Mumming: The Unconventional Way
(that’s actually pretty conventional)
We all wonder if we’re doing it right don’t we, this mumming stuff?
I don’t think there’s a mum in the land who hasn’t at least once wondered if she did it right. After all there is no manual, (at least not one that is compatible with YOUR child) and any “manuals” out there, are most definitely NOT singing from the same hymn sheet, which to me just proves there are no hard and fast rules. There is no right or wrong way. Nonetheless, we all wonder daily, did I do that right?
From the moment I saw those two lines appear on that weird and clinical little stick (the least heart warming piece of apparatus ever invented used to inform you that you are growing a human being) questioning my decisions became part of my daily routine; am I doing the right thing? Did I do that right? Let’s be honest, most of us even question the way we did the test.
I mean, if I did that right why am I now sat with my hand covered in my own pee, surely they didn’t design it that way? Or maybe they did! Maybe it’s your first test. Let’s face the facts here, being covered in pee is something you have to get used to pretty swiftly when becoming a Mum, (whether that’s your own, or the small persons) and once pregnant there are times when your dignity is really the least of your concern. So why not start the whole process by peeing all over your own hand?
I think the reason we wonder if we’re doing it right in the first place…
… for me anyway, has a lot to do with our preconceived ideas of the conventional way, the conventional way to parent; to mum. As a 31 year old female I was brought up in the classic Disney era, the Disney that taught us the fairy tale and you know what, I bloody love it, but (and this is a big but), it doesn’t half bugger up your idea of how life is meant to go.
On top of that I was the product of a broken home, (a phrase I am going to ban from now on), a “broken home” (OK now), what does that even mean? My Dad doesn’t live here anymore and my Mum has to work so my home is “broken”. The word broken, by its very definition, means “damaged, no longer able to work”, but my home worked just fine, still I can’t deny that this whole concept bothered me. As far as I could see, all my friends, everybody at school (my private school during the 90s) had their mums at pick up, their dads at work, and their home that wasn’t broken; so I decided pretty early on that THAT is what I needed.
Fast forward 15 or so years and there I am looking at my two lines, pee all over my hand, thinking, this is not the way this was meant to go. I’m not married yet, I don’t have my home yet, this wasn’t planned, I’m not ready yet, this isn’t right. Is it? The 9 months that followed seemed to be an endless journey of decision making, decisions that nearly always had me questioning whether I was making the right one. Which pram, which car seat, which bottles, which cot, which nappies, which bath, which hospital?
Not only this, in the back of my mind I always had that little voice reminding me that this wasn’t the conventional way I planned it. Things didn’t get easier and my journey wasn’t a smooth one (another story for another day), but one thing that was as clear as day, once my little boy arrived, it didn’t matter.
Role as a new mother
As each day passed my new role as mother sank in and even though I knew it wasn’t the way I planned; it wasn’t conventional, I also knew I was bloody good at it. It seemed like, for me, although the questions remained, the instinct kicked in and the unconditional love took over. Yes, maybe I failed at my plan, my plan of the perfect family, the conventional way, but I knew with absolute certainty I hadn’t failed at being a mum and I never would.
It was only once I started stepping out into the world more that my fear became realised again. I had decided it was time to join some baby groups, so I started with swimming and booked onto the Sunday afternoon class which was very much a family affair. There I was surrounded by new and happy families, alone and cuddling my little one, (who I think was protecting me more than I him at this point), without a husband or a partner, without a conventional family and it killed me.
It was tough, but I persevered and you know what I learnt, there’s no such thing as a bloody conventional family. The last week of our first term at swimming, I met one of my now good friends and it turned out she was a single mum too. After that I started going to a baby fitness class and met another one of my now best friends, and guess what, another single mum. There were single mums, mums who lived with their parents still, young mums, old mums, happy mums, sad mums, mums who breast fed, mums who didn’t AND I’ll tell you a secret, the conventional ones, the ones who “did it right”, the ones who had their shit together, most of the time they DIDN’T. One thing is true though, regardless of our background, our circumstances (conventional or otherwise), we all had one thing in common: we loved our new babies and we were all doing our absolute best…
There is no conventional way to parent, to family, to mum, there’s just your way and it, is, right. In fact, it’s bloody perfect!