‘Oneupmumship’ is something I feared well before our little miss came squawking into the world. Knowing how self-doubting and nigh on neurotic I can be in so many areas of my life, I worried that suddenly becoming responsible for keeping a small person alive while surrounded by immaculate and judgemental supermums and their advanced, angelic babies could send me plummeting into an abyss of anxiety that I wasn’t doing anything right.
I really needn’t have worried. Since getting to know many mothers on the Chiltern circuit, I’ve realised that mums and their little ones come in all shapes and sizes, no baby is an angel every day and (beyond the obvious!) there are few rights and wrongs of parenthood as long as you are keeping your little one relatively clean, cuddled and fed. That we are all allowed an off day or ten, and even an experienced mum of three is capable of having the odd mini meltdown or being flummoxed by their new, very individual baby’s foibles and phases.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that far from trying to outdo each other with tales of our babies’ lightning fast development or ability to sleep through the night from week one, what actually exists is a lovely, supportive network of mums sharing advice, special moments and milestones, horror stories and lots of tea and cake as we all muddle through motherhood and marvel at our little ones. And we all muck in in support of each other: I’ve been lucky enough to have someone offer to cut up my food while I tried to eat brunch one-handed while cradling a tetchy two-month-old, and I’ve seen others helping to dispense wipes and sympathy as someone dealt with an off-the-scale poonami.
You soon learn too that everyone has had difficulties of some kind - in my case, for example, if sleeping was a relatively easy nut to crack, feeding was an impenetrable, fortified macadamia in the early days – but sharing these struggles makes you realise that you’re not alone, you’re getting by and, clichéd as it may seem, problems do pass in the end.
This post may be an unabashed love-in, but I wanted to relay how much of a difference this special network has made as we all grapple with the thrills and spills of first-time parenthood. In the words of one advert, ‘you’re doing great’, and to paraphrase another, let’s make time for some ‘exceedingly good cakes’ again soon!