The mum/me balance 

When I lived in Japan, the local stray cat – who we had named Josephina – one evening roamed into our apartment and nestled herself under our sofa. In the middle of the night we understood why she’d hunkered down there – she mewingly gave birth to 5 kittens. 5 tiny slimy blind gorgeous little kittens, who for the next 6 months lived with us, grew bigger and furrier and insatiably playful, became our surrogate children and were the source of unending joy and fun and cuteness.

Not so for Josephina. Beyond the initial weeks of never ending helpless suckling, where she was the epitome of purring eyes-closed bliss, lying contentedly down in her box nest we created for her in the back of our cupboard, her 5 babes suckling at her gloriously fat belly… once the kittens became more mobile and rambunctious, she became a noticeably weary mother, irritable and moody, shrugging the kittens off angrily when they clamoured for milk, nipping and spitting at them if they persisted, and making her way speedily for the nearest exit where she could return to her alleycat prowling, leaving her kittens mewing desperately in her absence, before they were happily distracted by a ribbon…

I used to feel sad at this display of intense dislike of being Mama Cat. I felt quite sorry for her kittens and felt, hey, maybe Josephina isn’t cut out for feline motherhood, maybe she got knocked up by accident,maybe she  wasn’t quite ready to leave her prowling days behind her and settle into domesticity.

But now. Now I have some empathy for Josephina’s motherhood muddle.

The sheer physicality of having small children can be exhausting. At any given moment I’m a human climbing frame, a packhorse, a fellow monkey at play. Currently they’re both with me all day so I have to spread the cuddles evenly. This morning at one point Small 1 was climbing on my back whipping my hair around across my face “can you see mummy CAN YOU SEE??!”, while Small 2 was shimmying up my front whining and pulling up my top for boob access. This happened shortly after I had escaped to the toilet only to be followed by both, one saying “mummy are you going to do a poo?” while the other made train noises and threw some metal tank engines into the bath to enhance the tranquil atmosphere. For the briefest of instants I wanted to shout STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I know, I know, these are the days of our lives, the days are long, the years are short, this time is gone in the blink of an eye. So so true and I am already aware of my 10-years-hence self mourning this time, when I’m in the thick of the monosyllabic potentially hug-free (not if I can help it!) teenage years.

But, it’s tough and can leave you wishing for less touch, for a respite in the sensory stimulation…so it’s so important to maintain a link to the you the you were pre kids, a well of calm resilience you can tap into to be able to deal with moments where you feel overwhelmed in the melee. You know, those pre-children times where your body was your own, it was only for people to climb on if you invited that, a time where there was such a thing as modesty, as physical intrigue…having elbows jabbed into your tummy was a danger only if you were playing twister at a party… there was – remember this one mamas – “personal space”, and your housemates rarely wanted to accompany you to the toilet…you had time to stare out the window and just “be”. Of course, in those actual moments you were possibly  worrying about work, friendships, whether you’d ever have kids, etc…

As an antidote to the Josephina impulse to escape out the bathroom window when it gets a bit much, taking a few deep breaths is simple but a winner. Preferably  without children climbing on you – although bonus mama zen points if you’re able to channel your inner Buddha while there are fingers being poked up your nose – close your eyes, soften your shoulders and really truly breathe for a minute or two. Notice any tension in your body, allow it to release like a wave drawing away from shore. Soften your face, lengthen your spine. Imagine yourself sitting in a calm spot, gazing out to sea or out a window, onto green space, imagine having all the time in the world for you …and for that moment, you will.

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