A Life Sentence

Children. Those womb travelling little piranhas disguised as human beings, that slip out into your life and nibble away at the flesh of your existence until there is nothing left of you but an empty shell they call Motherhood.  To bear or not to bear. That is no longer the question. The question now is – who do you smirking child-bearers think you are? The current controversy started because of one, albeit hotly denied, clumsy comment from a smiley-eyed wannabe mummy-Prime Minister. Suited women in their kitten heels and coiffed gloryness, all but took to the streets in their righteous indignation of why mothers thought they were better, or indeed, more special than their nipperless sisters. The subject very quickly put to rest in its crib by our childless sisters. The Barren Jury was out, and they had delivered their verdict. Being a child-bearer did not make you special. Hear ye Hear ye Motherhood – from henceforth your name shall be Unexceptional.

Political parent posturing aside, is there any mother on this swirling planet that hasn’t fantasised about a childless existence, at least for a day? I challenge any of them to a nappy changing duel at dawn should they dare to deny it.  The mere suggestion that those of us who have utilised our wombs feel slightly superior to those that haven’t, is as silly as soft boiled eggs without soldiers.  I could single-handedly float an ocean liner on turquoise oceans of my childless fantasies. Resplendent on the sticky free decks, I’m swathed in lashings of wrinkle free white silk, while sipping espresso from dainty porcelain cups with my equally childless amour, George Clooney. It all seems rather fabulous until my dreams hit the submerged iceberg of reality and I watched my delusions go down the loo along with the nappy wipes.  Having subjected myself to labour three times, it would take many years before George and I could finally be together. If nothing else, motherhood teaches you the virtuosity of patience.

Over time, my couturier outfit of choice, a loose old tracksuit embellished with shiny bits of old carrot and swirls of stale milk, has been replaced with clean blue jeans and a crisp white t-shirt. Mother Time in all her benevolence had bestowed on me three grown up children. Notice the ironic paradox? Grown up children.  Only members of the Fecund Sisterhood knows that there is no such thing in reality as bigger is better and older is wiser. Your children do not disappear into a world of gratefulness, never to be seen again. Your vocation is far from over.

On the odd occasion when some unfortunate person is kind enough to tell me what a good job I have done rearing my progeny, I am never quite able to control my hysterical laughter. Being a mother is not a job. A job is a doddle. Where are our protected workers’ rights? The minimum hours of employment? The guaranteed days off? And where would I go to hand my resignation in? Being a mother is a state of being, like a Brother of the Nights Watch. You simply can’t escape the foreverness of it.

I can only think of one occasion when I considered escape. My three Grownlings were all washing their own smalls by then, and had dragged me to a theme park for the day.  They must have caught me on an espresso high because regret attacked me at the entrance. I tried to turn and run but my son is now exactly twice my height, and he held on to my hand like I was his Playstation control. The throbbing festival of teenage hormones around me did nothing to calm my tingling arms and heaving stomach.  I told my grown ups I might be having a stroke, but they seemed to find my malaise quite amusing. In hindsight, strapping me into an old car seat and hurtling me down a Death Drop on a track the width of dental floss, could have been some kind of revenge plot.  Even when the rollercoaster finally stopped and I fell off dribbling and incoherent, they still refused to take me home.  It was at that point that an escape plan started to formulate. It didn’t work. They found me very close to the public toilets. To this day I ponder how so many people watched a young man sling a gibbering woman over his shoulder and head deeper into the grounds of the Underworld, without calling the authorities. Years later and I’m still dealing with the post-traumatic stress of it all. I wake up in a cold sweat after seeing my limp and broken body lying below the three faces of my children.

Apart from that slight detour on the parental path, and the occasional boat trips with George, I would not change one single moment of motherhood.  The Kitten Heel Brigade can take to the streets with placards of scorn, they can burn their Lastminute.com vouchers in disgust, but I think being a mother is certainly special.  Not superior, not better, just special. A rollercoaster ride of infinite love that slings you from the heady heights of an emotional track and at times drops you back down with heart stopping fear. On reflection, George can keep his boat and his life. I’m going to slip into an old tracksuit and invite my daughter over for a cup of coffee.