As I crawl back into bed after breastfeeding my seven-month old cherub Greta, I glance at the clock. 5.25 am. I can see early morning daylight through the curtains and straining my ears I can hear the heavy breathing of two year old Nedand his three year old brother Finn.
Snuggling under my doona I just start to doze back off as I hear Finn’s clumsy footsteps bounding along our floorboards.
“TIME FOR TOAST” he shouts, and jumps onto the bed. I send him and my husband to the kitchen to pop the kettle on, trying to steal a few minutes more sleep. Cue more footsteps, and Ned’s cherubic toddler face appears
“AWAKE NOW!” he sings. Greta lets out a shout, it seems she’s ready to start the day too. I look at the clock; 6.02. At least we have made it past 6.00 this morning.
On auto-pilot I pour bowls of cereal, waving goodbye to my husband as he heads off to yard our cows. I head for the shower, depositing Greta in her playpen. Swimming day today, then, coffee with friends.
Out of the shower I’m having a pity party in front of my wardrobe. Nothing fits. I pull out a pair of jeans, optimistic that I might squeeze back into them. I step into the legs, they make it to my knees when I realise I can’t pull them up, much less do up the button. I reach for my old baggy cargos, yet again. I resolve to start exercising.
The house is suspiciously quiet. What, no shouting, wrestling, hair-pulling or name calling? And empty cereal bowls... could it be? They’ve even finished breakfast. I check the clock... we’re running early!
I choose the boys’ outfits, dress Ned, and turn to Finn. “I am NOT wearing shorts” he insists, “I HATE shorts and they HATE me. I want to wear the Spiderman outfit”.
I launch into a longwinded discussion about why he can’t wear the hand-me-down Spiderman outfit that’s actually a pair of too small pyjamas. “You don’t want to be a Schlumperdinka”, I try out the new word I learned watching the previous day’s episode of Oprah.
Finn looks dubious, so I give him a rundown of middle-American women mortified at being caught unawares by Oprah Winfrey in their house clothes. He looks worried, and bursts into tears. “I don’t want to be a Schlumperdinka”, as always the drama queen.
Sitting him on my knee for soothing cuddles, I check my watch. We’re still on time. I assure him that if he pops on the clothes that I’ve chosen, he’ll look just fine. He calms down gets dressed. Suddenly I’m stricken with guilt. Could I be raising a child too preoccupied with looks? Will he be able to let his individuality shine, or worry that he’ll be labelled a schlumperdinka? Shouldn’t I be trying to teach that beauty is only skin deep, and not to judge someone by appearance.
Before I know it I’m changing Finn into those wretched Spiderman pyjamas, with a pair of pink gumboots and one of my old belts – one that was once actually used keep my pants up. Back in the days when my pants fitted that is.
I pick up a whingey Greta. If we’re going to get to swimming I’ve got only minutes to get going. With no time left for making nutritious individual snacks, I grab pre-packaged bags of biscuits and processed cheesesticks. I vow to become more organised, and fill their tummies with organic fruits and homemade trail mix. Greta’s crying stops and as I turn to smile at her she lets fly with an enormous vomit, covering both of us. Nooooo!
It took me ages to find something to wear this morning, and now it is covered in a mixture of breastmilk and pureed apple. I hurriedly change Greta, and pull yesterday’s top out of the washing basket for me. Crumpled, but clean enough. I look to the clock and see we’re now ten minutes behind. It’s still worth getting to swimming, I think, buckling Greta into her car seat, followed by Finn.
Two kids down, I hunt for Ned, and the swimming bag. It takes a few minutes to track him down, sitting behind the couch, swimming bag alongside him. He looks at me smiling; the smile I know will one day melt the hearts of hundreds of girls. Instantly I know he’s been up to no good. Instead of eating breakfast, the boys had poured it into the swimming bag, along with matchbox cars, baby wipes and a handful of sultanas. Guess that explains why they were so quiet.
I’m fuming. Ned throws his arms around me and in his gorgeous toddler-esque says ‘Sorry Mummy, love you Mummy’. I realise this is one of those situations where you either laugh or cry.
Today I choose to laugh, and pick Ned up, carry him to the car and pop him into his carseat. I climb into the car, looking at my watch one more time. Far too late for swimming, I decide we’ll head straight for coffee instead, remembering I’m yet to get my caffeine fix for the day.
Looking at my beautiful babies in the rear view mirror I think I may not be a yummy mummy, always perfectly groomed with immaculate home and angelic children, but I am Finn, Ned and Greta’s Mummy, and I wouldn’t want to be anything else.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem