I truly don't think that popular culture encourages realistic visions of parenthood. I just don't. You know the 80's movie, "She's Having A Baby" with Elizabeth McGovern and Kevin Bacon? You don't? Okay, well whatever. But if you're a bit of a John Hughes junkie or a retro chick like moi, then perhaps you'd like it. It's about a sexy loved-up couple who get pregnant and go through the whole "are we ready to be parents" rigamorole (and by 'they' i mean the fellow-she is totally ready). Despite the fact that the Kevin Bacon character has a fantasy affair with some model in his mind, by the end of the film he is a smitten new father, adores his wife and even beautifully plays out a tear-jerking scene wherein the labour goes wrong and the life of his wife and baby hang in the balance whilst the poignant Kate Bush song, "This Woman's Work" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3dnFmwQy04 plays in the background and he sheds what look like genuine crocodile tears, slipping painfully down his teen idol face. He realises then that he is the luckiest man on earth and even manages to extract himself from his shitty corporate job by writing a book about his journey from selfish young 'f__k' to responsible, doting Dad.
There are countless other films which also convey the journey that men make towards 'fatherdom', and although there are often hiccups along the way, the fellows always seem to re-emerge out the other end with a newfound respect and adoration for their wives, a mysterious dollop of responsibility and a sudden, deep desire to cradle a mewling infant lovingly in their arms while swaying to 'Simply Red'. But I digress.
What no one ever tells you is that a few short days/weeks/months after giving birth, you and your beloved will be having whispered fights in the middle of the night about who should go check on the baby, who changed the most nappies that day, and whose turn it is to bathe the little bugger. You will find yourself defending your pockets of 'me time' while your partner tries to garner sympathy for having to venture out into the big wide world on a daily basis to earn enough money to keep your offspring in Huggies and you in elasticated Topshop cargo's. As it stands, my husband and I have an ongoing trick (which we're both wise to by the way) whereby as soon as the first whiff of dirty nappy permeates the room, he suddenly has to make an important work phonecall and I suddenly have to empty the washing machine. Eventually Dumpie will lumber up to one of us (why is it always me??) and say "Make poo-poo Mama" and after a few feeble attempts to coerce my husband (who is studiously ignoring me in the other room) pointlessly with guilt, I will bend down, heave the chubby chicken under one arm, and lumber up the flight of stairs to put things to right in the bottom department.
At no point do I ever recall my husband stroking my face tenderly and saying, "Thank you for giving birth to our precious child", or even massaging my swollen ankles or aching back during pregnancy. Instead I got, "Have you eaten the rest of the Ben & Jerry's?" when he found me exhausted, slumped in front of the telly, spooning the stuff mechanically into my mouth while watching late night re-runs of 'Big Brother' in an attempt to garner enough energy to trudge up two flights of stairs to bed before the next feeding. Or how about the time I agreed to a several kilometre country-walk 'hike' just days after giving birth to Egg - in a feeble attempt to prove that I was still cool, up for anything, and that birth hadn't fazed me....Huh!
The bottom line is that women when they become mothers have NEEDS. They need to believe that you still find them attractive (even if they perpetually live in track pants and baggy t-shirts for weeks on end)....they need you to realise that deep inside they are STILL that sexy, fun, party girl who shone and inspired envy in all your single friends (even if the only outings they get these days are 'Tumble Tots' sessions)....and most of all they need to feel loved, adored, appreciated and...not just glorified waste disposal units.
Hence, that is why I purchased a lovely glam piece of uber-trendy jewelry for myself on Mother's Day. It is a present for the REAL me, and not the "me" who nags about dirty socks left on the dining table, inspects nappy contents with a studied gaze, or the me who silently acknowledges the landmark washing of my 1000th bowl this year...sans acknowledgement.
No....this jewelry symbolises that the REAL ME is still in there....presently buried elbow deep in toilet bowl cleaner perhaps...but alive nonetheless and liable to emerge at any moment...in skinny jeans....without a sippie cup in sight.