Jen Brister is a mum. No, not that one. The other one. This month, she reflects on her near-constant state of neurosis.
Before the arrival of my two boys I used to be easily irritated by people with kids. Women with buggies were the worst: “Don’t mind me love! You just take up THE ENTIRE PAVEMENT and I’ll just take my life into my own hands by stepping on to the road to let you past!”
Of course I am that woman now, but I’m worse than that woman because I have two kids, so my buggy is like a spaceship on wheels and takes up the width of nearly every pavement I walk down.
I can see the look of utter contempt on people’s faces, as they’re obliged to let me past; I smile and thank them, occasionally widening my eyes to assure them I’m aware of the inconvenience. Often nothing is said; every so often I may even get a smile, but more often than not I hear a muttering under the breath: “How much space do you need love…?” “Don’t mind me…” “For fuck’s sake!”
I almost always ignore these comments because I’m a better person and I can empathise with their frustration. How are they to know if they don’t have kids themselves? But on one occasion as a young woman muttered a series of fairly abusive insults under her breath, I took umbrage: “What do you want me to do, love? Transport them by hover board? Roll them into a ball and kick them down the street? Fly them overhead attached to a kite? THEY’RE BABIES! This is how we move them from A to B!”
She looked at me like I was mental, “I wasn’t talking to you! I’m on the phone!” Whatever, I think she got my point.
“I never thought I’d become one of those mums and yet just the other day I had to literally slap myself in the face to stop myself from prefixing a point about global warming with the words ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a mum now…’”
The truth is, mums can be annoying, I don’t mean your mum or even my mum, I just mean ‘mums’ in general. There is a smugness about them that you can’t put your finger on. They’re constantly banging on about how tired they are, the sacrifices they’ve made, they start sentences with the words, “As a Mother…”
Even the most liberal and relaxed of mums can sound like they could get a job writing for the Daily Mail: “When you have kids your perspective changes…” “You wouldn’t know this because you don’t have children…”
I know some of you are reading this and thinking, I have mates who have kids and they would never say any of those things. Of course not: we don’t say them out loud because if we did we’d sound like we were auditioning to play Melanie Phillips in a badly conceived musical, but the fact is we think them, we think them ALL THE TIME!
I never thought I’d become one of those mums and yet just the other day I had to literally slap myself in the face to stop myself from prefixing a point about global warming with the words “Maybe it’s because I’m a mum now…”
WHO AM I? Well, I am a mum, albeit the other one and as such I am now in a constant state of neurosis.
If you want to know what the real gift of becoming a parent is it’s basically STRESS, ANXIETY AND ALL-OUT FEAR. I’m not a neurotic person: I can’t say prior to my boys’ arrival that I’ve worried too much about well… anything.
“I no longer have the time to be the self-obsessed, ever so slightly narcissistic and inward-thinking bellend I’ve been for years. My giveafuckometer about most things has not really flickered for a while and it’s completely liberating.”
I mean, I’m not saying I’ve had no shit in my life, but overall as a middle-class woman living in England, life has been pretty sweet. And now as a parent I feel like I’ve been given two of the greatest gifts a woman who wants children can have. TWO CHILDREN! And I didn’t even have to squeeze them out of my vajayjay, I got someone else to do it. I mean talk about a charmed existence!
But now they’re here, all I do is worry about them. I literally have to go into their room about three times every night just to check they’re breathing. I have terrible uncontrollable awful fantasies that a car is going to lose control whilst I’m pushing the buggy and career into them, squishing them to a pulp, or that they’re going to get sick and die, or that they’re going to hit adolescence and decide heroin sounds like fun, or that they’ll be in the car with me and I’ll crash it because of a reason that I can’t think of right now!
I have these thoughts ALL OF THE TIME. Maybe I really am neurotic, or maybe I’m just an average parent. Whatever the reason, it’s taking up a lot of my time.
Not that that’s a bad thing because it means that I no longer have the time to be the self-obsessed, ever so slightly narcissistic and inward-thinking bellend I’ve been for years. My giveafuckometer about most things, including my career, has not really flickered for a while and it’s completely liberating. I finally have someone else that is more important than me. BUT it also means that I now have so much more to lose and that is terrifying.
Of course, you can’t live your life thinking about death and you can’t bring up your kids worrying that every step they make could lead to disaster, and yet I can’t take the time I have with them for granted either. I would donate my limbs, my organs, my eyes, my LIFE if it meant they would live to a ripe old age but you can’t do that, and life offers no guarantees for the people we love. So I can only live in the present and enjoy every minute I have with my boys, even if that minute includes scraping poo from under my fingernails or watching them throw the dinner I made for them at the kitchen wall.
And so I have to remind myself of what my mum said to me when I became a mum – what you have is all you can give and that’s always going to be enough for your children if it comes wrapped up in love.
Dedicated to Will Houghton – b. July 1995 – d. January 2016.
Read all of Jen’s other mother tales here.
Jen Brister is a stand-up comic, writer and comedy actor. A regular performer on the UK and international circuit, she has also written for BBC Scotland and presented for BBC 6Music.