This Sunday will be my second Mother's Day as a mum. Last year, with a five-month old who seemed to be under the impression that sleeping for more than 90 consecutive minutes (day or night) was overrated, I wasn't sure I was even human, let alone a mum. This year, with the occasional full night's sleep under my belt, I'm pretty sure I fulfill the brief. And here's what I reckon are the ten true rites of maternal passage:
1. You no longer use a handbag. That thing you used to carry around (stylish, trendy, possibly even designer, or at least an affordable approximation of one) is now stuffed in the back of a cupboard somewhere, although you're not entirely sure where. It hasn't been used since the day your child was born and there's not even a glimmer of hope it's going to make a re-appearance in the foreseeable future. It's been replaced by an over-sized, wipe-clean, multi-pocketed baby-change bag that smells slightly of wee, sick and something else that definitely isn't leather.
2. The list of essentials you always carried everywhere with you used to read: make-up, perfume, phone, tampons, extra cash and credit cards for unexpected night out after work. Now those have been replaced with: nappies, baby wipes, emergency snack (for the bub, not you), spare change of clothes (ditto), bottle or water cup (ditto again) muslin square, toys and books. And tissues, plenty of tissues (see points 4 and 5 below).
3. Whatever your level of sartorial self-respect prior to motherhood, you now regularly leave the house in clothes besmirched with food, toothpaste, dribble, milk or other unidentified matter it's best not to investigate too closely.
4. You own a dressing gown, a purchase you'd always assume would accompany your move to an old people's home or, at least, your move into retirement. As if that weren't bad enough, within 24 hours of acquiring said dressing gown, you'd managed to fill its pockets with tissues (mostly used), calpol syringes (invariably duplicate) and an array of small, fluffy, stuffed animals.
5. On the subject of tissues, you are now never more than an arm's length away from one, much like Londoners and rats. There's not a jeans pocket or a cardigan sleeve from which one can't be retrieved at the swiftest dribble of a nose.
6. You've developed a photographic memory for the givers of gifts, enabling you to ensure your child is wearing whichever dubious outfit was bought by family or friends on the day they happen to be visiting. This proved particularly necessary in the early, bleary-eyed months of your child's life, when your ability to keep hold of gift receipts disappeared alongside anything resembling a decent night's sleep.
7. Ah, sleep. You've mastered the art not just of staying awake but of functioning as a semi-competent human being - one, at least, who's allowed to be in charge of another little person and even drive a car - on no more than eight hours sleep. A week. You now regard anything after 7am to be a lie-in, anything after 9pm to be a late night and your definition of 'pulling an all-nighter' no longer refers to an evening of booze-fulled partying but of sitting on the toilet while your child vomits on you, watching the sun rise and wondering exactly how many hours until you'll be allowed to go back to bed.
8. Evenings out (those things that now happen not twice a week but twice a year) are mostly spent checking your mobile to see if there are any emergency messages from whoever's looking after your child, and displaying your phone to whoever's attention you can hold long enough to show them the 684 photos and 297 videos of your child's recent activity. Recent meaning: activity in the last seven days.
9. You've lost the ability to pronounce nouns without the addition of a superfluous 'y' on the end: so duck is now ducky, sock is now socky, book is now booky, bath is now bathy. You get the gist...
10. Love. Love like you never knew existed before. Love that makes you feel like you're no longer in control of yourself. Love that can rip out your heart and put it back again (intact) on an hourly basis. Love that makes you feel as though the world is both the most wonderful and the most terrifying place at the same time. Love that's so intense that long after the birth, long after the initial rush of hormones, long after the rhythm of daily life has resumed, it has the power to overwhelm you at the most unexpected moment and reduce you to tears of sheer wonderment. Love that, quite simply, makes all the sleepless nights and the lack of social life and the spit-stained clothes and the tissues pale into insignificance.
As for those women who turn up to playgroup with freshly blow-dried hair, perfectly manicured nails, food-free clothes and even, occasionally, high-heeled shoes, I salute you. Actually, I don't. I'm sort of a bit jealous of you and sort of hate you a little bit at the same time (please tell me you've got an army of helpers at home to do everything house & baby-related and that you're not, actually, a ridiculously competent multi-tasker?)
But if you can tick at least five items on the list above, I reckon you've probably passed The Mum Test. That, or you're in very good training.
Happy Mother's Day, all.