Back when I was a cocky student, my friend Catherine and I used to sigh dramatically when a mum-pushing-a-buggy blocked the way as we tried to shop for things we couldn’t afford in Fenwicks, Tunbridge Wells. “You know, I think when you have a baby, a part of your brain actually drops out,” Catherine would say, while I sniggered. “Why else would you ram your buggy into people, take forever to get out of a lift, or stare into space when people are trying to edge past you in a café?”
But rather than part of your brain dropping out, I now know, of course, that when you become a mum, your brain is crammed with so much extra information that it actually swells in size* (*this might not be a medical fact). And 16 months after having a child, I can boast many new skills that my sneering 19-year-old self could only dream of having. (My 19-year-old self, by the way, had a really terrible haircut. My flatmates called me “Alan” for a whole year, thanks to the over eager scissor skills of one Toni & Guy stylist.)
5 skills I’ve developed since becoming a mum:
- Functioning – nay being bloody brilliant – through extreme tiredness. Unlike when I was in my mid 20s (when a 2am wine-fuelled session meant all I’d be fit for the following day would be watching Hollyoaks from the sofa, eating Birdseye Potato Waffles) I can now get through the day with a smile on my face, powered by adrenalin and the thought of a 7.05pm glass of wine.
- Knowing all the words to the Chuggington theme tune. Don’t laugh – it’s a proper skill. The CBeebies animation about the activities of trainee chuggers Wilson, Brewster and Koko, is on every day (more than once if you count Badge Quest) and I’m proud that I can sing along, word for word, to the delight of the little ‘un.
- Starting conversations with strangers. Take today, for example. In the checkout queue at Sainsbury’s, my child was having a whine in the trolley, so as a means of distraction, I pointed to the child-in-trolley at the neighbouring checkout and said, “Look how well behaved that little boy is being!” The result was a successful distraction (my child proceeded to stare and wave at the well behaved boy) while the mother chatted to me about how she usually has two sons with her, so today was a relatively easy supermarket trip.
- Creating meals out of nowhere. Been too busy to go to the supermarket? Don’t stress. I can magic up a toddler meal from just baked beans, cooked ham, mini breadsticks and frozen peas. Yep, all the major food groups, right there. Take that, Annabel Karmel.
- Being nonjudgmental. (Hmm, OK, you got me, what I actually mean is not sharing my judgmental thoughts.) Parenting is probably the first time in most people’s lives that there are a gazillion ways of doing everything, and everyone thinks their way is the best way. I’ve become brilliant at nodding and smiling, when a fellow mum says something like, “Yes, so Chloe was playing with some wires by the TV when the cat jumped on her!” (Inside, I’m screaming silently, ‘You let your child play with wires?! What’s wrong with you? Somebody lock you up!’)