Mum: it's such an incredibly short word for such a huge job, so what does it really mean? When I sit down and think about all the new skills I've learnt since the arrival of the little man in December, I realise in becoming a Mum, I've also become the following job roles:
Psychic / Translator
Typical of all babies, our little man was born speaking a different language and as neither hubby nor I were fluent in 'waaa', we had to tap into our psychic powers pretty quickly. With experience, I am learning what each cry means and translation is getting easier.
However, the trickster has recently found his voice and now started to talk in some form of baby gibberish. Despite my honed psychic ability I have no idea what he is saying, so I've decided to behave like a cliched Brit abroad and speak to him slower and louder and wait for him to learn my language instead.
During the early days, little man would stay awake just long enough to stuff his face before going back to sleep. As the weeks went by he started to sleep less and it quickly became apparent I need to keep him entertained.
Desperate to keep my audience happy, I'm constantly building on my repertoire. It started off with face pulling and talking in an higher octave. It's now evolved to me animating toys, comedy acts, singing and full on dance routines.
Nursery rhymes are a favourite, though not always accurate. It was only when I'd started Incy Wincy Spider with full frenzy that I realised I had no idea how it ended. Turns out, it's not the only nursery rhyme I've forgotten, but I've found if I sing 'dodedodedo' or 'bumabumbabum' convincingly in the same tune I can get away with it.
Unlike all the others, the role of entertainer is reciprocal. Even if we are not playing or 'chatting' I am happy just watch him sleep. He has me in stitches and makes my heart melt - he can keep me entertained for hours.
Hazardous Waste Disposer
This is a role I've had to learn quickly. From the first fumbles of changing a nappy, I've now got this down to pit-stop standards.
Despite no hazmat suit being provided, I'm now fully proficient and qualified to deal with poonamis of epic proportion. However, I have noticed that throughout these types of clean up operation, the situation is always made worse before it is better. Why haven't they invented baby vests that you put on feet first and then pull up? That way, during a bio-hazard attack, you can pull the soiled vest down rather than over their head, which ultimately ends up with the toxic waste being smeared up their back and in their hair as you wrestle to get the offending item off them.
It's quite daunting that for the first few years of little man's life we are solely responsible for his education. Reading Mr Bump and Where's Bear to him is bound to be a good foundation - but then what? I find myself thinking about the words I'm using in front of him to broaden his vocabulary. What else should we be teaching him? Is there a syllabus we should be following? Should he know about the political situation in Kenya? Or, as we are doing at the moment, is saying Hello to him over and over again going to help him with his path to Oxford or Cambridge?
Initially in this new role, I diagnosed every single cough, sneeze or splutter as a debilitating disease that was sure to have a drastic impact on our little man. Now, with training and time I think I've calmed down and I'm starting to gain a mother's instinct for these things. Though, according to my husband, I'm still slightly neurotic.
Obviously everything our precious angel does must be captured and recorded for all time. New outfit? Photo. Doing something cute? Photo. Did he blink? Photo.
Back in the day when you had to pay for film and wait to get the photos developed you thought carefully about each picture taken and the camera only came out on special occasions.
Now, the only thing that is stopping me from taking thousands of photos is the amount of storage I have in my iCloud account (which I have increased already!)
And of course, all these photos must be shared because quite frankly who wouldn't want to be bombarded with photos of our offspring?
I quickly discovered that you will very rarely get a concrete, definitive response on practically any question you will ask about your new baby (and you will ask a lot of questions). All responses were basically 'every baby / situation is different' and 'you will find what is best for you'. In the early days as first time parents, this is somewhat lacking the decisive reassurance you are desperately craving when you feel out of your depth.
So I turned to books, friends, family, forums and the Internet to research anything and everything baby related. I then digested each piece of information, summarised and accepted that of course every baby is different. Now I've settled into my role as a Mum, and with a bit of experience behind me, I continue to research so I can develop my own parental style: informed winging it.
Physiotherapist / Fitness Instructor
The lack of muscle tone in our little man is shocking. He really did let himself go during his first nine months in the womb. Now he's out, my role is to help him get into shape with frequent baby massages and tummy time. Perhaps this should become my new profession because after a few weeks training he can probably plank better than me.
Personal Shopper / Dresser
The role of Personal Shopper started a few months before his arrival (who can resist buying tiny cute outfits?) He has just moved up to the next size bracket so further shopping is required for his Spring / Summer collection. Apparently sleepsuites are still on vogue - he's such a diva.
The role of dresser comes with it's own challenges. In the early days it was trying to overcome the fear of fracturing him every time I tried to pull his arm through a sleeve. Now, as he grows and becomes stronger, trying to get him dressed can be compared to wrestling an octopus into a straight jacket.
Bath times with a newborn are fun. When I say fun, I mean terrifying. Is the water too hot / too cold? If the bubbles go in his eyes will he get pinkeye? Will he be poisoned if he accidentally drinks some of the water? And there is the actual handling of him. His skin is so soft and smooth that when wet he is slipperier than a greased weasel. This role at the moment remains a two man operation.
Then there's his nails. Until now, apart from taking him for his first immunisations, cutting his nails is probably the most nerve-racking thing I've had to do to him. His fingers and toes are so tiny, one slip with the scissors and I'll be the cause of his nickname 'stumpy' for the rest of his life.
I know as the little man grows new roles will come and go. Some jobs will become easier, some harder, but I look forward to years of continued training for being a Mum. After all, it is the best job in the world.
Happy Mother's Day to all the other Waste Disposers, Researchers and Teachers out there.