This week Emily shares another humourous insight into the world of multiple parenting, explaining how your standards relax (collapse) with each additional child….
Mothers of multiple children, whether born singly or in sets, will acknowledge that their standards slip a little with each child. Prior to the birth of your precious first-born, the heralded arrival of the health visitor sends you into a flat spin; hoovering and cleaning like Mrs Mop on acid. Several children later the prospect of a visit barely motivates you to peel the yoghurt lid off the arm of the sofa.
I have previously commented on the surgical phenomenon that occurs during childbirth, known as Maternal Restructuring. You have barely recovered from squeezing out a seemingly elephantine infant, when you are asked to bear down a second time to expel the placenta, the girth of which makes it difficult to believe you are not producing another baby. In fact, I demanded to see mine, so convinced I was it must have had legs.
Whilst reeling from the shock, and momentarily distracted by the wrinkly fruits of your labour, your midwife dives down below with a head torch and embroidery thread. Before she completes her handiwork with some cross-stitch and two half-hitches she takes the opportunity to thrust in a few replacement maternal organs, which will become surgically attached to your uterus. The Guilt gene, for example, which will ensure you never again enjoy a night out with an unburdened conscience. The Compulsive Agreement gene; guaranteed to place you on every committee from NCT to PTA, because youâ€™re now the girl who canâ€™t say no.
There are others, of course, a whole raft of complex character traits you never had before the gift of motherhood introduced you to the true concept of horrormones, and you became incapable of passing an injured rabbit without clutching your own brood to your chest in a tearful declaration of parental affection.
Your disintegrating standards of cleanliness and tidiness in the home are not, in fact due to any conscious slide in effort levels (husbands, please note), but instead to the post-natal insertion of the Maternal Myopia gene. This parental short-sightedness distorts perception in order to relieve some of the pressure presented by your pre-baby exacting standards of personal hygiene, when you could spot a dirty nose at twenty paces. Now, a quick visual sweep of the living room doesnâ€™t even register the pile of encrusted muslins, the seventeen dirty coffee cups or the dozens of individual Lego bricks, scattered like colourful mines across the carpet. The milk stains on your three-day old tracksuit barely show; the kitchen sink has always been that colour; your childrenâ€™s clothes will do another day â€“ after all, theyâ€™ll only get dirty again. Your hair used to need washing every day, but now it looks fine for a weekâ€¦
Maternal Myopia grows as your children do, creating that coveted complacency of experienced mothers. As a new mum, your Myopic gene freshly inserted, you will diligently change your babyâ€™s nappy every two hours. As your child grows, and you add a sibling to the mix, you will reluctantly change him when itâ€™s needed. Finally, your brood complete, you will join the ranks of the Selectively Blind Experienced Mothers and change your youngestâ€™s nappy only when he can no longer walk against the weight of its sag. A whiff of poo, so easily detected in the early days, has become as common to you as was Obsession in your heyday, and it is only when visitors visibly blanch as you open the door, that you begin searching for the source. Clue â€“ it could be connected to the aforementioned nappy.
So embrace your Maternal Myopia and join women everywhere who agree that lifeâ€™s too short for cleaning. Anyway, itâ€™s not dirty â€“ is it?
Emily Carlisle is a freelance writer living in the Cotswolds with her husband and three small children. You can read her take on extreme parenting at More Than Just a Mother.