“What’s Izzy’s mum called again?” I whispered loudly to my friend, as Izzy’s mum exited after a changing mat chat on weaning several weeks into term two of baby swimming. “Err… I’ve no idea” came the hesitant answer. Long pauses, raised shoulders and blank, embarrassed faces provided no clues from others. Nobody, it turned out, knew Izzy’s mum’s name.
Why is it so much easier to remember the baby’s name than the mum’s, I pondered. Because this is, without a doubt, the reality of attending baby groups. It dawned on me in this moment that I had unwittingly morphed into simply being “little G’s mum”, an essential and inseparable appendage to the main show.
Now the pre-mum me, the professional thirty-something with an adventurous streak that scoffed at maternal instinct, would have been truly horrified by this situation. Maternity leave, I fondly imagined, offered the time away from work that would open my horizons to new learning and hobbies, and transform me into an all-knowing, multi-talented super-mum. I would develop interests in areas I had never previously expressed any interest at all, for the sake of breeding a talented and worldly child. My Personal Development Plan for the year thus had wide-ranging goals: renovate my rusty A-level French, dig deep to find some earth mother and grow our own vegetables, improve my swimming to compete in a triathlon, and learn to play the guitar that has sat in the corner of the living room for 5 years.
As it happens, my super-mum goals remain resoundingly unmet at the 6 month mark. But in the post-swimming moment I realised that the only goal that matters to me now is raising a happy, healthy baby who knows unconditional love. Because now I am mum, I understand this. And so my previous horror was replaced by a nod, smile, and a warm, contented pride that little G and I were seen as so inseparable to the world. I am little G's mum.