When I announced I was pregnant with my firstborn, my parents exclaimed:
“Who would have thought you would have children, you’re not exactly the maternal type.”
And when I eventually married the father of my children, they were equally astounded,
“We didn’t think you were the marrying kind.”
To be fair, I’d never openly expressed a desire for either motherhood or marriage, but without getting too sentimental about my love for my children and my husband, let me state for the record, that I am very happy I did become a mother and wife…even though I don’t have quite what it takes to be either:
I can barely boil an egg without referring to a cookbook. I love good food, but I hate cooking with a passion.
Luckily, my husband used to be a chef and loves nothing more than to labour for hours in the kitchen before serving up the most delicious meals. Otherwise, our children would have to subsist on fish fingers and pasta. I’ll happily clean up the kitchen afterward, but please don’t ask me to peel any carrots.
I’m quite good at making coffee, however, and my husband and I take turns making cappuccinos in the morning. I’m not much of a tea drinker, though, and I’m definitely not the person you’d want to make you tea, yet sometimes my husband still asks to make him a “nice cup of tea.”
“Why?” I ask, “would you ever want me to make tea for you when you’re infinitely better at it? Make your own tea, damn it.”
And don’t get me started on baking. To my endless frustration, the kids’ school loves to organise cake sales throughout the year, and mums are expected to contribute home-baked goodies. Unless I can talk my husband or babysitter into baking something, I head to the nearest shop, buy lots of cookies that I remove from their packaging and place in a used ice-cream tub. It looks as home-baked as can be.
I’ve had a driver’s licence since I was twenty and in my youth, I used to drive frequently, albeit in countries where they drive on the correct (i.e. right) side of the road. While expecting my first child, I took a few driving lessons in London to get a feel for what it’s like driving in this mad city, but since we lived centrally enough, we didn’t need a car.
Two years ago, however, we moved further out, and when my husband started talking about buying a car, I realised just how petrified I was of driving in London. I made all sorts of excuses for not having a car: the kids needed to learn to find their way around London on public transport, walking is good exercise, not having a car is an eco-friendly choice, etc.
Meanwhile, my use of mini cabs was becoming a serious threat to our finances, and recently I finally conceded that it’s time to buy a car if only my husband and I can agree on what kind. He seems to believe that the bigger the car, the safer the children will be when I’m in the driver’s seat. I, on the other hand, am convinced that the smaller the car, the better. Besides, most London streets are not designed for SUVs; they were made for horse and cart.
As for supporting my children’s extra-curricular development, I must confess I’ve never taken them to tennis lessons, their knowledge of the Swedish language – my mother tongue – is mediocre, and we gave up on piano practice years ago.
I’ve banned them both from even attempting the violin because I can’t stand the noise; the youngest daughter does take guitar lessons at school, but if it weren’t for her dad forcing her to practice, she’d never pick up the guitar at home.
What’s non-negotiable, however, is the children’s swimming lessons. They are both good swimmers and only in exceptional cases (illness mainly) do I allow them to miss a lesson.
Beyond that, I quite like them to choose for themselves what activities they want to commit to. What they’ve chosen thus far is martial arts (younger daughter) and sewing (older daughter). I know next to nothing about either, but judging by their happiness and commitment, I believe they’ve chosen well.
I’m no tiger mother, and if there’s one thing I believe, it is this: as long as my kids are reasonably happy and doing something they love, they’ll be alright.