Hands-On Mum

Hands-On Mum

Even before having kids I was never one to spend money on getting my nails done but my husband gave me a pamper voucher; the gift of some rare me-time. Stepping out of the salon on a Saturday afternoon, as the stark daylight hit, my fingertips glowed with a brash neon polish. In the dim mood lighting, I picked what I thought was a cheerful coral colour but this shade of pink would have been a bold choice for Bikini Beach Barbie.

I walked home, taking my time, not quite sure what to do with my hands. There is a strange but liberating feeling of limbo when you are out of the house without a child, a change bag or a buggy. It was a warm day so with no need to relish the chance to put both hands in my coat pockets, I indulged in an ice cream instead.

Manicures and Marigolds

My outrageous new look didn’t last long anyway before a thumbnail was dented on the ring-pull of a tin of baked beans and a fingernail was scratched on the rim of the loo-seat while reaching round to wipe my toddler’s bottom. How was I supposed to know you had to allow a good hour to let all the layers dry? Who has that kind of spare time?

Hand-care for me usually boils down to soap and water and using a nail file, less for shaping and more for scraping. It is best not to wonder what is in that crud that creeps under your nails; it probably contains traces of playdough and paint and poo.  Maybe if I was more squeamish or hygienic I might have worn rubber gloves for all those hands-on jobs like changing dirty nappies, blowing snotty noses, wiping sticky faces and picking food off the kitchen floor.

Hard-working Hands

These days I don’t spend as much time at work tapping out words on a keyboard but my hands are rarely idle or empty. I buckle shoes and brush teeth. I pick up scattered toys and plastic cups of pretend tea. I wind the bobbin up and zoom to the moon. I walk home from school carrying discarded bags, coats, scooters and the latest work of art created from the contents of the recycling bin; it is just as well we don’t have to cross a road as there often isn’t a spare hand left to hold.

Some days I am calm and cool and in control with everything effortlessly in hand, that mum who others envy. Other days I am in the supermarket looking frazzled and frantic having forgotten what I went in to buy while trying to chase after two children running off in opposite directions. Well-meaning strangers seem so keen to say with a roll of the eyes: “You’ve got your hands full” when all you really want to hear is the simple question: “Can I give you a hand?”

Healing Hands

I have super-powers now though it seems. As if by magic when my girls fall over and hurt themselves, they believe that I can rub it better. If they can’t get to sleep, the weight of my hand on their chest or their cheek is often all they need to drop off and I daren’t take it away too soon. It is demanding to be so in demand but I have to remember they won’t always be so needy and I won’t always feel so needed.

Walking home from the bus stop the other night after a trip to the theatre with my 5-year old daughter, we were almost at the unlit alleyway that leads to our house. My sight isn’t the best so when it is dark I often run my fingers along the fence or take my phone out to shed some light on the path ahead. I felt her small hand slip into mine, then she said: “Mummy, you hold on tight and I’ll show you the way home, ok? Just take my hand, I’ve got you.” My eyes pricked and a lump swelled in my throat; she was looking after me.

There are days when I want to run or hide just to get a break from the mess and the meltdowns but then moments like that happen and I realise that there’s nowhere else I’d really rather be.

Hold my hand, I’m not ready to let go yet.

Jill Misson

Broadcaster, writer and mum of two girls who luckily always liked the colour pink. Loves baking cakes and eating cakes but never gets to lick the spoon now she has little helpers.

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