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Posts Tagged ‘mother’

Two of the things my husband hates with a passion are light-hearted orchestral music and musicals – which, let’s face it, go together like “rama lama lama, ke ding a de dinga a dong”.  

So you can imagine his horror when he recently walked into a room to find me teaching MM, our only friend with way-serious rock credentials, a routine from “A Chorus Line”. 

People who know me outside the moniker of Not Drowning Mother might well wonder how I came to know said routine – and this is where I must confess all: of a Monday evening, I have been dancing my little heart out in a “Broadway for Beginners” class.

You see I was *supposed* to be doing iyengar yoga on Monday nights. I was *supposed* to be sitting solemnly in a dimly lit room, trying not to let my sense of inner peace be nullified by all that stress over equipment management (“This next position requires three bolsters, four straps, a dining room set and a blanket folded like an origami crane”). 

Instead, I find myself driving, with chakras distinctly unaligned, to the Right Side of town with my dear friend KT to practice my jazz run (an important – and CV-enhancing – life skill). And all in the pursuit of Fun – and not fun of the domestic kind, such as discovering a new way of folding the kids’ undies or making robots out of toilet-paper rolls. We’re talking Extra-Curricular Out-of-the-House Child-Free Fun.

And fun it certainly is – if strangely competitive. I guess that’s bound to happen when you get a bunch of women together in front of a wall of mirrors. One girl – KT’s Sworn Dance-Class Enemy (every girl has to have one!) – has a way of always standing front and centre, right next to the instructor. You see KT likes to be up front and centre, too, and she claims that her SDCE is always ‘in her space’. As a mother of two small children, I would have thought that KT didn’t have any personal space to surrender. But then, KT is a woman on a mission. Next week, in her capacity as a singer-slash-actress, she starts rehearsals for a musical where she will have to dance alongside trained dancers in their early 20s. It’s the stuff of a Not Drowning Mothers’ nightmares. 

As for me, I skulk at the back of the class, muttering to the women alongside me things like “Stick with me, kid. I’ll make you look good”. And I do make them look good. Very good. Those mirrors tell no lies and any illusions that I might have had of myself as a dancer, I’ve had to surrender with my money at the door. I’m the class’s answer to John Travolta – but not the Travolta in a natty white suit burnin’ up on the dance floor in “Saturday Night Fever”. I’m the middle-aged Travolta, cross-dressing in a fat-suit in “Hairspray”. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. 

I hate those mirrors. Since when did my body have fold-lines? At first I thought it was just my clothes, which I had fished out from the bottom of the laundry basket – but then I realised it’s my actual body that’s creased (although the clothes certainly do enhance the effect). And when I jazz-run, I’ve discovered there’s a part of my stomach (known as the “apron”) that moves, independently of me, about half a beat behind the rest of the class. And when we handjive’n’jump across the dance floor, I can feel that my pelvic floor is in serious danger of collapsing for good. And then there’s having to look at the fetching tomato-hued glow of my sweating face less than 30 seconds into the warm-up. It’s enough to make a Not Drowning Mother want to trip a 20-year-old, wearing a ra-ra skirt and legwarmers without a hint of irony, just to see her sprawled face-down on the floor. 

Thankfully, I haven’t had to resort to violence to improve my self-esteem. You see, I discovered the secret of dealing with those mirrors – if I stand just where the mirrors join, I instantly shed all post-baby weight and look fabulously svelte. Unfortunately most routines involve some side-to-side movement so it’s often a case of step (ugh!), step (eeearrrgggh!), step (oooh, lovely!). Problem fixed!

But the *real* reason my self-esteem is still largely intact is this: after every class, I go home and perform the night’s routine to my husband. And, despite the fact I’m dancing to light-hearted orchestral music, he still loves me. So, really, I’m doing all right.

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Every Thursday afternoon I get together with some other mums in the area and we eat fine foods and drink a pre-schooler’s body weight in champagne under the guise of “Mothers’ Group”. 

Because it’s quite a large group, my turn to host only comes around every couple of months. I enjoy – even savour – almost the whole process: the menu-planning, the buying of obscure ingredients (Chikiang vinegar, anyone?), the prepping and even the cooking. I wake up on the day feeling quietly confident that I’ll be able to pull everything together more seamlessly and effortlessly than if I was sitting on a valium-induced cloud. Why, I’m the hostess with the mostest, of course!

Ah, but then there’s the problem of my house. For someone whose house looks like it’s about to cave in on itself, I’m terribly house proud. My husband – a remarkably sane man for someone who lives with such a mad woman – is always delightfully relaxed about such matters:  “Let them see how we live!”, he says. Now, it’s not that I mind people seeing how we live. It’s just I’d like them to see a slightly tidier version of how we live. 

Typically, when faced with the prospect of cleaning the house for mother’s group, I find myself moving through the five stages of grief:

1. DENIAL: I’ve got plenty of time! It’s not so bad! I’ll just need to do a quick tidy up in the loungeroom, sweep the kitchen floor, mop, wipe down the cupboard doors, empty the recycling, wipe the bird crap off the trampoline, clear a path through the agglomeration of cheap plastic toys on the kids’ floor and, oh look, there’s the remains of a cupcake from the last time I hosted… and…oh god, hang on a moment here…

2. ANGER: Stupid Mothers’ Group. Why do *I* have to host? Don’t they know I have small children???

3. BARGAINING: Maybe someone can swap with me with 15 minutes notice? Maybe I can host it at the local TAB? The kids will enjoy watching the horse races…

4. DEPRESSION: My house is such a tip. I’m the world’s worst housekeeper. Will I ever see the floor again? Where is the brushpan and broom, anyway?

5. ACCEPTANCE: The house will just be trashed by the first set of kids who arrive, anyway, so logic dictates that there is nothing to be gained in tidying up. I’m off the hook!

Yesterday, it was my turn to host and – as is now my tradition – I reached Stage Five at about 2:55pm, 5 minutes before people start to arrive. And after the first bottle of cheap fizz was popped, I was back to my original premise: I’m the Hostess with the Mostest!

By the time the last guests left at 8pm, I realised that a good party wasn’t about a freshly-wiped fridge or an alphabetised (and dust-free) CD collection where all the disks are not only in a case, but in the *right* case. After all, the food was good, the drink was in abundance, the conversation lively. And, more importantly, my children are healthy, happy and reasonably well-behaved so I’ve obviously got my priorities straight, right? There’s just the small matter of the whereabouts of their shoes… (see Herding Cats).

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People often say to me “If you’re not drowning, as you claim, then why are you three hours late and where the hell are your kids’ shoes and socks?”.

The following step-by-step guide to leaving the house with three small children offers some explanation to these nay-sayers.

STEP ONE: Find matching socks (allow 20 minutes, at the very least).

STEP TWO: Find matching shoes (allow another 20 minutes).

STEP THREE: Find matching child to shoes and socks (timing depends on how big your house is).

STEP FOUR: Put shoes & socks on Child One, recreating that classic slapstick routine where every shoe or sock you hold out, he holds out the wrong foot. (allow 5 minutes – but feel free to milk it for laughs)

STEP FIVE: Put shoes & socks on Child Two, who is insisting on lying on her stomach but is helpfully holding her feet up for you so you have to put her shoes and socks on backwards & upside down. (allow 10 minutes – 3.2 degree of difficulty)

STEP SIX: Put shoes & socks on Child Three, who simultaneously kicks you in the appendix. (allow 5 minutes plus a further 5 minutes recovery time)

STEP SEVEN: Discover that Child One has taken off his shoes and socks and is now bouncing on the trampoline (allow 15 seconds for sinking heart feeling). 

STEP EIGHT: Discover that Child Three has done a poo in his nappy and will need changing (and thus shoes & socks removing) and that Child Two has taken her socks and shoes off because she’s decided that she wants to dress as a Pink-Fairy-Princess-Ballerina today (allow at least a full 10 minutes to savour the taste of rising bile and feel free to indulge in some hair pulling, silent screaming, etc. Come on, you know it will make you feel better).

STEP NINE: Repeat all of the above (allow 1 hour+).

And after all that, if you’ve got it in you, try tackling hats, coats and drinky pots. 

As for people who have three small children and yet arrive punctually – what’s their secret? They either made their children sleep fully-clothed and with their shoes & socks on OR they set out to leave the night before. It’s the only way I can explain it.

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