Friday, 21 May 2010

Fear Itself: Me and My Maternal Side

My life is punctuated by moments which are, on reflection, rather alarming. I am, as my friends/family/strangers-on-the-street can attest, a somewhat maternal person, which for most people involves a certain need to nurture, a tendency to worry and an inevitable desire to (one day) have children. The fully fledged maternal types are out there with their yummy mummy Bugaboos, their organic, home made baby food and their eco friendly, terry cloth nappies. This is the Western middle class vision of motherhood and it promises beauty, wonder and many, many decaf lattes in the Mecca that is Starbucks. Of course the playdate swapping, bugaboo pushing elements aside, motherhood is notoriously one of the most gruelling, stressful and hardcore things a woman can do. The difficulty of being a mother is not lost on me, though of course these things cannot be truly appreciated until experienced. But back to my original point – my life is littered with WTF moments that suggest my maternal instinct is running about six degrees hotter than normal, and it is really starting to scare me.

I have always been one to coo at a cute baby passing by, or glance admiringly at a pregnant woman’s belly, sighing to myself about the miracle of life. I have always loved looking at my own baby pictures, and picturing myself some day sitting in a rocking chair, babe in arms, looking impossibly gorgeous (soft focus of course) and just being a wonderful mum. I would be part of the latte tribe, pushing my designer push chair around Hampstead Heath, stopping to chat with my fellow yummy mummies about diaper rash, cradle cap and the latest of our various familial dramas. Picture me, wind machine in place, swanning around in a maxi dress (maxi dresses involve an obligatory amount of swanning) with a smiling happy baby on one hip, while I simultaneously make organic salads and grow my own vegetables.

I even have an alternate reality as a single mother, in which I basically live out my own version of the Gilmore Girls, complete with sleepy American town and lovable local characters, raising a daughter who magically becomes my best friend.

At what point did the fantasy go too far..? The salad? You got me there – I don’t even like salad. But I am that scary – I want all of these fantasies so much that I like nothing more than a good long session picturing a dream version of motherhood. I am the scary childless woman that finds herself wondering around Mothercare on a Saturday afternoon; I am the woman who is already trying to decide between Pampers and Huggies; I am the woman who can tell you the name, price and ingredients of most ready made baby foods. And you thought it was bad that you’d already picked your future kids’ names.

At what point did I become this scary? I have worked out a vision so elaborate, so unlikely, that I actively crave it, despite the fact that I am broke, unemployed and to top it off, single. Don’t get me wrong – I have no plans whatsoever to have babies for at least ten years. It makes absolutely no sense in terms of my life plan, my situation… everything. I can only attribute this desire to some strange biological need which surfaces every time I wonder past Mamas and Papas on Regent St.

And it’s not just the scary fantasies, or the freakish knowledge of the baby market – I find myself actively worrying about people all the time. The moment someone is an hour late and un-contactable, I see car crashes, accidents, kidnappings – I work out scenarios of how to react, what to do, how to deal. In worst case scenarios, I call local hospitals to make sure the offending late-comer has not been admitted, because by the time I have wondered if they are there or not, I can’t convince myself to stop worrying. Are my kids going to love me, or what? I might just be the world's scariest mother.

So there you have it – a frightening insight into a scary brain. Don’t worry though – for now, only a tiny part of me is concerned with rocking chairs and baby food. The dominant parts of me are concerned with the grave prospects of finding a job, a place to live… the usual things required for general human survival. There’s no part of me that believes a baby is what I need. No part of me whatsoever.

For now.