What’s the best thing about being a mother? The unconfined joy of bringing a new life into the world, perhaps, or the excitement of watching your little one learn to walk, talk and become their own person? It might be hard work a lot of the time, but motherhood isn’t short of heart-melting, life-affirming moments.
But what about the other good stuff; the little perks of the job that are motherhood’s unsung benefits? I’m thinking of the parent and child parking space that makes your exit from the supermarket with a tantruming toddler that much easier, or, after two hours of chasing your child around the departure lounge, the airline’s call for families with young children to board the plane early. No-one really talks about them, but these little treats go some way to make up for the sleepless nights or stressful school runs:
Parent and child parking spaces – as someone who would have trouble parking properly in an empty field, parent and child parking spaces have been a revelation for me. All that extra space for manoeuvring in and out! And that’s before you’ve even looked at how close you are to the shop. Have you seen? You’ve practically parked in the shop! Amazing. I’m already dreading the day that I can’t justifiably park in the parent and child area anymore and have to revert to the tiny spaces at the back of the car park. At that point I may have to start taking the bus.
Getting a seat on the tube/bus (maybe) – There’s no guarantee of course, commuters being what they are. But being pregnant gives you the best chance you’ll ever have of experiencing kindness on public transport.
Nine months of lovely hair and skin (maybe) – Not everyone experiences the infamous pregnancy glow; some of us are burdened by sickness and piles, reflux and stretch marks. But those that do will have the softest hair and clearest skin they’ve ever had. No beauty product can come close to having the effect of the pregnancy hormones. Once the baby arrives, of course, it’s a different story altogether.
Access to a diet that really works (possibly) – Forget the 5:2 diet, Dukan and Atkins; the breastfeeding ‘diet’ really works. And the best thing is that you really can eat what you want. It doesn’t work for everyone, but breastfeeding is the only time in my life that I’ve been able to eat lots of cake and still lose weight.
Being able to go on maternity leave – Maternity leave is definitely not a holiday, and anyone who suggests that it is should be made to spend a week at home with only a newborn for company. It’s hard work. But it can be fun too, as long as you’re not too knackered to enjoy it. On sunny days, there’s nothing better than a walk in the park with the buggy. Even if the baby’s bawling, it’s better than being stuck at a desk.
An excuse to duck out – Want to get out of an awkward conversation with the in-laws or leave your other half to deal with the builder? Use your child as an excuse. The baby needs feeding or changing/the toddler is desperate for the loo/the boy needs a snack; once you’re a mother, there’s no end to the reasons you can dream up to excuse yourself and do something more enjoyable instead.
An excuse to stay in – If you don’t fancy going out, you’ve now got the perfect excuse. Claim that you can’t a babysitter, that the baby has a temperature (if your conscience allows – beware of tempting fate) or that you’re just too tired. Use with caution, however, as you may wake up in five years’ time to discover that your children have a better social life than you.
A way to make friends – And speaking of friends, having children is a brilliant way to make new ones. At the park, soft play or the school gate, you’ll find like-minded mothers happy to chat and keen to find someone to drink coffee with while the kids play or drink wine with on the odd child-free evening off.
A chance to revisit the films and TV shows you used to love – There’s something a bit tragic about a 30-something watching Mary Poppins on their own, but put a toddler in the room and it’s okay. Likewise Toy Story, Postman Pat and all those other things you secretly quite enjoy watching.
Using the lift – Once you’re pushing a buggy, you’ve got the perfect reason to bypass the steep stairs or crowded escalator and let the lift do the hard work instead.
Bypassing the huge queue for the loos – We probably waste hours of our lives in the queue for the ladies, but you can claw back some time during the baby years by heading straight for the disabled loo with the baby changing.
Getting to go to fun places and do fun things – Always fancied going to Legoland or harboured a secret desire to head to Disneyland? Have a baby! At some point they’ll be old enough for you to drag there on the pretence that you’re doing them a favour. And while you might occasionally miss your old life, when Sundays were spent on the sofa snoozing off the hangover in front of the TV, you’ll probably be too busy enjoying yourself at the park or the adventure playground to give it much thought. Christmas, halloween, Easter and bonfire night are also a lot more effort but a lot more fun, too, once children are involved.
Exciting snacks and abundant Easter eggs – Resist if you can, but most parents I know have at least one shelf, if not an entire cupboard, of snacks and treats in the kitchen ‘for the children’. But after a long morning of toddler taming, that emergency packet of chocolate buttons might just find its way into your mouth (behind the cover of the cupboard door, of course). And then there’s the Easter eggs. Relatives will kindly buy chocolate eggs for your four-month-old which they can’t possibly eat. Ah well, their loss is your gain.
Boarding the plane early (without having to pay for the privilege) – there’s very little to recommend travelling with children, especially when they’re young. Car journeys are bad enough, what with the endless ‘are we nearly there yet?’ and expensive emergency service station stops for snacks and loo breaks. But travelling by plane is even worse. Airports have the same effect on little boys as a pint of Coca Cola would, turning them into spinning balls of excitement. So by the time you’ve reached the departure gate, you’re knackered and wondering whether this was a good idea at all. Thank goodness, then, for the rare act of generosity that is the airlines letting families on board early. It’s a good job, too, because it means you’ve got a fighting chance of finding space in the overhead lockers for your umpteen hand luggage bags and carriers full of panic-bought comics and extra snacks.
Having someone in your life who thinks you are absolutely the best person in the world (even if they won’t always admit it) – You might look and feel terrible but, to your little one, you’re the most beautiful and funny person in the world. Even if they rarely admit it, you’ve got your own little fan club. And what could be better than that?