One of the problems of living in London’s Incubator™ (I daren’t say London’s Middle Class Incubator™ though that might be more accurate), is that there’s always a stereotype to conform to.
As somebody who is the owner of the same red Phil and Teds as everybody else, and whose daughter has the same pink microscooter as everybody else’s (except those people who were brave enough to stand up to their three year old’s princessy colour preference demands) I find I’m always quite conscious of which Type I’m representing on any given day. Where I used to represent the Carefree Laughing Young Professional with a Glass of Wine and a Fag type, now I’m more your Messy Haired Woman in an Anorak Pushing Double Buggy Up a Steep Hill While both Answering All The Important Questions of the Universe and Inwardly Simmering With Rage Over Her Lost Youth type. Sometimes I’m the Brain Dead Stay at Home Mother who has Intentionally Been Avoiding the News and is Therefore Incapable of Holding an Interesting Conversation type, or the Being A Simpering Pushover in the Face of a Tantrum type. You get my drift. I find myself wondering if people are irritated by my loud public parenting (Middle Class Didactic type), or are being judgemental about my being fat and eating a mini roll outside of the privacy of my own home (Has Let Herself Go type).
As I write this I realise I sound like a bit of a nutter and I should probably stop worrying about it. But sometimes it seems like there are just so many parents and small children in the vicinity, and that the majority of the parents are the Diligent Parent type who would be shocked if they knew that a) I let my children drink diluted squash and b) sometimes I let them watch ‘Dora the Explorer’ on loop for the afternoon because I quite frankly can’t face interacting with them.
My friends are not any particular type on the parenting scale. I know that some of them worry about being the Neurotic Mother type, or the Neglectful Career Woman type, or the Slightly Vague Tranq Mom type (that’s me). But of course, they are just ordinary human beings going about their business. And, of course, the whole idea of being a ‘type’ of mother is just another stick with which to beat ourselves, and to be beaten with.
The other day I had to take my car to the garage, and as Trulove was at home on holiday he stayed behind with the kids. I left all the kiddie detritus on the back seat, because I’m lazy, and the push chair in the boot, because that’s where it lives. I have not really been a car owner before – not of the kind of car which you diligently take to the garage, anyway. My other cars have been the type you drive until the door falls off and then a passing scrap merchant takes off your hands for a tenner (yours). I’ve never really been a car owner before so I’m not au fait with garage etiquette and come across as about as ignorant as I probably am. It’s a testament to my general vagueness that I’m not even sure why the man at the garage offered to park my car for me, but he nonetheless took the keys and reversed it into a space I’m pretty sure I could’ve managed myself. I had a minute or two in which I despaired at the stereotype I was neatly fitting – the ditzy mum in the little runabout unable to navigate the manly arena of the garage – and then I thought: Oh Fuck It – who cares? So they pluck the keys from your hands and park the car for you as if you’ve arrived at an exclusive party in a posh hotel? So they deduce, correctly as it happens, that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about when it comes to cars? You think they’ll sneer at your push chair as they dump it out of the boot? So what if they do anyway? Stop obsessing about Types and their Meanings. Go. Go and spend a delicious solitary hour, looking round the shops and having a cup of tea in a cafe without doing any Loud Parenting or answering any unanswerables.
So I did.