I see you. Your children see you. Can you see you?

The thing with Instagram mums is you can’t see them. If Sarah down the road has her shoes on the wrong feet (hers, not her child’s, it can happen) you can see it. You can see her unwashed hair, her red-rimmed eyes, the numerous fish finger boxes in her recycling. You can see her ill fitting jeans.

Women have never been perfect mothers. They just never got so incessantly pulled up by the media and they never had to compare themselves to filtered Instagram addicts. Looking back over time, billions of women have looked out for each other, helped each other, listened, noticed, shared and laughed with each other. That circle of support still exists today, down the street and online. My preferred channel of support is the bloggers and the writers who call themselves things like Unmumsy Mum and Scummy Mummies and Hurrah For Gin. They don’t fit the image of ‘mother’ that has been written not just by mothers, but by men, by media, by doctors and experts. They’re written by women who have kids. Mothers.

Modern day internet heroes are those women who make us laugh, who show us their red-rimmed eyes, their fat arses, their boredom, their bottle of gin, their tearful commute to work, their daily guilt, their imperfections, their love for their children. The Sarah Turners, the Helen Thorns, the Ellis Gibsons and the Katie Kirbys.  When was it decided that there was a bar to reach? And who decided it? It definitely wasn’t the woman sitting on the bench in the park with food-stained jeans on, hiccuping back tears and wishing she could just lie down for a minute. She has always been there. She has always sat on that bench. She just never had a world of comparisons and expectations on her shoulders. Her kids are alive and they’re in the park. You did it lady, these bloggers say, every day. You did everything you needed to and sometimes you need to hear that every day.

Kids don’t see Instagram filters or symmetrical cup cakes or fashion-forward scarves when they look at you or your home. They see lines and imperfections and sometimes they see tears; they see you. Not your 3495 followers. Not your dirty kitchen cupboards. Not your Valencia-filtered home-made egg muffins. They see you. If you transcribed the average mother’s day it would probably be a mixture of “God, can you just leave me alone for two minutes” and “I love you so much I can barely breathe” but there is no such thing as the average mother. To your child, the only person in the world who makes you a mother, there is only you.

And if anyone judges you for looking at your text messages from friends that make you laugh out loud and stealing a few minutes of feeling like you while your children play, or for feeding your kids the quickest thing you can find, then you probably want to scream at them that you weren’t always a mother and being a mother isn’t all that you are and, ultimately, you are just you looking after your child as best you can.

The fortunate mothers in this world aren’t hiding in broom cupboards scared of falling short or drinking in secret or pretending this is all they ever wanted or needed. They are doing it all in the open. They’re getting on trains across cities to work. They’re flying to meetings. They’re working night shifts. They’re drowning in laundry. They are fighting every day to balance everything their child needs with what they need. And they’re writing it all down, speaking it out loud and with it, millions of shoulders feel a little less heavy. Their words, their version of motherhood, their stories. Hallelujah to that. And to any mother who receives criticism for how she has done something from someone who has no business to say so, just remember to look down the street, or online, and there will be other mothers, scummy mummies and unmumsy mums and gin-loving mums,  leaving the house with a bat cape on, with cheerios in their hair, chairing meetings, attending school plays, writing presentations, saving lives, teaching other children, taking a bottle of wine out to the recycling and resisting a very slight urge to be sick. They’re doing all of these things.

So what does this have to do with the mummy bloggers who are much maligned by some? What these amazing women are doing is they are saying: You can be both. Just be both. Enjoy your life. Enjoy you and be glad to be you because that’s all your children want or need you to be. Above all, forgive yourself for not being perfect, so that your kids can look up to the happy, confident, joyful, imperfect woman that you were meant to be. To them, you are perfect and when it comes to judging mothers, whose opinion really, really matters?

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Reproduction: Make my stamen go berserk.

Last week the Unmumsy Mum shared a photo that I posted on my Facebook blog page and it ended up on the newsfeed of almost half a million of her Facebook followers. It was a photo I’d taken in my parents garden of a cut down tree that resembled Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man with a big willy. On hearing about my Facebook fame, my Dad went out into the garden the very next day and chopped poor Dick Man into six pieces. I don’t think it’s quite what he hoped for his 43-year-old daughter.

I’m someone who can’t hear the word “reproduction” without bursting into song: “Reproduction! Reproduction! Make my stamen go berserk, Reproduction!  I don’t think they even know what a pistil is, I’ve got your pistil right here… (deep voice)…”where does the pollen go?” (from Grease 2, see the link at the bottom of this post. You’re welcome).

Last week the Unmumsy Mum shared a photo that I posted on my Facebook blog page and it ended up on the newsfeed of almost half a million of her Facebook followers. It was a photo I’d taken in my parents garden of a cut down tree that resembled Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man with a big willy. On hearing about my Facebook fame, my Dad went out into the garden the next day and chopped poor Dick Man into six pieces. I don’t think it’s quite what he had hoped for from his 43-year-old daughter.

The point is, I can be the most childish, puerile person when it comes to sex and bodily functions. But the one thing I’ve noticed amongst some otherwise open, intelligent parents is an embarrassment and fear of answering questions about where babies come from. I can’t help but feel that this is insane. We tell them that the Easter bunny brings eggs, a tiny fairy brings money for their teeth and a fat man in a cheap red velour suit brings presents down a chimney. And that’s before we’ve started on the tales that the church tell. We let them watch sheep give birth at farms and we marvel at pregnant spiders. But over the matter of how WE are created, of the miracle of reproduction, it’s shameful to reduce yourself to a quivering, embarrassed wreck. It’s the one time you need to step up.

An initial embarrassed or disapproving response to questions of sexuality and biological changes is perhaps natural, but it’s important to get a grip. I keep reading people’s blog posts or overhearing conversations in which parents are “dreading” the questions, or unable to think how to explain it all. You are parents. You DID it. Just tell it simply, biologically, and say it’s something grown ups do. With each other. Now is not the time to deny that your child has bits and bobs, winkies, foofs, willy-bobs, whatever you want to call them and that they are there for other reasons than to pee in a potty. Denial, shame or disapproval could shape how they feel about this fact. If sex is portrayed as a taboo, off-limits topic or even just plain embarrassing, what happens if a child is in danger of or actually being abused? Being told to keep a little secret is a LOT easier if the secret is something you know the adult carers in your life are themselves unhappy talking about.

I believe calmness and openness with a sprinkle of humour is the best way to keep your children happy, healthy and safe. WW took matters into his own hands recently and concocted something about fishes and eggs. The boy BUBs now constantly accuse one another of kicking each other in their little fish tanks.

The details will come out as they get older and the fundamentals can be spruced up with a dollop of fairytale. I think what’s important is how you respond to their funny, awkward little questions. They can be funny and awkward, you need to be a grown up. I aim to make them feel that they can ask me anything. I let them know it’s a perfectly normal part of life as an adult and until they get to that point in their life, something I am happy to talk about whenever they want to, and for whatever reason.

Rather than something to cough and splutter through, it might be the most important grown up conversation you ever have.

Now just sit back and enjoy this…