Dear frazzled mum,
I saw you there, with your head in your hands and your children shouting and screaming, and I wanted to tell you this: It’s okay. It will get better, easier. Every day won’t be like this one. But I didn’t know you, and I didn’t know whether you’d welcome this sort of comment, so I said nothing. But all day, I regretted it. So here’s what I should have said.
You look like you might have a headache. I’m not surprised. Four-year-olds can be loud. Yours is being really loud. Do you think people are judging you for not controlling him better? Maybe some people are. Fuck them. They’ve either forgotten or they haven’t been there. Your children are safe and they look clean and fed, and some days, that’s enough. Some days, in the chaos of raising small humans, you won’t get everything right. Get enough right. I’m sure you do.
Your baby is clinging to you. She won’t give you a second, or an inch of space. She is crying, not the real kind of crying, but the kind intended to drive you to madness. Still, you smile at her. You offer her a drink, a snack, a cuddle. You show her that she is loved. And that’s tough, my friend. I can almost feel how hot and frazzled you are, how much you want to walk out and stand alone in the car park just for the joy of having your body and your mind to yourself for one moment. But you don’t do it. You stay.
Your son refuses his lunch and then begs for a snack. Your daughter inhales her food and tries to share yours. Your son spills his juice. Your daughter bangs her cup on the table over and over. People glance over. I don’t know you, and I don’t know how much you worry about what they are thinking. But I’ll say it again. Fuck them. They are not in your shoes. They are not living your life. They do not have to take these two tired and wilful beings home and deal with them until bedtime.
When lunch is over, your table looks like a bombsite. There are squashed bits of sandwich everywhere and it looks like it has been raining grated cheese. These are raisins on the floor. There are puddles of juice. You stand there with your packet of wipes, looking like you’re about to face a house fire with only a cup of water. Do what you can, but you don’t need to get down on your hands and knees. The people who run this place have seen worse. This is one of the benefits of eating somewhere other than at home.
I am not a mum who looks back on all this with rose-tinted glasses, with the benefit of hindsight. I’m a mum who is right in the middle of it all, enjoying a rare lunch alone. I have a four-year-old who sometimes twists out of my grip and refuses to do a thing I say. I have a one-year-old who sometimes cries when I put her down and cries when I pick her up. I have had the day you’re having. You can’t win every battle. Do what you need to do to get through to bedtime. Then sit in a quiet room, with a glass of wine or a bar of chocolate or a book or whatever you love that isn’t your children, and remember who you are.
With love, Laura
Laura is a writer who lives in Leicestershire with her husband and their two children. When she’s not writing or reading, she can usually be found trying to get her son to put his shoes on, encouraging her daughter to sleep past 5am or moving small items from one room to another. You can follow her on Twitter and on her blog about getting cancer when she was pregnant.