There are two of them, and one of them is puce, screaming blue murder while you try to change her nappy. This nappy has failed to contain the litres of vile contents, which you are dabbing at uselessly with one of the tiny cut-price wet wipes you decided to buy because they were on offer. As you dab, she kicks her stupendous thighs free of your grasp, and dollops of yellow shit splatter up her legs, arms and hair, over the one top you have that doesn’t cling to your wobbly bits and which was fresh on that morning, and you’re pretty sure a couple of spots of it might have landed in your mouth, while you’re shouting, “GET OFF THE CHANGING MAT,” trying to be measured and calm and not caps lock about it all, while the two-year-old capers in and out of the poo dollops, shrieking mercilessly and emitting a constant stream of: “Teddy want a cuddle! Teddy want a cuddle! Cuddle! Teddy done a poo! Teddy hurt foot! What’s this? What’s this called? WHAT’S THIS CALLED? WHAT’S THIS CALLED? Treat! Snack? Rice cracker! Ricecrackerandbutter! Crackerandbutter! CRACKERANDBUTTER! WHAT’S THIS CALLED? Mummy look! Mummy LOOK! Mummy LOOOOOOOOOK!”
But suddenly it’s all changed, and instead of me doing this, it’s Dave. He’s doing it. And the reason he’s doing it is because I’ve started work. I’ve actually gone and got a bloody job. And not only do I need to change the title of this blog (yes, yes, I know, and I should make it look less shonky while I’m at it, thanks for reminding me) but I also need to stop whinging about the fact that I don’t have a job. Because I do. And it’s started. Today.
And because I was so caught up in the guilt and the awfulness and the what-the-fuck-have-I-done-ness of trying to cope with a toddler and a baby simultaneously, I completely forgot to think about how utterly bereft I might feel having to spend all my time away from them. It’s bloody awful. I couldn’t think about Teddy without a little tear springing to my eye* which is just not cricket in a new office, surrounded by new colleagues, wearing new officey clothes, and trying to be professional and not swear, cry or leak milk out of one’s boobs at any given moment. And I couldn’t think about Felix without said milk having a little spurt. A fine-knit pale grey sweater was not the best choice, in hindsight.
By the time I got home, I had one boob the size and consistency of a large grapefruit (the other one just sat there, being all unhelpful when it came to balance and aesthetics and all of that – bad boob), a stomach full of stress, a heart full of guilt, and I had about seven minutes with Teddy before it was bathtime. Felix smiled at me gloriously and gummily, largely ignoring the bionic breast I was beating her around the head with.
Who does this awful thing to women? Who makes us fall in love with these helpless, loud creatures when we’re not looking? And who then makes us think that the best thing to do would be to go to work so we can pretend to be the women we were before we procreated? Why is that a good thing? Wouldn’t it be far better to stay at home playing Duplo, covered in a patchwork of bodily secretions, and not wearing mascara for weeks on end on account of not leaving the house?
Me. I’ve done this awful thing to me. The grass is always so much greener absolutely everywhere I look. When I was at home, looking after the sprogs, all I wanted was to have something creative and interesting to think about again. And while I was child-caring, I thought I was – largely – making a pig’s ear of it all. Just last week I thought to myself, when am I going to be the parent that I expected I was going to be?
When I imagined myself as a parent, I thought I’d be all about the home-made play dough. I’d be the baker, the creative crafter, the inventor of games, the singer of songs, the wearer of aprons goddamit. Now I am a parent, I’ve discovered that I’m the impatient shouter who wields the TV remote like it’s the holy grail. I’m lazy. I swear at them, sometimes not under my breath. I resent them, they irritate me. And Dave is so much better than me at all of it – he’s more patient, more kind, and he adores them with his huge great heart, and they adore him right back. Inside my head, I used to slink off back to my cave with my tail between my legs after shouting at Teddy to get into bed, and hear Dave singing This Old Man, and Teddy giggling, and feel like the most rubbish parent alive.
But now I’m back at work, and I can see I wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t that bad. And they’re not that bad. But that, in fact, this is bad. That being able to pop into the Farrow & Ball shop in my lunch hour isn’t quite the reward I’d hoped. That you don’t need to be feeding them organic quinoa and parsnip bread, and entertaining them with home-made racially diverse puppet shows to make them into nice people. That flavoured rice cakes and CBeebies are necessary tools, and bribery with both of these things is widespread and acceptable. And that now I’m going to be missing Felix’s first roll, first step, first word, and Teddy will call out for Dave in the middle of the night when he has a bad dream. And so now I really am the crap parent I thought I was last week – but now it’s not because I’m lazy while I’m with them, it’s because I’m not with them at all. How do you win? I’m not sure you can. Unless, of course, you’ve just fashioned your dungarees into two turbans, one sari and a yarmulke for tomorrow’s matinée.
* I admit it, I love the bastard**.
** I’m being technical here, not rude.