Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Public image

Do you ever wonder about how people see you? When you walk down the street, what do other people think? Who do they assume you are? What do they think you do?
Usually, I'm pretty easy to typecast. No make-up, a bit disheveled, bags under the eyes, pushing a buggy, two pre-schoolers in tow... I'm easily identifiable as a full-time mum to too many children. But I wasn't always this way. There was a time, not that long ago, when I straightened my hair, always wore mascara and wouldn't be caught in anything but fabulous heels. I enjoyed taking time in the morning to choose my outfit, and always made a beeline for the nearest Starbucks to get my beloved skinny latte. Striding off the Tube, sending exasperated looks at tourists as I crossed the Millennium Bridge, I looked every inch the young, professional Londoner. Even with a growing baby bump, I maintained some semblance of style. I only sacrificed the heels at four months because my physiotherapist gave me a row when he caught me in three-inch Mary-Janes when I visited for treatment on a misaligned pelvis. Those shoes were worth it though. Powder-blue suede.... Anyway, that all ended the second two tiny bundles of joy entered my life. My make-up gathered dust, my workout clothes became all I could fit into, and my beloved shoes were packed away. In short, I became a mum.


From, erm, professional...                                                 .... to wife

But that's OK, because when I go out, it's obvious. The whole world can see I'm a mother. It's who I am now.
So, it feels very strange when I go out on my own. On Tuesdays, my mum always takes little M for the afternoon, so once I've dropped the twins at nursery, I have no one to take care of but me. Even after a few months of this routine, it still feels strange. Not least because as I pay for my shopping or order a coffee, the person I'm talking to doesn't know I'm a mum. If a woman walks past pushing a double buggy, she probably mistakes my sisterly smile for politeness. Or pity. She doesn't know that I know. I'm in the club too. One day, I will go back to work and become a journalist again. Or a shop assistant or a librarian or a fireman. Well, probably not that last one. But the point is, I will also be a mum. Forever and most importantly, a mum.
It feels very odd when no one knows that.
 ...to container ship....
...to Mum!

If a stranger looks very closely, the rings on my left hand tell them I'm a wife. But unless they actually lift my top and check out the stretchmarks, they have no way I've knowing I'm a mother.
This week, my sister is visiting and as she and my mum walked down the road with the buggy, it occurred to me that people would assume she's M's mum. I didn't quite know what to make of that thought. I wasn't jealous. That wouldn't make any sense. It just unsettled me. I'm so proud of my clever wee girl, of all my beautiful wee girls, it felt weird to think that people would be unconsciously giving someone else the credit. That makes me sound awful, doesn't it?
But I can't help it. Being a mum is my job now, and everyone wants a good performance review, don't they? Those girls are a reflection of me. And I'm a reflection of them. I guess even if sometimes the outside world doesn't know I'm mum to three wonderful young ladies, I do. And that's enough.
Would be nice if folk didn't just think I'm a slob though...