I know it’s not really a word. But I still get surprised when we go out, the three of us, and realise that we must look to other people the way they look to me.
I mean, today we did a quintessential Sunday family thing – we went to a National Trust place for an outing. The last time we were here was about a year ago as part of the day trips we took to walk the baby out, I remember waddling across muddy fields and trekking up hills full of sheep desperate to give birth. This time was much more leisurely, too leisurely for me – I can’t stand dawdlers. This included S who was ambling round the gardens. If not pregnant, I walk fast. It’s impossible to walk slower. I had to keep stopping.
Anyway, it was a NT free day and with it being a Sunday with nice weather, obviously the place was packed. Grandparents galore, and many family units with the standard two children, Barbour jackets and Cath Kidston lunch bags. I always regard these groups as something different to us; these are the people the politicians are referring to when they blather on about ‘hard working families’. These people look capable, unlike me, they’ve brought more than one nappy, a Babybel and a banana for their children, they look exactly like the people you would expect to see at a National Trust place on a Sunday.
We are, of course, a hard working family. We are the kind of people who visit the NT places at weekends (though I always like the servants quarters best and race through the rest because it’s invariably dull) or country parks or zoos. And yet I really don’t feel any different from when I was childfree. I don’t feel like I’m being addressed by the Prime Minister when he tries to tell me what hard working families want. (Though that could be because I think he’s a pillock who knows nothing about me.) Is there a separate mindset I’m supposed to have got by now? Although I refer to myself as Mummy a lot now, out loud and often in public, the idea of it is still a novelty. Do you think all those people feel the same?
There was a couple walking in front of us who I noticed. They stood out from everyone else because they were a bit goth-y. They had the big boots, the black hair, the scary band stuff painted on the back of their jacket. Alongside them was a little boy, about 10 I’d say, though I can’t guess children’s ages, he could have been less. He was telling them all about the buildings and the decorations from his leaflet. He was clearly proud and excited to share some knowledge. Later they were all filling out the family quiz sheets on a clipboard.
I don’t know exactly why that particular family stuck with me, but perhaps it was because I felt they were different too. I’m only judging by appearances. But I’m still adjusting to the idea of parenthood, to the idea of having a family. Days like today, despite being really nice, make me feel a bit like a fraud. At some point someone’s going to find me out and say “What ARE you playing at?”
To end on a positive note I will share some pictures I took in the gardens. They are pieces by a local artist called Paul Cummins.