The Back Seat
Carla Sapsford Newman gets to grips with her change in mindset after kids
Carla Sapsford Newman on her new mummy mindset
When you have a baby, other parents tell you your values will change. Yet somehow you don’t quite believe it until it happens to you.
For instance, even a simple act like crossing the road becomes a risk equation. Before children you might have dashed across oncoming traffic because you were certain you were more fleet-footed than the dozy drivers coming your way. Now, with a buggy, you are a slow and steady target for any mad mat rempit coming your way. Where it used to take you two minutes to cross, now it can take up to 20 minutes. Waiting for the right moment, devoid of risk, turns a simple act into a slow and steady process of probability calculations.
Then, just as you come to grips with the sleep deprivation, the juggling of work and family, the lost figure and cellulite, you have a second child. Then you think you’ve lost your mind too. Remember that moment when David Cameron left one of his kids at the pub after a Sunday roast? How you sniggered and wondered how someone could just FORGET their child? Well, folks, I too have joined the ‘oh ****, where’s the baby?’ club. As a parent you get so focused on the one running around screaming their head off you forget the cheerful little cherub crawling along quietly on their hands and knees.
The other issue to consider is what on earth would these dependent little creatures do without me should something happen? You suddenly start actually reading the life insurance policy and checking out your retirement plan, stuff you used to make fun of the fogies for doing. When you get a chance to go skydiving, your first thought isn’t ‘Cool! Let me leap out of an airplane!’ It’s ‘What if I turn into a paraplegic and can’t wrestle the kids to bed anymore?’
Simple acts like taking a cold remedy take on added significance. Will this knock out the baby? Can it kill the baby? What if I pass out after an antihistamine and the baby chokes on her rattle?
And don’t get me started on drinking. If I have more than two glasses of wine and have to make a rational life-or-death decision, will I be hopelessly incompetent? Because I guarantee you, the night you decide to get wasted will be the night your son throws up all over his bed and you need to spend an hour scrubbing up at three in the morning with a raging headache and a sore stomach.
Never again, or at least not for about five years, can you go to a mall or for an outing without as much planning as a general embarking on a massive campaign. Feeding, watering, marching, laundry… all hallmarks of a modern family expedition. If you’ve ever tried taking a toddler to those places you used to love, you will remember the experience. Sushi on a conveyer belt: projectile weapons. Hot water out of a spout on the table: disaster waiting to happen. Normal cutlery: potential swords or stabbing mechanisms. Cups filled high with liquid: flood potential.
Nevermore can you have a leisurely morning, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper uninterrupted.
Nevermore can you nip into Starbucks and play your favourite handphone game for an hour as you kill time.
Nevermore can you loiter at a bookstore actually looking at books adults read.
However, as your kids mature, so do your tastes. You have to put aside your own childish things. You get to think about someone else. Constantly. Endlessly. Every act is a labour of love, and often frustration too. Mummy moments are many. But they don’t have to be EVERY moment. If you can’t take pleasure in all of them, at least recognise they are fleeting and, one day, you won’t have them anymore. In other words, when you become a mummy, you sometimes become those mummies you always used to make fun of. Riskaverse. Preachy. Matronly. Boring. But you also become cunning, wily and inventive, and the moments of love outnumber the moments of frustration.
So enjoy, if possible, this often rough ride. And set aside some moments for yourself and your spouse. Then you can be a mummy again, hopefully slightly less stressed out
Never again, or at least not for about five years, can you go to a mall or for an outing without as much planning as a general embarking on a