My mum and me.
Mother's Day is, to some people, a bit like Valentine's Day - slightly commercialised and not all that meaningful. I've read several posts today, from people asking why we "celebrate" one day a year in honour of the work that mums do every day, without thanks. But in my eyes, Mother's Day (and Father's Day) is similar to Valentine's in as much as it's a day on which we're supposed to show our love and gratitude, but that doesn't mean we don't show it for the rest of the year. My issue with today isn't that it's over-hyped, sentimental or false, because I'm hugely fortunate in that I have a mum who is bloody awesome and she deserves a day to be treated nicely and given gifts. If I could afford it, I'd do it every day, for her. She loves me unconditionally, supports me in everything I do and has been not only a shoulder to cry on over the years, but a best friend to laugh with, too. My sister and I are both incredibly lucky to have her in our lives.
Perhaps it's because of that rich, loving experience I've had that I've always wanted to be a mother, myself. Maybe it's because I've felt such all-encompassing love from my mum, that I want so desperately to share it with another little person.
It's always been the case. When I was very small and still at primary school, teachers would ask what I wanted to be when I was older and, more often than not, I'd say: "A mummy."
Not like that.
It wasn't that I lacked ambition - far from it. I also wanted to be a star of musical theatre, or a TV/film actress, or a singer in a band. In fact, I wanted to be a writer more than any other job you could name (and still do) and would sneak new exercise books home in my school bag, in which to write my latest future best-seller.
But far beyond any fame or fortune I could wish for myself, I wished for one of the simplest things in life. I wished for a family of my own, one day. I wished for children.
I'm only 32 and I know that I'm hopefully still of child-bearing age. But I'm also single and in a low-paid job that doesn't earn me enough to so much as rent my own place, let alone pay for all the things a baby would require. I know I'm not quite in the right place to have children, yet, but I hope that there's still time.
Yet, at only 32, I've already had people say things like "leaving it a bit late, aren't you?" Or "it's not very likely you'll have kids now, is it?"
What I don't think those people realise is that I feel those words as sharply as I would a physical blow. The love I have pent up inside me gets shared out between my parents, family, friends and the dog, but there's still such an excess that sometimes it feels so enormous, it's as though there's no room for air in my lungs. No room for my heart to beat. The life I live, exciting and fun as it can be, all too often feels that it's missing something vital. There's a void - a chasm, at times - that I can't fill.
Women who've made the choice not to have children - and I respect that entirely - often talk about being made to feel as though they're selfish, or not fulfilling their purpose as a woman. I, as a woman who would dearly love her own children, but have not found that it has happened for me, feel that I've failed, somehow. I'm not deemed selfish, but I'm somewhat incomplete. I work in childcare and more than once during a 14 year career, a parent has commented to other staff members that they'd rather have a fellow parent look after their child. As though I'm somewhat untrustworthy. As though the training I have means nothing, because I don't go home to my own baby at the end of a shift. As though parenthood somehow gives you all the magical answers that a person like me just couldn't hope to guess at.
Conversely, you sometimes get the "I bet you love being able to give these kids back at the end of the day?" comments. And yes, with some of them, I do. But equally, there can be times when the classroom is empty and I miss the little smile from a child who's happy to see me. I miss the sensation of a small hand in mine.
Me and mum - I look a bit bigger in this one...
Having kids isn't something everyone wants to do. It's not even something everyone should do (but that's a subject for a whole other blog...). But it's something that I always imagined would be a part of my life. In fact, someone once told me, in my mid-twenties, that I had such strong maternal instincts that if you cut me in half, I'd have "mum" written through me like a stick of rock.
Still, I'm sitting here, writing this and there's no clutter on the floor from my kids playing. There's no moses basket tucked in the corner, for the baby to sleep in. I can't proudly look at the wobbly bits on my tummy and say "ah, but I grew my child in there, so my body is testimony to being a mother," like those slightly irritating posts on Facebook would suggest women do. My wobbly belly is testimony to my love of cake. And as much as cake satisfies me on a superficial level, it's not quite the same...
I don't believe in living my life moping over the things I don't have. Life's too short for that. I go away with my friends, I see my favourite bands play live and I spend time with my family. I don't do too badly, all told. And today, I'm thinking a lot about the incredible mum I have and how massively fortunate I am to have her. Without her kindness, her humour and her general awesomeness, I wouldn't be the woman I am, today.
But I do beg those who tell me I've left it too late to have a family of my own, or who think they're doing the right thing by saying I'm lucky to have so much time to myself, to remember that not having children isn't my choice. It's simply the circumstance I've found myself in. And whilst I might enjoy my life and give all the love I can to those people in it, there is a part of me that is crying out for the one thing I currently can't have. Maybe I will have kids one day and I'll look back on this blog and smile, thinking how bloody lucky I am. But maybe I won't. And that's why I needed to get these feelings off my chest. Because as much as I will live my life and pack it with as much love and fun and laughter as I can, something will always feel like it's missing.