Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The One Where The Grass Isn't Always Greener But You Should Still Try New Things

Apparently there's advantages to having children when you're young (and by young I mean having at least one before you're 30). People bleat on about energy and "pinging back into shape" and other such nauseating banalities. What is never mentioned though is that you do miss out on things that aren't important in the grand scheme of things but that are Just Fun. And while of course you would never be without your offspring once they're there, sometimes you can't help but feel a little cheated.

I say you. I mean me but you may very well feel the same.

During my twenties, while my care free friends were in a seemingly non stop whirl of parties, going to clubs, hangovers, disastrous dates, flushes of first lust/love/whatever, lazy weekend brunches and last minute holidays, I was changing nappies and reading When Hippos Go Berserk on a loop [actually, everyone should read Hippos... because it's just a jolly good book] and fretting about school admissions and mortgages and Other Grown Up Stuff. I wasn't supposed to be doing those things but I did and to be honest, The Daughter and The Hairy Baby are the very best things that I've ever done so I didn't really notice that I sometimes minded that I was spending "the best years of my life" doing these things.

Apart from the times when I did and then such ridiculous self pitying occurred that could only be solved by a cry in the bath, some gin and then telling myself to get over it. It's so easy to romanticise what you don't have that it didn't occur to me that my friends were having the same thoughts about me. I had children and a mortgage on a decent sized house and a stable relationship - things that can seem mythically unattainable, especially when you're bombarded by magazines and newspapers warning that mortgages are impossible to get now and women are leaving it too late to have children and all sorts of other nonsense. It wasn't until one of my so called carefree friends confided that she was scared she'd never have the things I had that I realised we all suffer from bouts of Green Grass Syndrome. Of course we do. If you boil it all down, life is a competition and if someone else seems to be having a better time at it then you want what they have.

Like in 'When Harry Met Sally'. You know.

But here's the thing. Parenthood doesn't stop you doing the Fun Stuff. It's all too easy to be sucked into a rut - or routine as all the parenting books will coo at you - and to lose sight of yourself as an actual person. Not Mummy. Not someone's wife/girlfriend/partner. You. The person that exists alongside all of these other personas. The person that these personas wouldn't be without it existing. I acknowledge that I am incredibly lucky to have family nearby who are quite willing to take the girls if needed and incredibly lucky to have The Hairy Drummer who recognises that I'm entitled to time out to go and do the things I want to do same as he has the time out to go and do the things he wants to do [except when he has gigs in the borough of Westminster Council and their laughable decibel limit that he would break on his own].

Which is why I joined a choir. Leicestershire Rainbow Voices were nothing but welcoming and Tuesday practices have become a highlight of my week, never mind the fact that we did a performance in London which was frightening and exhilarating. I'd never sung in a choir before and the only singing I did in public was in the safety of karaoke with friends and fuelled by cocktails. But I said yes to being invited along instead of trying to find excuses why I couldn't or shouldn't go. And yesterday I went along to a swing dancing class that a friend suggested. My style of dancing can accurately be described as Indie Girl Indifference - in fact The Daughter's father has long joked I only have one move and just adapt it to the beat. He's not wrong. I'd done dancing lessons before but not for years and the fear of tripping over my own feet or standing on peoples toes was real. But I said yes and I went and it was brilliant fun. So much so that I stayed on for the more advanced class even though I was completely hopeless. The best thing was that everyone was nice and encouraging. 

There's a fear that people will laugh at you for thinking that you can do these things, that you're an over the hill mother going through some sort of crisis and really, shouldn't you be at home with the children because you had your time for fun. And there's also the fear for the socially awkward like me that you won't have anything of interest to say and everyone will think you're dull and not worth being friends with. But people are generally quite nice if you want to give something a go. And everyone finds it a little difficult to make friends. It's not like at school when a mutual liking of Fraggle Rock and pink wafer biscuits was all it took.

Willing to take that step outside your comfort zone and onto the greener grass shows that all grass is green really. You just have to take the first step to make it so.

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