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Monday, 8 March 2010

Netting a Mum or Two

As a parent of children aged 9, 5 and 4 years, I have a long online history with the wonderful Netmums, the website that informs, educates and most importantly, supports mums as they face all the challenges that come along with the joys of motherhood.
I have felt very isolated as a stay at home mum and Netmums provided some form of sanity in the dark days of post-natal depression. For probably 3 years, I have toyed with the idea of meeting up with other mums and for about a year since relocating have had regular email contact with my local Coordinator.
In November last year, hiding behind my children and other half, I attended a great Halloween Party run by Netmums locally. Then with the New Year, I summoned up the courage to attend their regular Music Class with my 4 year old son. Still nervous, still not feeling quite myself, still finding it hard to remember quite who I was before becoming a parent.
Here's to the local Coordinator who always gives a warm welcome to everyone, mums, dads and children alike. She is a total star, always friendly even when going through her own not so good stuff. One of those angels masquerading as a human being,
I hate soft play centres with a passion but will go along to meets there too. It is something for me and something for my 4 year old who misses his sibling when they are at school. Last time, while I was getting a coffee, the mums moved tables. This was enough to set off one of my confidence crises. Mantra to self that they have moved to a bigger table for space, negative self-talk tells me they have moved to get away from me. So sometimes I feel the fear and do it anyway and sometimes I want to curl up in a ball. But I keep trying and that has to be a good thing.
Last week, I attended a Swap Shop night taking along my trash hoping to rescue someone else's trash by seeing it as treasure. My husband dropped me off with me saying I would probably be a hour or so tops. As the car drove away, panic sets in. I ring the bell on the front door - no reply. I knock - no reply. Try to quieten the nagging voice of self-doubt. Back door proves more fruitful and I have my speech already for the mum I have not met before who is hosting. Local Coordinator actually answers the door so I have to rewrite my opening gambit. There is a good welcome with "What would you like to drink?". I work out that alcohol might free me up a bit and accept a glass or red wine. There is a buffet too and mums keep arriving and as I watch, I see I am not the only hesitant or shy person in the room. Maybe I am just human. Maybe that is OK. Later, we all present our stuff and everyone apologises for the quality of theirs - do all women put themselves down so naturally? As a group, we boost each other and comment positively and enthusiastically on people's offerings. It seems one person's trash really is another's treasure and I celebrate both that some people want my stuff and the lovely bedding set, coat and alarm clock that I put in my bag.
I am comfy enough to talk of my late Mum who died exactly six months ago. I bring earrings that she bought in her last weeks, swapping a lifetime of high street shopping for internet shopping when she become bed-bound. I stress that I am not being morbid, rather celebrating a great woman. Laugh at myself a bit and share a little of my experience of having boudoir shots done - letting people in a little. Perhaps that is all it takes. So here's to Netting a Mum or two and to many good times ahead. Thank you wonderful Mums!

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Largely I think as a response to bereavement, I am trying to seize life, the day and all that. I keep testing my nerve and trying new things. One huge one was to accept an invitation to have some boudoir photographs done complete with rose petals, saucy underwear, feathers, fans and a riding crop! I nervously went into the hotel where the shoot was to take place noting the obvious discomfort of the male receptionist at what was happening in one of suites upstairs and probably, worse that how can a size 22 possibly want to take her clothes off in front of anyone. I walked up and down the corridor for an age before tapping on the door of the suite. Maybe they would not hear me and then I could escape without losing too much face. The mirror in the corridor had not done much to reassure me - unkempt hair, no make-up, baggy fat covering clothes - not exactly a glamour puss then! A woman aged about 12 years and inevitably blonde and lovely let me in and instructed me to get my "outfit" on straightaway in the ensuite bathroom. Into bra and pants and the cop-out black silky robe. Then I entered the main room where various women were and it was hard to work out where everyone fitted in. Some were waiting for their photo session, some were just there to support and some were the hair and make-up girls. Confidence started to build when the make-up artist said she would not need to do much with me as I had lovely skin. Same was said by my wedding make-up person so perhaps I have to believe this. Lovely to sit in a chair being pampered with no children pulling at me or demanding yet another meal, drink, cuddle. No man to tell me that I have done the washing up in the wrong order as if life depends on such decisions. Peace and a friendly female-only enviroment that reminded me of the maternity ward when all the visitors have gone. I was plied with some booze to calm me down and turned down the chocolates lest I go up to size 24 instantly. "Are you ready?", the photographer asked and as I walked from the prep suite to the photos location next door, there was a sense of "Let's just go for it!". Suffice to say, I found the experience very liberating and discovered a whole new exhibitionish side to myself. It was fun to play and be encouraged to do so. When Mum died, the worst happened. Now I can try new things feeling that her spirit would whole-heartedly approve. Coming home on the train in my baggy clothes and boring anorak, I kept giggling at the thought "If only the other passengers knew what I had just done!". There is life in the old girl yet!