Whilst I can’t say, hand on heart, that I was ever someone for whom motherhood was my life ambition, having a family certainly featured whenever I took time out to ponder my future. It wasn’t so much that my daydreams focussed on me having kids, rather, they were simply there – present when I thought about what I might be doing as my future self. And of course, if I thought about having children, I thought about being called Mummy, and (let’s face it) how utterly lovely that would be.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am, sat here as my future self. The children that were once part of my future are now part of my present. And whilst the baby has yet to formulate anything but smiles and the occasional raspberry to greet me, to my toddler, I am now, very definitely, “Mummy”.
Granted, It was a while coming. Slightly unfortunately, the time in his development that saw him look to identify me with a name coincided with pregnancy number two. Our efforts to prepare him for the arrival of his little companion (pointing to my tummy and talking about “the baby”) simply resulted (quite understandably) in him coming to the conclusion that I was one with the baby (quite deep for a toddler, really). For several months, I was referred to as “Bebe”. To his credit, when the baby actually arrived he did a sterling job of concealing any of the (inevitable) confusion – without missing a beat simply referred to us both as “Bebe” so confidently that he was rarely questioned, even by strangers. But then, in a relatively speedy and seamless change of approach (perhaps he had a word with one of his mates. Perhaps he Wikipedia’d it), he gained a little more clarity on all things familial and almost overnight I became Mummy*.
However, what I didn’t ponder during those times spent thinking ahead, was how, exactly, that word would be used and (often) abused. How it would so often be used, not just by my children, but but by others as a term of address. How its use would sometimes blur the lines between identifying a role I have in my family, and my identity within society. Currently (but only just) still on maternity leave, I spend a great deal of my time these days as either “Finn’s Mummy” or Beth’s Mummy”. At nursery. At the classes and groups we attend. At their health checks.
At home, “Mummy” is yelled and screeched by the toddler for a variety of reasons, not all of them tangible. If he can’t see me. If he can see me but I’m not looking at him. If he can see me and I am looking at him but I am not reading his thoughts. All of these are reasons to take the M word in vain. Sometimes, it is just repetition of the word with no follow up. Sometimes the inflection suggests a question is coming, but despite harnessing all the patience I have within my soul, that question doesn’t materialise despite a hundred utterances of “Muuuuummy….?”.
But then… sometimes, it is hollered in a wave of actual delight and love – when I collect him from nursery. When I am tickling him into a frenzy on the sofa. When he has found YET ANOTHER stone for his collection that he wants to show me – his Mummy. And you know what? Suddenly, having multiple identities ain’t so bad.
*Though it has to be said that Beth is still largely referred to simply “Bebe”. Only on very rare occasions (mainly when he is trying to ram home a point relating to something she has done that he thinks she shouldn’t have) she is “Beeeebeeee BETH”