How did you picture motherhood pre-children? I know my imaginings were always in soft focus with me cast in the role of perfect mummy. I would be kind, patient, loving and my children would be clean, obedient and charming.
In particular I remember one fantasy that used to play out with some regularity as I sat in my office job and dreamed of 'skiving off' on maternity leave.
It was bath time and the tub was filled with delightfully scented bubbles. My beautiful children would be splashing (without making a mess of the floor) and playing with bobbing rubber ducks. I would blow bubbles and they would shriek with delight. I would sculpt their hair into wacky styles with suds from their organic baby shampoo and they would giggle with glee. Oh what fun we would have.
How naïve was I? I look back on that starry-eyed, child free woman with a hollow laugh. For in reality bath time, coming as it does at the end of a long day of childcare, is a chore I have grown to dread over the years.
The children moan about having to get into the bath. Then once in, they riotously splash water everywhere whilst fighting bitterly over the motley collection of bath toys from mutilated Power Rangers to a broken drum that have washed up in the bathroom. They scream whenever I come near them with the most inappropriately named no tears shampoo and then despite their protests about getting into the bath, argue endlessly when I suggest that it is time to get out.
It's a far cry from lingering over bubble blowing and hair sculpting. But bath time isn't the only disappointment I have encountered since becoming a mother. Amongst the other things that failed to live up to expectations are:
I loved bedtime stories as a child and so was really looking forward to sharing that joy with my sons. At first, with my eldest, when I got to choose the books, it was as much fun as I expected. I loved doing all the voices in The Gruffalo, got choked up as I read him Guess how much I love you? And I kissed his baby soft skin repeatedly during Kiss Goodnight Sam.
But once he got to choose, things went downhill rapidly and I swear if I ever read the words to Dig, dig, digging again I will not be responsible for my actions. Small children are no judges of literature. As far as my boys are concerned as long as a book has lots of big pictures of heavy equipment or features Bob the Builder, it's a classic.
Arts & crafts
Glitter, glue, felt tip pens, crayons and stickers. I thought these were all the tools I would need to keep my small sons amused.
In reality I would spend ages laying out a carefully thought out craft project. Then one of my sons would come along, sit nicely for a nano-second before proceeding to fling all the equipment around the house. We are still picking glitter out of the carpet from when our eight-year-old was a toddler.
I soon learned that the aforementioned tools are what small children use to keep mummy amused tidying up so they can return to viewing CBeebies in peace.
I love to bake so I fondly imagined my boys would love to help me. I soon discovered that their definition of help was quite far removed from my own. I would give them an egg to crack and they would smash it with such force that it flew all over the kitchen depositing nothing but fragments of shell into the bowl of butter and sugar.
Flour would end up dusted all over the kitchen, icing would be sucked from their fingers, which would then dip unhygenically back into the bowl for seconds and they were convinced that cake mix was for eating, not baking. In the end I worked out that the only bit they were really good at helping out with was eating the end result.
I used to see mums taking their children for a stroll in the park and I would envisage myself doing the same. They would splash in puddles and we would identify wildlife together while getting some exercise. What actually happens is that they whinge and whine that their legs ache within moments of leaving the house, are only interested in picking up sticks and stones to fling at one another and will divert any walk to the nearest, dullest playground where mummy is forced to stand in the cold and watch them swing from the monkey bars.
I was always a firm advocate that children should eat with their parents. I planned a big table with us all sitting around it sharing a family meal. Perhaps it's early days as my eldest is only eight, but so far eating with my children is more like taking tea in the monkey enclosure at the zoo, always assuming that monkeys are picky eaters.
From the moment I put food on the table my oldest boy is picking out the things he is so sure he won't like he isn't even going to try them. My middle son is busy spilling his drink and dripping food down his front, while one of the twins demands to be taken potty time and the other takes a noisy dislike to the plate you have chosen for him.
Food ends up everywhere but in their stomachs and our meal is constantly interrupted by demands for more drinks, help with feeding a child (usually the eldest) and complaints about the catering.
By the time the adults finally get to tuck in their food is stone cold and the children are clamouring for pudding and the TV to go back on.
Is it any wonder that we are frequently tempted to retreat to the sofa with a takeaway?
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