I like strawberries. They are the best fruit. Everyone else in my family likes them too. My three year old son and baby daughter shovel them in, staining their faces and clothes with red juice in their frenzy to consume them. The thing is they’re pretty expensive, and you don’t get many in a punnet, so I never eat them.
I don’t know when I embarked on this little act of self-sacrifice. My husband has no such qualms about saving these precious morsels for the children, liberally adding handfuls to his yoghurt while I watch on disapprovingly. He doesn’t even know I do this. But at some point I decided there wasn’t sufficient strawberries to go round and we couldn’t possibly start buying more, and so I stopped eating them.
Mocked by strawberries
As I unpacked the shopping the other week I looked at their plump, red flesh and it seemed to symbolise how, nine months into my second maternity leave, I had started to become invisible. I never meant to predominantly identify myself as “Mum”, but that’s mainly what I do now, and I fear I’m disappearing in a haze of nappies, snacks and washing.
Your hottest, most uncomfortable table please
I’m being a tad melodramatic. This epiphany came on the back of a frustrating few days. I rarely go out without children and when I finally made plans to do so, they were cancelled at the last minute. Before that we’d been out for a big family meal in cramped, unairconditioned restaurant (we’d requested it specifically). I spent the duration of this painfully slow two-course meal feeding my daughter, trying to keep her entertained, retrieving toys and bits of food from the floor, and distributing essential items to my son from The Bag. In the end I skipped dessert in an attempt to get her to nap in the pushchair and put her in the bath when we returned home while everybody had drinks in the garden. When I emerged my son asked me why I hadn’t gone out for dinner and family members picked up conversations with me that I knew nothing about. The boy hadn’t realised I was there and nobody else had noticed I’d gone.
Don’t get me wrong, if I’d asked for help it would have been offered willingly. But I would have to ask.
Facebook can see into your soul
At this precise moment an advert appeared on my Facebook feed for a garden design company. A garden design company that promised something for all the family – somewhere for Dad to have a drink and read the paper, for the kids to play, and for granny to shelter from the drafty breeze (?!) But what about Mum we cried!! We believe Mum puts everybody else first they replied. Why thanks Leicestershire Garden Design Company, don’t we know it.
Why I’m going to eat the strawberries
I don’t want to become a martyr, denying myself things and then simmering with resentment. I don’t want to disappear into the background. I don’t want everything I do and think about to revolve around the children. I don’t want to primarily identify myself as the nappy changer, bum wiper, laundry sorter, toy locator, bag packer, meal preparer and bottle washer. I don’t want to be that kind of Mum.
And I don’t need to. So from now on I’m going to eat the strawberries. And I’m going to bloody well enjoy them.
This post was also featured on 5whyz.com