I love being Lily’s mum. I love being Peter’s mum but this post is about only having to be a mum.
It’s a long time since I have only had to be a mum to either of my children.
Being ‘just a mum’ is a privilege that many parents will never experience. I suspect that there may be a number reading this post welling up, ‘getting it’, relating and becoming overwhelmed to see it in print.
Equally, there may be those who are baffled by this statement. For both, I will try to explain more.
Last night Lily stayed up too late (sorry school). We were in Lily’s room, I was on her swinging seat and she was pottering about. We shared a bag of marshmallows, played with Hulk the hamster and she read a bit of her Tom Gates book to me. She talked about her hopes of a saxophone for Christmas and how she will practice it after school because she practices her cello before school and doesn’t want to cut that short. She also wants hair straighteners and a new leotard! She talked about some boys that had been nasty to another and how she had tackled them. We talked about friendships, maths and a PE club after-school she wants to attend. She talked about her teachers and how much she likes homework club because the staff are lovely and the atmosphere is safe and friendly.
I told her to brush her teeth, dragged myself away and she went to sleep. Granted though, I was upstairs for the last bit, while she went to sleep… and most wouldn’t be.
I have been upstairs at Lily’s bedtime for more than 3 years. I remember it starting – she had always been a brilliant bedtime girl. All the usual things worked like a dream. Oddly, it was Peter’s impending transition to middle school and the subtle changes in him that seemed to trigger this change and acute rise in anxiety in Lily. She was 7. As Peter’s mental health crashed Lily’s ability trust adults in authority plummeted. Her anxiety spiralled horrifically and her mental and physical health took a hit. She waited months for treatment with a clinical psychologist. The combination of this treatment, and consistent care and support from two fabulous schools; for more than 2 years, and she has properly turned a corner. I sense a solid and permanent step forward.
I am now ‘just’ her mum. Not her multidisciplinary team coordinator, medical and school appointment manager, her 24hr on-call therapist supporting her through anxiety attacks totalling hours a day nor her pharmacist managing the physical manifestations of her prolonged stress. I feel so grateful to have her back. I enjoy taking her for granted, being relaxed in the relationship we have and just having fun.
There are many for whom this is still a distant dream and others for whom this will never be the case. These parents play additional roles; experts in law, networking and managing complex relationships where the balance of power and inequity of knowledge is obscene. They do all of this at the same time as caring for (often more than 1) disabled child 24 hours a day with no respite and no support. At the same time, they are often fending off inept, unskilled staff, unhelpful advice and terrifying accusations that centre around the assumption that their parenting is inadequate.
They are amazing. Many are my friends and trust me, they are the best kind to have. Real people and incredibly, with kindness and compassion to spare.
I am optimistic that one day I will be ‘just a mum’ to Peter too. He is in a far better place just now but there is a little way to go before I can be just his mum. I’ll keep you posted on that one!
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