As I as write this the friend that I’m referring to is going to chuckle and know I’m meaning her. We joke about her obsessive cleaning (yeah I know she does it for relaxation-the weirdo) and how she’s always got an immaculate home. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m also a lover of a tidy house and cannot relax if it’s a mess, I generally keep up to my cleaning unless something has meant I’m extra busy or whatever but then I have to blitz it before I freak out. However, she laughs at me and calls me “that mum” or “the fun mum” because I love messy play.
I don’t know whether it’s my natural creative streak, the teacher and educator in me or whether it is just me. But I bought a tuff tray as soon as toddler P was big enough to play in one. It’s been filled with rice, flour, pasta, jelly, paint, spaghetti hoops (not all at the same time) and whatever else I’ve dreamt up or found on Pinterest. We play with play dough, we jump in muddy puddles, we bake together and take enjoyment out of just running, singing and shouting. I am that mum. It’s fun, I enjoy it too.
I must hasten to add that, I do also question my sanity sometimes as I scrub dried pasta hoop sauce off my kitchen cupboards or hoover up crushed Cheerios (knew there was something I missed off the list) from under the dining table after an art session. I do wonder why I do it. But it is fun and kids are meant to be loud and messy. It’s how they learn, it’s how they play and it’s how their imagination grows. Plus I line it too. I enjoy playing with my daughter and I enjoy unleashing my inner child.
I’ve at times been made to feel embarrassed or ashamed that I’m that type of mum. As if interacting and giving little P these opportunities is a bad thing, or as if I’m showing others up and so I shouldn’t. Now, the friend I mentioned in the opening paragraph doesn’t, she knows she doesn’t. When we laugh about it we laugh together, she’s not that type of person and she knows if she started messy play, glitter sticking or painting with her children it’d be hell on Earth for everyone, kids included. There’d be that much rules, restrictions, wiping and hoovering that even the fun police would be getting fed up. So why do it? If she’s not going to enjoy it and the kids aren’t going to why do it? She does plenty of other things and in her own words “it’s what they go to nursery for” she knows they’re still getting this experience so she doesn’t have to provide it. But most importantly just like I don’t want her (or anyone else for that matter) to feel bad because they choose not to interact and play with their child in that way, she also doesn’t make me feel bad for doing so. In fact, we both praise each other for the choices we both make as parents.
That’s what’s key really, not mum shaming. We’re all different and we all parent in our own ways and as long as a child and mother is healthy, happy, well cared for, that’s all that matters. So yeah, I am that mum! I am the mum that likes to bake with my girl, that likes to paint and draw and look for sticks and pine cones when we walk in the woods. I am that mum that sits on the swing next to toddler P seeing who can swing the highest (I totally win until she learns to swing her legs). I am that mum that has taught her every nursery rhyme going. I am that mum that pretends the shopping trolley is a rocket and that we’re flying down the freezer aisle to the moon. I am that mum and I enjoy being that mum.
I am also the mum that doesn’t always get it right, I’m also the mum that stands in soft play wishing toddler P wasn’t face down on the floor crying not to put her shoes and coat on. I am that mum that rolls her eyes at the early morning wake up call wishing for just another ten minutes before turning on channel 5 milkshake. I am that mum that wishes being a mum was easier or a job you could take some annual leave from for an hour or so. I am that mum too, so when I’m enjoying being that mum or struggling to be that mum, praise me, build me up and laugh or cry with me, don’t try bring me down.