Becoming a mother
You’ve changed! A former colleague tells me.
I sense their surprise, and something else. Sleepless nights and a non-stop diet of CBeebies may have fueled my latent paranoia, but I can see them taking in the baskets of still damp laundry, the patina of dust and flour on the granite work tops.
Somehow, I’ve morphed from hot-shot lawyer to pot luck domestic muddler. I can sense what they’re thinking. How did that happen?
I don’t know where to start. I’m happier now, won’t cut it.There’s no evidence base. I do a quick tally of pros and cons in my head.
The changes of motherhood are subtle, I want to tell them. But, actually, a lot aren’t.
Some are rather obvious, visceral even.
Enjoying the icing on the cake (a little too much)
Take weight gain. Celebs like Jessica Alba and Heidi Klum may get their pre-baby figures back in less time than it takes me to deep fat fry a Mars bar. But for those of us without access to in-house chefs and personal trainers (not to mention the pressure of an impending cat walk debut or film contract), things can take a little longer.
At least that’s my excuse. Years on, it’s wearing a bit thin. (Sadly, Junior’s arrival kicked the I’m eating for two excuse into orbit).
My former work mate won’t buy it. Even OH cuts me no slack. Just eat less, exercise more. He recites this mantra whenever I embark on a new diet or sign up for another (inappropriately named) fun run.
If only, it was that easy. For a start, I no longer enjoy the fancy gym and brisk walk to work, which usually involved a detour through Covent Garden. Baby boot camp (pushing a screaming baby in a pram around a sodden field) just wasn’t the same.
However, there is a silver lining. For me, it’s not the great people I’ve met in my weight loss class. It’s the food.
Discovering my inner domestic goddess
True, I can no longer pop into Carluccio’s in my lunch break. And I really do miss the little green capers Pret a Manger used to put in their tuna wraps. On the plus side, I now have enough time (and motivation) to cook for myself.
Before J, I was a foodie in name only, an armchair chef.
I may have listed cooking as an interest on my CV. (It sounded more worthy and interesting than the truth; I worked twelve hours a day before collapsing on the sofa with a boxed set of Desperate Housewives and a bottle of Merlot). However, the celebrity cookbooks lay, pristine, under my bedside table, my secret stash of food porn.
It took time, and the ultimate captive audience (a baby) to make the dream reality.
Fed up with watching re-runs of Master Chef, I set out to discover my (very hidden) culinary talents.
Nigella and Mary Berry still intimidated me. Annabel Karmel seemed a better starting point. I mean, how wrong can you go with nursery food?
So I made vegetable and fruit purees. I froze them in an ice tray, defrosting them, one cube at a time, for weaning. Not the most challenging meal plan, but at least it got me acquainted with the local greengrocer and a food processor.
Cooking, unlike my previous life (doing something esoteric with paperclips and statutory instruments) gives instant feedback. Chuckle or chunder. Fortunately, J was an appreciative diner, for a baby, generous with his encouragement. At least, he smiled when he threw my wholemeal cheesy pasta at the cat.
Things progressed naturally. I can trace my evolution through the scratch-and-sniff panels in my once glossy cookery books. Unfortunately, there’s a concentration around anything with chocolate in the title.
I may not be eating for two any more, but I’m definitely cooking as if I still was.
Believing in fairies
So there you have it, one good and one not-so-good change, neither of which I felt like sharing with my former colleague.
Two changes that pale into insignificance against another realisation. I’ve just written a blog that makes me sound like a cross between Delia and the original Stepford wife.
I’m not, honestly. You can be a feminist and wear a pinny.
Still, it’s hard to explain my apparent volte face, particularly to former colleagues. How can I describe the subtle and, not-so-subtle, changes of motherhood? My experiences in the kitchen, though genuine, are a poor analogy.
What more can I say? Motherhood is a bit like statutory drafting. It’s all in the detail, even the powerful stuff.
Sure, it’s a couple of inches on the waist, a blue cheese soufflé in the fridge (yes, really). But, it’s more than this, more even than the dribble of chocolate on a clean white bib.
It’s the marvel of tiny baby feet and long forgotten nursery rhymes. It’s the smell of hot buttered toast, posset and talcum powder.
Later, it becomes a series of firsts. First words, first walk, first tooth. A voyage of shared discovery. Taking J to see his first lamb born, I see the wonder in his eyes, and relive my own. I rediscover the tooth fairy, Father Christmas and the reason animals go to heaven.
Teaching J to ride a bike, he falls. I wipe his tears away and clean the grazes. Mummy will kiss it better, I say. I’m annoyed with myself. Adult me knows it won’t make it better. The lie will find me out. But, in the moment, I mean it. More than anything, I want to take the hurt away, to make things right again.
Being a mother is all the clichés in the Bounty Pack, come true. Now how could I explain that to a bunch of lawyers?