I’m typing today’s blog post in a frenzy brought on by cabin fever. It’s cold and snowy and I don’t want to go out. I did venture out on Friday with a friend on a walk in a blizzard that ended with both of us falling on our backsides. The whiplash has just about gone. We’ve also not been out too much because E has had a nasty cold this week and on Tuesday was obviously feeling really rough. This was the first time she’s been poorly and we spent the day curled up on the sofa watching movies together, her sleeping fitfully and asking (by bashing her head at my chest and pulling my top – she doesn’t talk yet) for breastmilk. So we didn’t go to the library and my resolution to be nice to R’s mum (see previous blog post – thanks everyone for your comments) has so far gone by the wayside.
It’s surprisingly exhausting looking after a poorly baby – or at least I found it exhausting. But I couldn’t help thinking (oh God, that’s Carrie Bradshaw’s phrase – help me) of my younger self as I gave E more Calpol and brushed her hair away from her face. My younger self who didn’t want children, my younger self – rude and impatient and sarcastic – who wouldn’t have recognised me on Tuesday.
A colleague of mine once went on a team building (or something) course at a local prison which houses sex offenders. He came back and opined on the experience, saying that as a parent it was only now he truly understood the horror of paedophilia. A childless colleague and myself (childless at the time) both took offence but it’s become a standing joke in our office that being a parent makes you a “better person”. (This wasn’t helped by a separate colleague who swore that parenthood makes you a better driver.)
So let’s clear this up! Have I become a more patient, kinder person since she was born? Am I better?
S would disagree. This is mainly as I snapped at him this week about all kinds of stupid things – me falling over the hoover cable was the last straw – and so obviously displayed none of the kindness and patient mum-ness I would like E to remember. (We’re trapped in the house together all day, the weather’s dreadful, at least one of us is usually tired, we’re worried about the future – is it surprising I snapped? It seems worse as he’s a nice placid person who doesn’t snap, except when driving, so I always come out sounding really unreasonable. On the plus side at least this means we don’t scream and shout at each other.)
To be honest, I think it’s probably nonsense. I am no better or worse a driver than I was before E was born. I have also not gained any new insights into the horror of paedophilia (last night’s episode of Borgen, for example, would have had me in tears regardless of E). I was curious to know how/ if I would alter as a result of childbirth but aside from displaying a fierce devotion to my baby, I’m clearly exactly the same tactless, impatient, yelling, prone to errors-and-subsequent-self-loathing person I’ve always been. Motherhood appears to have had no discernible effect on my character.
Of course, curling up on the sofa for a day is much easier when you have no work to go to, the weather’s dreadful and the person you’re with is small and cute and needy. Will I still be as nice to her when she’s older, whinier and I have to choose between going to work or taking a day’s unpaid leave? I really hope so. If only to avoid how beating myself up every time I snap at her. I have memories of my mum being really nice to me when I was ill, buying Lucozade and letting me read Jane Eyre in bed all day. Let’s hope I remember that and let’s hope that our circumstances don’t stress me out so much that I forget to be mum and end up being me.