Nakedness Dens and Food

My life with four little boys

Pass me a megaphone: I wanna tell you a secret

on June 23, 2014

Apologies that it’s been a little longer in between posts than normal. I have numerous excuses for this, all of which can be filed within the folder labelled “family life”. Over the past month I have either been up to my eyes in Dr. Who paraphernalia for son #1’s birthday party (currently looking at a 6ft dalek in the hallway and continually tripping over cybermen in the conservatory) or fending off the dreaded d & v bug (one of the challenges of larger families is stopping the spread of germs as they play some kind of Olympic style ping pong match between children). My I.B.S. symptoms have been playing havoc with my insides (and our bathroom schedule in the mornings… but you don’t need to know any more about that…!), son #4 has been teething and husband has been away with work… A LOT. I think I’m just about emerging through the haze, although don’t ask me when the sheets were last changed on our bed! And of course now we’re heading in to the last few weeks of term when costumes need to be sorted for the school play, forms need to be returned for school trips, performances, recitals and sports days need to be attended, the annual school fayre needs to be volunteered for and summer cub camp needs to be equipped with labelled just-about-everything and lessons given in how to repack a bag! Plus I seem to be constantly with medical professionals for one son or another and meanwhile the things-to-do list seems to be getting longer and longer taunting me with what I’m convinced are actual proper spoken insults every time I walk past it. You know, sometimes, no A LOT of the time, mummying is a lot like being a juggler on a treadmill and sometimes, no A LOT of the time, it feels like I am either going to drop a ball or fall off backwards in a comedy Miranda-style exposé! In fact sometimes I do.

I often get comments from people after counting up the number of children I have along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it” – well, here’s thing, the secret of how I do it is this – I don’t! Not on my own anyway. That’s my secret. There you go. I don’t do it. And the more I speak to other mums, the more I realise that actually most of us aren’t doing it – not alone anyway. Those mums you see out and about coping so well, achieving so much single handedly… they’re probably not, or if they are they’re hiding a lot of tears behind closed doors at the end of the day. But, and here’s the light bulb moment, that’s ok. To not do it alone I mean. It’s better that than the tears. You see this family stuff isn’t meant to be done in isolation. You may have heard of the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” – meaning that bringing up a child should be a communal effort. Well I totally believe it’s true. The villages we operate in may look different in our time and culture, but we still need one. And our children actually benefit from one. Whether it’s grandparents, friends, paid childcare, neighbours, health and educational professionals, support groups or social media, mummying (indeed daddying too) is supposed to be done with others. My “village” currently consists of my amazing dad, my generous in-laws, understanding friends with children of their own, loyal friends without children at this time, extended family members, our neighbours, my children’s teachers, our GP and related services, various social media which makes me laugh, feeds my soul, gives me tips and nourishes my brain, our faith community, childcare providers/activity leaders and fellow mummies on the same journey. From my village I have gained everything from coffee and cake to babysitting, from D.I.Y. help to a shoulder to cry on, and from medical advice to playdates for the children.

It has taken me a while to realise this (and probably it’s only by son #4 that I have truly relaxed about it) but no one is and no one has to and indeed no one can be supermum. I hung up my cape and tights a long time ago. Actually I think if I was ever wearing them they would have definitely fallen off around the birth of son #2. And I reckon I’m finally OK with that. It certainly beats the exhaustion of trying to live up to what I think everyone’s expectations of me are. But it gets better too…

Recently, I was incredibly humbled when some friends of ours who are going through the adoption process told us that they had mentioned us to their social worker as people who they include within their network of support – which I guess is another way of looking at the whole village thing. Now when I’d got over the surprise that someone else thought us stable enough to be of any use whatsoever when it comes to their parenting (especially having witnessed first-hand the end result of our attempts) I had another light bulb moment. The great thing about being in a village is that we get to be there for others too. It’s not about knowing it all or having everything perfectly sorted. It’s definitely not about being supermum flying in to save the day or make pronouncements about other people’s domestic issues. It’s just about doing life and raising children together, as community, as friends, as extended family, as society… as humans! It’s about sharing our messy, mundane, complicated, joyful, challenging truthful lives and (at the risk of sounding terribly new age-y) “journeying” together. I know I am incredibly grateful for everyone who is in my “village”, or my support network if you prefer, as I muddle through this being a mummy thing and I hope that others feel that I can be part of theirs too.

If you come to my house you might not see well-made beds, a nicely weeded garden, show home tidy rooms or neatly turned out children. But if you look closely through the piles of washing on the kitchen table, around my dad mowing the lawn, past a friend returning one of my sons from after school club, over the top of the other boys half naked in amongst the Lego bricks and beyond my mother in law sewing on badges to my son’s Beavers uniform… you’ll find a kettle. And biscuits. And me… with fully in tact sanity (well, as much as it has ever been!) a sense of humour (most of the time) and a willingness to share.

So that’s my secret. That’s how I do it. I do it with help (and biscuits!). And I hope I help others do it too (or at least turn up with the biscuits!).

Much love my friends

Helen -x-

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2 responses to “Pass me a megaphone: I wanna tell you a secret

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Love it! Makes me feel soo much better about day to day life and the mess currently on the lounge floor. Refreshing for a women to say she isn’t superwoman!

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