[Disclaimer: I am going to write about my kids a lot on this blog. Like, alotalot.]
There was this moment, when my eldest, Leila, was younger. I’d just been to the chemist for some calpol, and was heading back to the car when I caught sight of myself in a window: slightly frazzled expression; North Face-style bulky anorak; skinny jeans tucked into brown, riding-esque knee high boots; calpol in one hand, carseat in the other; about to get into my VW estate.
Let us deconstruct some elements of this ‘look’. The jacket I had bought for work (filming) only but had ended up wearing all the time, what with it being waterproof (good for the daily nap walks, and if you’ve ever had a baby you know what I’m talking about). The car: not sexy. But reliable and spacious! The calpol: well, as delicious as it is, it wasn’t for me and spoke of sleepless nights and squalling. Hence the frazzled expression.
I was, I realised, a Mum. I still felt like a girl who had thus far managed to trick the world into entrusting her with the care of a real human child; but I looked like (and perhaps… actually was?) a capital-letter Mum. A full-blown, grown-up, ordered-in-from-Central-Casting, Mum. I was the woman politicians try to woo with their talk of ‘hard working families’ (blech), the one who some pity, some envy, and some just find intensely boring. The one who talks about sleep (oh, endlessly) and sick. Closer inspection would probably have revealed some actual sick somewhere on my clothes; and a toy sheep and a few smashed breadsticks in my handbag.
Shit. When did THAT happen? Not the breadsticks. The Mum thing.
Crucial to this picture were the boots. They were, they are- it cannot be denied- Mum Boots. Heeled enough to avoid clompiness, not so heeled that I will tumble into the road whilst carrying a squirming toddler. Classic rather than high-fashion, because what with childcare costs and working part-time and having to buy things for the kid (now kids), I’ll only cough up for boots I can wear for many winters to come- and something tells me the snakeskin-bondage style I saw in Grazia won’t endure the fickle tides of fashion. From Clarks (nuff said).
Yes, cast your eyes downward at the playgroup or school gates and you’ll see a swarm, a veritable stampede, of similar boots.
And this is, so I gather, A Bad Thing.
Whilst checking if this blog name was already in use, I unearthed several threads on-yes- Mumsnet, posted by women concerned that their new boots were Mum Boots. Woe betide the woman who wears Mum Boots. And, worse, apparently the tucking in of the jeans into the boots is intensely Mum-ish (me, I labour under the idea that it makes my legs look thinner ; maybe that’s why it’s Mum-ish).
Because another defining feature of the ‘Mum’ of today is a cringing self-consciousness, a horror of being put into a pigeon hole- which inevitably she will be (just read the Daily Mail: old mums, teen mums, working mums, breastfeeding mums, mums who drink… In they go, into their boxes, come along dears), a desire to not be defined as that which, probably/hopefully she once longed to be and which brings her immense joy.
But why this aversion to defining ourselves as mothers? Yes, I do want to be seen as myself, as well as a mother. But to me, the two aren’t separate. I don’t get the widely held viewpoint that when you have kids, you lose your identity. I no more buy into that than I buy into the idea of your job, or your hair, or your hobbies, or your cat, defining who you are. Having Leila and (since two months ago) my boy Asher, has enriched who I am. And I’d rather define that myself, than keep quiet and let the Daily Mail do it.
So, maybe my boots are not the coolest. But I love my mum boots. I am reclaiming the Mumboots. They are fine boots and I enjoy wearing them, and actually if you look at them without the calpol and the cagoul and the carseat, they are just boots. I’ve worn them to make TV programmes, meet friends, even- on occasion- to go to a bar (kapow!). They are not just Mumboots.
And that, now that I have squeezed every last drop from the metaphor, is why this blog is called Mumboots. Because this blog is largely (but not totally) about the ‘Mum’ part of me, which is, in fact, just me.
Here is where I click the heels of my Mumboots with abandon, where I write about being a parent and parenting and my toddler and my baby and goodbye 50% of potential readers who have now just clicked away.
I’ll write about this quirky little creature, Leila:
And this chunky little beast, Asher:
And a life that veers from ear-splitting shrieky chaos (in which I’m often the one shrieking), to happiness that explodes my heart daily, but is never-to me- boring.
[insert carefully chosen photo of my Mumboots, cleverly taken to make my legs look thinner than they really are].