Don’t Read The Labels


This month I have stepped out of the family home and temporarily shaken off some of my limiting labels, such as Mum, wife, housewife, stay at home mum, Daisy’s mum, and many other titles too. Being Shelley (whatever that truly is) has felt truly liberating and simply wonderful; daily adult conversation, academic learning, long scheduled lunch breaks where I was able to consume food at a gentle pace (rather than the usual Cookie Monster style), and all whilst modelling straightened hair and snot free clothing. Bliss.

However, reality calls, and alas I cannot stay on the university campus 24/7, so every day I return to the family home, and every day I find it really hard to do so, like the time to myself whilst at university is just an illusion, I am in denial and I am only destined for a life of frumpiness and maternal duties. Every weekday morning I have been stepping out of the home, hanging up my Mum hat on the hatstand as I exit the building, confidently heading off for my academic day ahead. But then, on each afternoon I return, without even needing to don my Mum hat, I am straight back into mumsy role; it seems like the most unappreciated job role of the entire world.

There, waiting for me like a loyal dog, is a messy house with no floor space, that no one cares about but me. And if, God forbid, I have the audacity to ask the children to tidy up their ground level creation, in the hopes of saving them from a freak plastic digger accident, well, cue drama. Generally I am met with total ignorance of my words, or by way of contrast, I receive a Tolstoy length tale of why they should not have to tidy up the mess (he did it, she did it, I’m tired, my arms don’t work). As an alternative, sometimes their mini-me bodies seem to be stripped of their entire musculo-skeletal system whereby they just start sliding down any piece of nearby furniture, as if they are trying to depict their woes through the medium of contemporary dance. And this is just one set of examples purely from asking the children to tidy up their own mess. I still have to undergo feeling invisible, epic tales, and liquid form offsprings again when I mention homework, dinner time, bathing, or bedtime. Sometimes, the only positive I can find is how all the kids look a little like the melting clocks in Dali’s splendid work The Persistence of Memory; this is about as sophisticated as family life feels for me right now.

Seriously, it has been one thing after another of late, our youngest daughter, despite having been potty trained for almost a year, has started to pee her knickers as a form of physical protest that evil mum is returning to the world of work, she is weeing all around the house like some kind of angry dog trying to mark its territory. Our eldest daughter is probably the outstanding and undefeated champion in the woeful contemporary dance stakes and melting clock imagery, but thankfully she is at least continent of urine. Youngest son has taken to hurting the girls, with their arms being his particular favourite area of focus. As for our eldest, well, just insert a poo emoji icon here to serve as a synopsis of the week.

Every little mess, blank, strop, meltdown or attitude feels far worse now that I have stepped away from the family home then when I used to deal with it day in and day out. I seem hyper sensitive to it all now that I have returned to university and work in a bid to claim back a little self-purpose and identity. I guess I was unaware of not just how unappreciated I am, but just how much stuff I have always naturally done for the family and our home before I started to dare to peel of the label of Mum. And yes, I know many of you female readers will be thinking “but that’s what mums do” but seriously, I had not realised just how much we do naturally and automatically undertake. Cleaner, laundry maid, personal stylist, triage nurse, referee, dietitian, shopper, education vigilante, play specialist, counsellor, singer, taxi driver, appointments clerk, waitress, maintenance, chambermaid, logistics expert, environmentalist (specialist subject of turning off lights in empty rooms), dental hygienist, nail technician, and more. I have been undertaking all these roles whilst obliviously becoming deskilled at just being Shelley.

So there, that’s my week. It is real. There are no photos for Facebook to give false impressions that I am Superwoman making gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free muffins for breakfast, paraben-free art and craft sessions undertaken by lunchtime, and some deliciously homemade evening meal that is made up with a naturally coloured ‘eat a rainbow’ tick box standard of fodder. I am authentic; I am not one for belittling others with false imagery of holding all my shit together. I am more of the genre of ‘Oh look, he has just fallen off the end of the sofa and got all squished up like a hedgehog, I will quickly take a photo before I rescue him’ type of uploader. I have hated this week at times, truly hated it, and felt invisible like a ghost in my own home at times. So, for all of you parents and carers out there who are giving yourself negative talk because Sandra et al look like they totally rock at parenting and life itself; don’t believe the hype. I think, as long as you are doing your best for most of the time, I reckon we have got this parenting lark down to a not too shabby art. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are probably just too busy looking at your life, rather than looking at their own equally imperfect life. So there, rant over!

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