I feel the need to be clear: I don’t think I am cool. At all. In fact I’ve got considerably less cool over the past year. In recent weeks I have mainly been seen manically pushing an infant in circles over the bumpiest bit of park I can find. Until the weather got better I wore a ski jacket. Occasionally I accidentally wheel into dog poo and my soul dies a little bit as I resignedly wheel off to find a stick and some long grass.
(While we’re on that, having a child has made me more irritated by “dog fouling”. In many ways being a parent are very similar – the responsibility, the noise, the holiday implications – however I, as a parent and reasonable human being, am yet to watch my son defecate on the floor and then wander off on my merry way. I certainly haven’t picked it up in a sandwich bag and lobbed it into the hedge. I implore you dog owners for the sake of pushchair wheelers across the country: sort your shit out.)
Anyway, I digress. As I say I am not cool. My clothes 9/10 are coated in a cement-like mixture of porridge, snot and banana. The proudest moment of most days is when I successfully get a nappy on a little wriggling rump in under five minutes; I’m like Anthea Turner with Tracey Island. I classify my clothes on a scale of dirty and clean enough. I go to bed at 9pm if given half the opportunity and if not I watch MasterChef and feel genuinely entertained.
My mama however is, was and continues to be very cool. My dad left when I was 2 and my brother was 4. At times she had three jobs at a time. She worked on bars, she cooked school dinners and I vividly remember being taken to a house she cleaned during the holidays and them having an actual Saint Bernard (Beethoven was not long in the cinemas so this was a big deal). While my brother and I slept soundly in our cosy beds she trained to be an accountant in the evenings.
But here is the thing. Despite being pretty poor, we never felt it. We never resented it or felt we were missing out because my mum’s way was better: we were the kings and queens of the car boot, the witches and wizards of the homemade. If we wanted something we saved up our yoghurt pots and built it. Or we found some things we didn’t like anymore and sold them. Occasionally to each other which in hindsight was not a great deal.
And that is the mama I want to be. Not poor obviously but resourceful and resilient. For me looking back my childhood was wonderful and one parent was totally enough. But for her at the time, two kids and no husband at the age I am now, it must have been daunting to say the least. And that is the inspiration: to be able and flexible and ferocious in my love of my family and in meeting their needs and to do it in way that means we all wake up expecting adventures, ready to take on whatever is waiting around the corner. That would be very cool.