Before You Were Mine

It wasn’t really a particular line in Carol Ann Duffy’s poem that made me falter. Instead, it was the poem as a whole that left a funny, prickly feeling in the back of my throat as I read it aloud to my Year 10s. During the lesson I shared the following pictures and reflected, alongside the girls, the amount we give up and the vastness we gain when becoming parents. My words aren’t as poetic or well thought out as Duffy’s – I’ll leave that for another day.

As I explained to them (who, amusingly asked if this was my DAD because I looked ‘sooo young’) this picture, for me, sums up freedom pre parenthood.

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We spent thousands of pounds and weeks and weeks away from home, outside of a routine and without a care for anyone else. Even the cat got shipped off to his mum’s without a second thought – a suggestion which was made for our baby if we wanted to go again…! I think (hope!) by the end of the lesson the student, like the narrator in the poem, understood that the shift between young and carefree and young and responsible is a massive one. Making plans is hard as babies are unpredictable and will probably break in some way when you make big plans… As for ‘nipping out’ without an army style detailed agenda about who will feed/water/change the babe in your absence – not something I’ve managed without guilt overwhelming me.

This next photo is apparently ‘cute’ and ‘so smiley’…

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but the reality was I was already knackered, we were going through a very difficult house purchase (we needed a nest!!) and had just, or were just about to, have an argument about money. This argument centred on my argument that we would never ever again be able to do anything interesting as we obviously would never again have enough disposable income as babies were really expensive. It’s an argument we’ve had a few times since and I’m only just being able to spend money on me without feeling bad about it. I said to someone at work the other day, “Well, you work really hard so why not treat yourself?!” Advice I am only just being able to heed – I think it’s especially hard when you get used to saving while on maternity leave.

Which brings me to my next photo: maternity leave! I spent an awful lot of time wandering around, hanging out in cool places like this one at the V&A.

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I also spent a long time hanging out in my pyjamas staring at my baby and enjoying every little thing she did. Netflix was a pretty good mate of mine and we never usually got out of bed before 10am. It was blissful. It was also impossibly hard. What a mind-fuck of a contrast becoming a mum is.

The most overwhelming idea to many of my students was how their parents used to be people before they were parents – basically how they put it! I guess it’s a bit like students often see their teachers as totally one dimensional bookish weirdoes who sleep in the stock cupboard.

I have, of late, been struggling with this idea that I am becoming the ‘mother’ version of the stock cupboard dweller. Trying to pin down what I’m interested in aside from child rearing has been difficult. My main hobbies pre-babe included going out eating and drinking – not something that’s so easily accessible (or even really that attractive) right now. But also difficult is the idea that, like the mother in the poem, dealing with the ‘years’ of ‘possessive yell[s]’, is what it’s all about at the moment.

Maybe it’s OK to work on my mini-me project for now and that be the main activity in my life.  Hopefully I can retain some sense of my former carefree nature and keep adding to these smile lines I’m noticing. 

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