January has sobered us up and stolen all our glitter. The once-adored and illuminated Christmas trees now lie naked and abandoned by the bins. The world is back to work and pavements pound with brand new runners. My news feed is full of New Year Resolutions that "all mothers should be making", guilt that I shouldn't be allowing myself to feel and tips for a healthier, fitter, happier 2017. I choose to glance at an email from a company who know the ages of my children, jolting a hazy memory of an airbrushed "Bounty woman" (an odd sight amongst labouring women, anxious partners and around-the-clock NHS staff) disturbing our post-birth recuperation, giving me forms to complete. I assumed she was part of the team and dutifully signed on the dotted line. Ink staining paper as post-birth blood stained the towels. This company now sends me an email saying that while"nursing a newborn", I can use "8 tricks to look beautiful before 8am", including using two different shades of mascara to widen my eyes... WTF!
Ironically, these tips are sold as "saving your morning sanity". Instead, I think I'll aim for an uninterrupted shower and trip to the loo with the door closed. I'm making this the year of gratitude and acceptance, beginning with my list of 10 unexpected highs of motherhood.
- Self-love. I knew I'd love my children long before we met, but I didn't expect to regard my own body with such newfound tenderness, for its absolute incredible baby-growing, baby-birthing, baby-feeding skills. Every wobbly bit is proof that the most amazing miracle actually did happen. Twice.
- Learning to be au natural. Despite Bounty's suggestions, I've not worn make-up for about two years (except for my wedding day) and my skin prefers it too. Plus, the liberation of not scrutinising my reflection is life-changing. And then there's the pounds saved on products and my adopted laissez faire attitude to hair.
- Professional Multi-Tasker. I can imagine that I've always had the skills, but never before have I needed to rock a baby to sleep while changing a toddler's nappy and reading a book aloud/ holding a bizarre conversation about dinosaurs or whatever it takes to keep his attention until a new nappy is on.
- Aware of the seasons. Most days force us out and like a real life spot the difference, we'll notice the changing colours of leaves, the new blossom buds and the rotting windfalls.
- The everyday is transformed into the sublime. Seeing the world through my children's eyes has seduced me into loving our world anew. My toddler's excitement for a passing train, plane or chugging tractor is contagious; we've all learnt to delight in the incredible inventions of mankind.
- Beauty in words. Trying to decipher our children's first words and sentences brings about much hilarity and awe. The amount of phrases he picks up and repeats is astonishing.
- Talking to strangers. There's nothing like wheeling/carrying/chasing after two little ones to elicit random conversations with anyone we meet out and about. My two year old will suddenly announce his baby brother's name to whoever he fancies, initiating entertaining small talk with whoever's game.
- Toddler Dancing. Me and their dad have always liked a dance, but our eldest has taken dancing to another level. He will start dancing to any tune, albeit from a passing car, or tinkly baby toy. He'll wiggle and jiggle, jump and shuffle, hop and bop, bounce and drop. Sometimes, without any music at all. When I've run out of ideas and still have a tiny fraction of energy left, I'll put on Kisstory and we'll all dance around the living room and party like it's 1999.
- Everyday's a school day. Since motherhood, I now know the names of more than twenty different species of dinosaur, the daily workings of a farm and fast becoming an expert in skin rashes. Becoming a parent is like becoming a child, learning everything from scratch, from feeding to bathing, changing nappies to knowing the location of every soft play centre within a fifteen mile radius.
- The moon. Thanks to regular night feeding, I've come to know the shape-shifting moon very well. She's been my companion throughout and even when it's too cloudy to see her, I know she's out there somewhere, watching without judgment, waxing and waning, ready to guide me to the dawn.
The January air is full of hope. The sharp winter wind blows out the cobwebs and can force a teardrop with a single gust. The blinding horizontal sunlight casts shadows on our past and illuminates the path ahead. I have a lot of respect for any New Year endeavours for a new you in 2017, but I imagine that you are already trying your best and already rather fabulous.
Do add your own unexpected highs of motherhood in the comments section below. Thank you & all best wishes for 2017. Xx
Photograph: R. Gurnham