know what, I don’t smoke around my daughter and as long as I’m not sharing my Cutter’s Choice with her and teaching her to roll I don’t feel an ounce of guilt. Back in the old days all the Stepford Mums were on Mogadons and Valiums, so I reckon I’m doing pretty well with the odd fag as opposed to say, a prescription drug problem.
And this is the thing with Middle Class Mummy Syndrome, with their Monsoon clothes and Stokke buggies and organic food, and raised eyebrows at hotpant-wearing Bad Mums like me; they bleat on about how their world’s are child-centric. How everything must be ‘fair trade’ and PC, how we’ve lost our sense of “community”, that mums that aren’t completely obsessed with their offspring should take a leaf out of the books of the women in the Third World – where community is everything, where child-rearing is priority.
Well let me tell you ladies, I have lived in Africa, and the women there ain’t that much different to me. You won’t find them sitting around finger painting. You’ll find them out in the fields grafting, going back to work, sometimes days after giving birth. The women in such communities are just like the working class mothers here, they work, usually through necessity, they have no time or use for the luxury of ‘child-centric parenting’. And community is all, but the children fit into the existing communities and learn to become valuable members of it. They do not have their noses wiped at every sniffle by over-zealous mummies with painted on smiles and vacant eyes.
One day our babies grow up and fly the nest and what they leave us with if they have been allowed to dominate that nest is the mother’s total sublimation of self. They leave behind a mummy bird with broken wings, totally unable to fly, or even remember what the wide blue open feels like anymore. A decimated identity is not an easy thing to repair. Me, I have no worries on that score, I’ll still have my hotpants and my Cutter’s Choice, a box of rosé and a foul mouth that could rival any tradesman!
Here’s to all the bad mums out there: Long may they reign!!