“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new” (Acharya Rajneesh)
In the past, when I was merely a woman, Sunday mornings went something like this: hot coffee, hot toast, a Mozart CD and the newspapers. A tranquil stroll along the river to church and an hour of peace in a pew. A tranquil stroll back and five hours of peace on the sofa.
Now I have been graced with motherhood and one day a year is dedicated to celebrating my transformation. Today is that day. And my morning went like this:
1. Unblocked the kitchen drain that had flooded the patio with purple ‘porridge’
2. Laundered the school uniforms
3. Served breakfast
4. Washed up breakfast
5. Mounted the kitchen worktop to scrape the scurf of the tops of the units.
6. Hung out the school uniforms
7. Washed the kitchen floor
8. Helped ten infants conjure flowers out of coloured cardboard in Sunday school
9. Supervised homework
10. Cooked lunch
11. Helped to construct an Easter bonnet
12. Arbitrated three quarrels
13. Replenished Marmite, bread and loo roll at the mini mart. In the rain.
14. Read five chapters of The Twins at St Clares
BUT - I was roused before 7am by toast and tea tilting suspensefully on a tray over my pillow. I was presented with six paper tulips, two modelling-clay roses, a crooked trinket pot, a cardboard picture frame and a tube of shower gel. I had a briefly harmonious child under each arm, before the day resumed like any other.
Except that it wasn’t quite like any other. Because, somehow, that dawn affirmation had transmuted the daily chores. The scrubbing, the scraping, the sluicing and the supervising didn’t seem so much like chores today; they seemed like tributes to my children – celebrations of my good fortune.
So I told myself.
Sofa indolence and all-day pampering would not have fulfilled me so much as extracting the snail, the sludge and the throng of dead slugs that were blocking the drain.
So I told myself.
For the gratitude, in clay and cardboard, for being a good mother made me want conspicuously to deserve it. And so I scrubbed cupboards that didn’t really need to be scrubbed. And cooked a meal when I usually fling fishfingers. I even lined up the jaded school shoes and polished them. To prove myself to myself, as well as to the children.
By this afternoon, though, my radiance was fading. The drizzly trudge to Co-op felt like any other shopping trip. When the fourth quarrel erupted I cussed and scarpered. Motherhood had lost its fleetingly regained novelty.
‘Mummy!’ drawled my seven-year-old who was browsing Amazon on my laptop. ‘Yes!,’ I snapped suspiciously. He was perusing Nintendo games and I could guess what was coming. But – ‘I’m so glad,’ he said, leaping on me and my washing basket, ‘that you’re my mummy!’
And suddenly, as I hauled another load downstairs, sifting soiled underwear seemed a privilege.
So, how was it for you?