Parents come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders, and I am one. Or am I?
I'm a parent of children and pets. I'm not a plant parent though, because I cannot be trusted to keep even the hardiest of succulents alive.
But some have said I'm not a Real Mum™️ and I want to discuss that, particularly now, because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Friday is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
After 11 miscarriages and no surviving pregnancies, I have stopped trying to birth a child.
I have two step-daughters who are cared for by their three parents who adore them, and a foster son who is absolutely loved by his parents, both bio and carers.
But I have been told (with actual words from an actual friend's mouth) that step/foster kids don't count, and I am often left out of things because I am not a Real Mum™️; also my girls' primary school refused to let my eldest make two Mother's Day presents (one for me, one for her other mum) three years in a row.
And, if we push down deep the pain that this causes me, and the constant reminder that my body isn't doing what I want it to do, and the crushing heartbreak of wanting to have a baby so desperately while suffering loss after loss after loss, it's actually really disrespectful to my kids to completely diminish their life experience, minimise their love, and tell them that something that is very real to all of us is nothing.
So, I want to talk about why I am, in fact, a Real Mum™️ and give you plenty of anecdotal evidence that proves the fact in full, without question and leaving no uncertainty that I am in the Mum Club.
1. Since 2011, I have had to check my clothes before leaving the house to make sure there is no Weetbix, pasta, hand prints or snot on them. I spent a large portion of 2013 - 2015 with pasta sauce smeared on my left breast, because that's where the youngest would sit at dinner and I was her napkin. She still sits there, but on the right hand side we now have a toddler and his Vegemite. I am still a napkin.
2. Sometimes I go out and get MumDrunk. If you're not familiar with MumDrunk it's like being drunk in your early 20s, but rather than trying to pretend you're not drunk in front of your parents, you're trying to act sober in front of the babysitter while you eat the fries you found in your cleavage. It's being three pinot gris in and your eyes glazing over because you're so tired and desperate for your baggy jarmy pants, but someone else is looking after the kids so you WILL have those tequila shots, thank you very much, and, heck yes you'll sing that Natalie Imbruglia song at karaoke and everything else is tomorrow's problem.
3. I dance with my elbows. I move only from the waist up, doing the Mum Boogie. My hips don’t lie. In fact, they barely say a damned thing anymore. This is probably more of an 'I have endometriosis and adenomyosis' thing, rather than a mum thing, but it does affect my overall 'cool' status which I think plays into the Real Mum thing. Do kids even say, 'cool' anymore?
4. I sing the wrong words to songs and say my tweens’ favourite character names wrong, and my Spotify algorithm is whacked. It's all Wiggles, Little Mix, Teeny Tiny Stevies, Harry Styles, Adele and Kylie. To be honest, I don't hate it. It's a very balanced diet. Also, I will watch TV with the kids, point at the screen and say things like, 'Who's that guy? The one who's in that show and also the movie? You know, Chris something? Or Ryan? Chris Ryan? He played the guy that did the thing with the guns and the boat. You know? Google it for me, I don't know where my phone is.'
5. I love each one of my children with my entire heart, unconditionally and unreservedly. I would walk through fire for them, lay down my life for them, and stand in the way of any harm that threatened them. I overthink every parenting decision I make hoping it's the best one, I feel awful if I ever hurt or upset them and I don't always get it right but I do my absolute best for them. My heart is full of endless pride, love, respect, admiration, and adoration for them every single day. I have loved each second of watching them grow and I can't wait to walk through life with them as adults too. They are an enormous part of me and I cannot imagine my life without them.
So, what does it take to be a Real Mum™️? Do I need to have evacuated a baby from my uterus in order to fit in at school pick up? Is sharing DNA crucial to the raising of a child?
Or is it about love, acceptance and patience? Because maybe we could all do with a bit more of that.
Mums, dads, caregivers, step-parents, foster parents, kinship carers, grandparents, aunties, uncles, anyone who is stepping up, showing up and guiding a child safely through life, who loves and protects them, I see you. You're a Real Hero™️.
Libby Trainor Parker
Photo by Nat Rogers