I’ve dreamt of being a mother my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of pretending to look after all of my invisible children, and I knew exactly what my dream should look like.
Married of course, living in a beautiful house which was always kept clean and tidy. Sparkling surfaces, freshly ironed clothes and home cooked meals. Tons of storage for all the crafting supplies we would obviously need. Stairways lined with beautiful family memories. Freshly baked something always on the side.
Manicured gardens, front and back. A beautifully decorated playhouse for the children, and a family dog who would be walked every evening. Family holidays around Europe, and long weekends in Cornwall or Devon. Freshly cut flowers, newspapers and freshly squeezed juice on a Sunday.
I was sure that once I was a mother I would well and truly have my shit together, and it would all fall in to place , just the way it’s supposed to.
Of course four years down the line of real life motherhood that dream couldn’t be further from the truth. My shit is probably less together now than it ever was pre-kid. The house we are in now does the job, but it’s far from ideal in many ways. I still don’t even know how to iron, and I’m far too busy re-running the washing machine because I’ve left wet clothes in there for too long to find the time to learn.
The memories we’ve created so far do line some of the walls, but some are still tinged with a little sadness and pain. Grass cutting is another skill I’m yet to develop, and at this point I’m struggling to see why I even should. As for the dog – we struggled to look after the fish (RIP) so I don’t think that’s a great idea. Family holidays feel a little like a pipe dream, with so many other more pressing obstacles to tackle first.
My motherhood is definitely not the one I had planned. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m even responsible enough for the job role, like I’m waiting for someone to come along and take it all away from me because I’m not even qualified.
But today I feel like I had my moment.
As I picked Dil up from forest school today I watched his face light up as he spotted me at the gate. I listened as he passed me his lunch box and told me about his day. I smiled knowingly as his key worker explained that he had some trouble keeping his hood up in the rain, because I know just what he would’ve been saying.
“But I like the rain on my head, the rain is incredible”
Back at the car I sat him on the edge of the car boot and pulled off his muddy wellies. He tucked into the strawberries I brought with me, and giggled with happiness as I gave him the special new blanket I got, to warm him up after a morning in the rain. The incredible rain.
As I drove home, listening to his gentle snores and watching his chest rise and fall under his new blanket in the mirror, it occurred to me that maybe this was the way it was always supposed to be. Maybe motherhood isn’t about perfectly cut grass and arts and crafts. Maybe it’s about muddy wellies and always bringing snacks. Maybe it’s about knowing that the pink blanket is the one he’d love, and it’s about the light in his eyes when you pick him up after a busy day.
Maybe ironing isn’t supposed to be the priority, maybe there’s nothing wrong with shop bought cakes. Maybe in amongst the mess and the chaos, the late nights and early mornings, maybe it is actually all the little things that count. Maybe when he grows up he’ll treasure the afternoons of nothing, just as much as he would’ve treasured the expensive holidays I beat myself up for not being able to afford.
Being a mother isn’t really about the list of skills that I thought it was. It’s not about running a household, operating a cleaning schedule, or knowing how to descale a shower head. It’s so much more than that, but at the same time it’s so much simpler.
Motherhood is a feeling.
It’s the feeling you get in your heart when they look at you in a certain way. It’s the warm feeling that glows inside you when you hear them sigh with content. It’s the peace within you as you listen to them sleep, and the happiness you get from listening to them do their biggest belly laughs. It’s all of that and so much more, and no amount of dirty washing will convince me that I’m doing it wrong.
I am so far from perfect it’s untrue, a million miles away from the textbook good mother. I make mistakes every day. Every night I beat myself up over them and every morning I promise myself I’ll do better. But every single day I look at my little boy and I feel so proud, because I know that deep down, underneath the clutter and the wrinkled clothes, I must be getting something right.
My darling little four year old, who adores his new pink blanket and the feeling of the incredible rain on his head. Who shows kindness, compassion and empathy to everyone he comes across. Who teaches me more about unconditional love, friendship and forgiveness than I’ve learnt in my 28 years from other people. He forgives every mistake I make, and he understands that everything I do comes from love. He is the most perfect human being, in spite of all my own imperfections, and he is becoming absolutely everything I could ever hope he would be.
So for now the grass will most likely remain uncut, the only pet I’m willing to consider currently is a snail, and the mystery of how to be the “perfect mother” will continue to allude me. I’ll take this moment instead. We’ll watch the incredible rain, wrapped up in our new fleece blanket and we’ll savour how perfectly imperfect life can be.