Work In Progress

Last night was one of those nights. Sometimes it feels like I must be the only mum on the planet whose 22 month old still goes through phases of waking up at unearthly hours of the night. When they are new-born you can take comfort in the fact that while you are perched uncomfortably on the edge of a toy box with an apparently starving baby voraciously sucking at your breast at 11pm, 2 am and 4am, there are literally thousands of other mums across the UK doing exactly the same. As if this knowledge can somehow negate the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on me physically and emotionally; I used to take solace in the fact that I was not alone.

But when your baby gets to about 8 weeks old, some mystical transformation takes place - as if there is some unwritten parenting rule that states that babies should have turned into robots that sleep all night on request. And so in baby groups across the UK the conversation is no longer about competing to see who got the least sleep (I call this the 'martyr mummy phenomenon'), but the focus changes to whose baby is now sleeping through and whose slept the longest (I call this the 'up your own bottom' mummy phenomenon).

The 'up your own bottom' mummy phenomenon applies in many other areas of parenting. We've all met parents like this. You know the ones - the ones that manage to keep their children away from the perils of chocolate until they have turned 5, whose little angel was smiling as they landed on the birthing table and the parents that breastfed without even a hint of a sore nipple.

Let's talk about breast feeding shall we? I am massively pro-breast feeding - why wouldn't I be? It's a beautiful, natural thing - the perfect way to nourish your baby and so vital for early bonding. However, I find it interesting that the 'up your own bottom' mummies manage to do it straightaway with no issue, no soreness, no attachment problems - but these same mummies stop breastfeeding at exactly 6 months (with no problems) and then look at other mummies who choose to feed longer than 6 months with a kind of patronising sympathy - as if somehow you are weak or weird for having made that choice.

'Up your own bottom' mummies are the ones that talk endlessly about how they will use cloth nappies as they are so much more environmentally friendly than disposables. The slightly bitchy side of me (admit it ladies we all have a tiny bit in there somewhere) smiles silently when I see those same mums resorting to disposables within just a few weeks, having wasting £300 pounds on their initial investment - so much for saving money and the environment.

The slightly bitchy side of me laughs silently when the 'up your own bottom' mummy lets it slip that weaning from breast to bottle at 6 months was hell on earth and she only did it to conform with what she thought people expected of her.

The slightly bitchy side of me smiles silently when the 'up your own bottom' mummy confesses that the initial new born smile was actually a misshapen face from being squashed through that small space for several hours of a torturous birth experience - and that the 'smile' that the baby showed regularly over the next few weeks was actually wind. And that colic kept the whole family up night after night for weeks.

The slightly bitchy side of me smiles silently when she confesses that contrary to the smooth early days in her breastfeeding experience she was actually so sore that she bled and needed antibiotics for severe mastitis.

The slightly bitchy side of me is still there - and I am constantly trying to keep her in check - because at the end of the day I don't really want anyone to go through any of that. Motherhood is hard work. The early days are hard work. Sleep deprivation is hard work. But I just wish people would keep it real! I have come to the conclusion that the 'up your own bottom' mummy phenomenon should be renamed to the 'insecure but desperately wanting everything to be perfect' mummy phenomenon.

To be honest I don't really laugh silently at mums like this - I silently want to hug them and tell them to stop trying to portray an image of perfection - life's to short for pretence. But I have found that perfect mums don't really like the vulnerability of being hugged. We're all doing this journey of motherhood together and sometimes it's amazing and sometimes it sucks - get real about it! As for the bitchy side of me - she's getting smaller and I'm working hard to squash her into a corner and let the very gorgeous and loving side of me shine. But even supermums fail sometimes, after all I'm just a work in progress.

"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion"

Philippians 1:6
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