Last week I talked a lot about vagina anxiety and the unknown of getting back to “normal” but it’s not just my vagina, I want to feel normal again. Maybe even a bit cool so I can fit back in to my old London stomping ground. But I’m a Mum now. And the only cool in my life seems to be the temperature of my baby’s feet in a footless babygrow…
Before I start, I feel I should caveat this post for the purposes of people that know me, who will be sat there thinking “she was never cool! How deluded is this woman?!” She was a geek! The cool I talk about is “my cool”. The version of myself when I actually feel good. When I actually style an outfit, pair coordinating accessories with matching shoes; where I get dressed up and go out for the day feeling sexy and confident; strutting into bar and ordering a drink with a smile on my face surveying the other people, checking out their faces and outfits; cracking jokes and laughing with people I’ve not met before; having no worries, just being and feeling cool. Basically all the things I definitely don’t feel after I have a baby.
A child-free friend of mine was telling me the other day about a night out with her sister, who has a baby roughly the same age as my Girly no2 (9 months). She had spent hours before their night out jollying her sister along to get her out of the door and drunk. She described how her sister didn’t know what to wear, then she didn’t like her outfit, then that her make up felt tired, then that her shoes were too high. Then when it came to leave she had a wobble and didn’t want to go – they were off out in London to be surrounded by beautiful, young cool kids. “I know exactly how she feels” I answered emphatically, knowing that my friend didn’t really understand and was probably a little annoyed at having to give her so much encouragement when she should just be grateful for being out. I recognised every feeling from my own first big night(s) out after having no1, and then I went through it again with no2. It wasn’t any easier the second time around, other than that I was expecting the discomfort – though I think that made it worse. London seems to be much worse than a night out in your local pub. Even having lived in London for 7 or so years, it feels intimidating. At 8 and three quarters months pregnant, we moved back to Hampshire where we had both grown up. It was totally the right decision for us, I love bringing our babies up surrounded by green, near parks, lakes, beaches and lots of other families. Plus being near their grandparents is vital, for their sakes, and ours. We wouldn’t get out at all if it wasn’t for them! But lots of our life is still in London – friends, work and things we enjoy doing. It means that we regularly go back. The difference now though is that I don’t feel the same there. I don’t feel quite cool enough to fit into London now. Whilst I’m not officially a country bumpkin and I haven’t quite got to the “that big bad city” feeling whereby I need to plan my journey to the end, don my walking boots and walk round with the tube map on a clipboard, I can’t just waltz in feeling like a Londoner now. I even haven’t got an Oyster card, even though they’re all but redundant now contactless cards exist. I feel like my clothes don’t fit right, even though anything goes up there. My make up feels weird on my face, even though you can be a 60-year old man in drag and people won’t gawp. I feel like I use the wrong words, even though I know that there is every nationality you could imagine, it’s like an after party at the Olympic Village, there is no common vernacular. I feel I have nothing exciting to talk about because the most exciting place I went this week is the soft play with the cow print slide, even though I know my friends and family think what I am doing is exciting in itself. The truth is that it’s not really about cool, about London, about the people or the outfit, it’s about me having changed and not quite knowing how to be cool with myself anymore. It’s hard when your life is so dramatically different to how it used to be. A few weeks ago I took the girlies to a baby dance class. The first part wasn’t so bad. We sat on the floor, picked out fluffy toys and sang the corresponding nursery rhyme. A little cringey when there are only two other adults in the room and you can her your own trodden-on-cat-like singing voice, but it’s do-able. Then we got to the one about the elephant and his nose and his knees and we had to stand up and do this weird dance. I should add here that we were in a glass-fronted foyer of a church where people regularly walk by. As we were bending down to touch our toes exposing our muffin-top mum tums in the worst possible way, a group of teenagers walked by in their uniforms and I just wanted to run and hide in the toilets. I imagined them all pointing and laughing and was taken back to being 13 and a Kicker-clad classmate asking me if I was still bought my shoes in Clarke’s. It was a foot stomp too far from cool for me. At 35 years old, and a mother of two, I am well aware that this is ridiculous. Singing and dancing for your children is cool, it’s exactly what they love. And I love doing it too. In my house. With no one watching. We love a kitchen disco. I just can’t bring myself to do the elephant stomp in front of see-through walls and a group of teenagers.
As well as high waisted jeans, 4-inch heels and denim shorts with at least a finger lengths fabric either side of the gusset, I am no longer cool in lots of other ways. My purse has trebled in size – I need somewhere to put my Sparks, Advantage, Nectar, Body Shop and JoJo loyalty cards. I always carry a pack of tissues and some antibacterial hand spray – especially if in London! I have a paper diary to keep track of everyone’s commitments. I have a rain coat. I only wear thongs if I have to. I listen to radio 2, and embarrassingly, I enjoy some parts of Jeremy Vine’s show. Sister can list a load more things, as she thoroughly enjoys reminding me of all the ways I am no longer cool. I try and hang on to some shred of my old life with the little things. I keep up my Grazia subscription, even though I only read one in four. I always have a pedicure when my toenails need doing. I have a limited edition print pram. I have a handbag-looking changing bag (Storksak obvs!). I have Hunters with laces down the front for jumping in muddy puddles. And I only go the baby groups that I can bear…mum and baby yoga, swimming and baby sensory. Although even this last one breaches my new cool limits sometimes. I can’t help but feel like an idiot singing to a fluffy duck whilst my baby frowns and then looks the other way. Life is different now though. My need to be practical and fit in with my babies wildly outweighs my desire to be cool. The changes in me aren’t a negative, they just make it that little bit harder for me to be like I used to. I was reminded of this when my child-free friend asked me a few weeks ago, as she has for every festival we have been to together, which outfits I was taking to Latitude. It hit me like a bus that I didn’t even know what I had packed for myself, but I did know that I had 4 packs of wet wipes, a clean bed sheet for every night and up to four layers for each of the girls’ bed time outfits. For me I assumed it was the same stuff I normally wore to roll around on the grass in and maybe an extra necklace and a ring or two. When I opened my suitcase, I was right. I was in no danger of escaped pubic hairs sticking out of my too-short-shorts and nor would I suffer a ripped ear lobe from an irresistibly dangly earring. Practical but not cool.
I have accepted that there is a new cool me now. It’s remarkably different to the one from before. It no longer matters whether I go to Brownies or whether I’m playing Roll With It or House In The Country. I can’t remember the last time anyone questioned me on my jeans then sneered, apart from that time I told my Husband how much they actually cost of course. There will always be a new cider I don’t recognise and can’t pronounce in a bar in London, and I might be a bit behind the trend on which shade of ash blonde my hair should be, but there are ways of blending Mum cool with London cool, it just takes a bit of figuring out. Finding the things that really matter is the first step – mine is my feet, a vague awareness of current fashion trends and the odd accessory that makes me feel self-indulgent. Not worrying about it is the next one. But I’m not sure that will happen until the cool kids of Brick Lane start doing the elephant stomp.
Thanks for taking time out to read this! As usual, I really love to hear from you. Reactions, thoughts, inspirations or even wild disagreements and accusations of lunacy. Please share below or over on my Facebook page. Love love!