I recently wrote a blog post called ‘5 minutes‘, which describes one of the ways that my partner, T, and I try and keep communication constructive and supportive day to day. It’s surprisingly difficult at times to be civil to one another when we have a screeching monkey clawing at us and making demands as all of our civility is required not to throw the wild animal into a cage. We each have 5 minutes a day to talk about whatever we want without the other person being able to respond. It allows us a safe space to air our thoughts – whatever they may be on – and ensures that we both know if there is a small issue to be dealt with before it gets blown out of proportion.
Lying in bed recently, T pointed out that, whilst he uses his 5 minutes to talk business (literally), I use mine to moan about him knowing that he isn’t able to defend himself. Hands up, I’m guilty as hell on this one. I’ve got into a bad habit of a having a good whinge at him about big things, little things, pointless thing, things that I should really just let go. T said that he often struggles to fall asleep, annoyed at my personal attack. His suggested solution was to take a moment, after doing our 5 minutes, to thank the other person for something that day so that both of us would fall asleep feeling appreciated. We’ve done it most nights since. Sometimes it has the desired effect… sometimes it does not. For example, last night, T paused for several seconds before announcing why he is thankful for me. “Um… thank you for… always ordering things on Amazon so quickly.” I kid you not. I mean, I am the queen of efficiency but COME ON. If that’s what he likes in a woman then my main competition for his affections is Google’s Alexa.
When we fell pregnant, and began to tell people, I was the first to make jokes about it. Often about how I “accidentally” got pregnant to pin a man down, because, let’s be honest, people were probably wondering… And I would be the loudest to laugh when other people made jokes about it. ‘Why?’, T would ask me. Because, I explained, I wanted to own the pregnancy. If I publicly laughed at myself, it prevented other people from laughing at me, I told my partner, leaving them the choice to either along laugh with me or be left out of the joke altogether.
The same sentiment continued when it came to parenting. I made mistakes or miscalculations, like all parents do, which resulted in Whoopsy getting a little knock. Instead of hushing it up, and telling people the bruise was a product of his own misadventures, I would loudly – sometimes proudly – tell people about my parenting fails. My partner, T, was particularly dismayed to find me telling my in-laws how I had left Whoopsy on the elevated changing mat whilst fixing the washing machine (this was pre-rolling) only to find that he could shuffle himself forward by kicking his legs repeatedly. This was the first of many bumps including four successful attempts to roll off a bed, having his bed knocked off door frames, having a coat hook bumped into his head when closing a door behind us… the list goes on.
Not only did I report this to my friends and family with brutal honesty, but I told the health visitor, and a neighbour who is a social worker. “Honey, he’s a boy. This is what they do”, the health visitor told me. My neighbour was even more reassuring: “I’ve spent an hour with you, and in my professional opinion, there are no causes for concern”.
And I’m not the only one. My friend O, who is going to read this (hello!), told me recently about how her son took a tumble down a flight of stairs when she took her eyes off him for one moment. Soon he took another bump which resulted in a second trip to the Accident and Emergency ward and the attention of the social services team. Instead of hiding the reasons for his bruises, she told me the whole story, laughing about her carelessness and praising his resilience. A second friend, L, messaged today with a major #mummyfail. She was trying to teach her baby to climb stairs, only for him to tumble down eleven of them like a “rag doll”. Fortunately, she said, he didn’t seem any worse off for it. I’m not suggesting we all start leaving babies to their own devices on steep stairs, but it’s refreshing and healthy to know that other parents fail just as often as we do (we’re on the sixth rolling-off-the-bed incidence – you really would think we’d learn!) and that babies, generally, can bounce back (literally) from a knock or two. And this is the perfect age. If we can get all our #mummyfails out of the way before the babies develop a memory, they’ll be none the wiser that they were at risk of serious harm for the first two years of their life.
It’s a huge relief to not have to pretend to be a #perfectmummy, so much so that I started a trend amongst my NCT friends of reporting our #mummyfails on a regular basis solely to amuse one another and proudly own our failures. Slightly less serious than careering down the stairs, there has been an accidental consumption of honey (no mother I’ve spoken to has any idea why babies can’t eat honey, we just blindly accept that the NHS probably knows better than we do), a run in with the family pet which resulted in a few teethmarks, dropping the baby (who then coincidentally – but also helpfully – ended up having a wear a helmet twenty-three hours a day for unrelated reasons) and plenty of accidental dunkings in the bath. And despite all that, we each still have thriving, surviving babes who don’t appear to have any fear of steps, baths or beehives.