It was 3.46am, about four weeks after my daughter was born that it hit me: an overwhelming surge of ‘oh my God, what have I done?’ It wasn’t in relation to the huge life project that was snuffling at my boob, it was a sense that I’d been a goon towards my mother for more than 32 years.
Now that’s exaggerating slightly, because I’m sure I was nice, but my overriding feeling was “she’s done all this, kept me alive, nurtured me, guided me, loved me, wiped my bum, sourced black-out curtains where I failed and I’ve basically repaid her by stropping about as a teenager and flailing around as a twenty-something.”
I unburdened my heavy maternal heart on the phone the next day. There were tears. I was sorry, but she once again made everything OK by saying, “Your Dad and I wouldn’t have wanted one that did everything by the book – that would have worried us more.”
And there’s my Mum’s Dutch spirit in a nutshell. Born in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, she was one of seven brothers and sisters (Roman Catholics) and the only sibling to get a one-way ticket to England. At the time, it was the equivalent of relocating to the moon. She was the one that left the small village. She sketched with Andy Warhol in the 70s, she was a tiny dancer, a talker and cycled around on a bike with no brakes.
My Mum is the first to push the sentiment: ‘do it, go your own way; it’s not selfish, it’s honest’. And she’d always wrap my sandwiches up in a way that stood out (think a foil extravagance) from the packed-lunch crowd.
The day I said, “I’ve met a guy [my now husband] and I’m moving to Dubai [having known him for one month]”, she supported, hugged and never once brought my bubbling excitement down. As a mother myself, I now know she must have been breaking inside.
The minute I stepped on that plane to live in a Swarovski-encrusted dictatorship must have been a brutal blow; because the minute you decide to have a kid, you think of the baby stuff, you think of the toddling, but you only vaguely connect with a time beyond that. The teens, the twenties… Looking back, that’s when parenting truly kicks in.
All I know is that I’ve followed my mad, all-over-the-place heart to some really brilliant and equally bizarre places. Amsterdam followed Dubai, and now a far-flung corner of East London is home. It’s been a journey littered with catastrophe (driving into my parents house the day after passing my driving test was a particular low) and pure joy – seeing my mother holding my daughter will stay with me to the day I drop down.
But I know now that it was my Mum, a woman without brakes, who helped me do it my way. We joke that she’s the real ‘Mother Pukka’ – one thing’s for sure, I have huge Dutch clogs to fill.
Chuffed to pieces to be writing about my parenting trials and tribulations for Notonthehighstreet.com. Their Mother’s Day campaign is all about the ‘maverick mum’ – she who parents to the beat of her own drum. It’s not about comparisons, it’s just about doing it your way and realising that there’s always room for a bit of fun. Whether you’re a cupcake maker, Instagram stalker, leopard-print lover or just going off the walls, there’s room at the inn (and plenty of cool stuff to buy) for all. On that note, I am in love with this Exhausted tee (with twinning baby gro). Always wear your heart on your boobs. Share your own #MaverickMum stories on Instagram.