Sorry. I just really wanted to use the phrase "going to hell in a handcart." It is surely the best thing anyone has ever said, ever. I mean, THE IMAGES.
Anyway, back to the point, I am talking about how, as a parent, you become endlessly obsessed with how good or otherwise a parent you appear to others.
Comments like "ooh you've got your figure back OK then" suddenly turn into conclusive proof of one's motherly virtue, rather than the result of random chance and genetic good fortune; but on the flip side, any recognition of such on the part of self, such as my sheer unbridled joy at being able to fit into an American Apparel bodycon dress three weeks after the birth, are swiftly turned into evidence for the prosecution at the trial of Worst Mother Ever; defendant: Me ("HOW THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO FEED HIM IN THAT????")
Today I left work at 3.30pm, such as has become the custom, and was happily bounding along towards the train station with a sleeping Piglet in his pram, when I bumped into someone from work. Now the only polite things to say to me at the train station are: a) "Well done! I heard you can now pick up that pushchair WITH THE BABY IN IT and carry it up an entire flight of stairs! You are surely the world's most accomplished mother. And a seasoned traveller of the London Underground, at that! You are a LEGEND in these parts!" and b) "Would you like a hand getting that pushchair up the steps?" However, given that this was somebody from work who I don't know all that well, the conversation was far more likely to take a turn along the lines of, (*peers into pram, feigning interest*) "Ooh what a cute baby. Are you enjoying being back at work?"
The only acceptable answer to the above question, of course, is no.
It is sometimes acceptable to admit that it is rather nice to have the pleasure of conversing with actual adults once in a while, and that it is still a pleasing novelty to be getting dressed in the morning into something other than a pair of ill-fitting and tragically see-through Primark leggings, but let's face it, if I turned around and answered that I was LOVING being back at work and pursuing my career like a wanton career-bitch superwoman in a shoulder-padded power suit, I would almost certainly be cast out forever from the motherly fold.
And so it was that I decided to sit on the fence and answer, "well, er, it's OK."
"Ha! That means NO!" cackled Person From Work, as she walked off.
It was at that point that I realised that she had not actually asked me how I was finding being back at work, but how I was finding "it" in general.
So maybe by "it" she meant, like, MOTHERHOOD.
OH MY GOD I HAVE BASICALLY JUST TOLD THIS WOMAN THAT I HATE BEING A MOTHER. I am surely now damned for eternity to burn in the deepest pit of Hell.
No matter how many times I tried to console myself with the true fact that it does not matter even one jot what someone from work thinks about my suitability or lack thereof to be a Holy Mother, I couldn't escape the image of other, more experienced mothers at work laughing and pointing behind my back about how they knew all along that I wasn't cut out to be a parent, much like I imagined my own mother did when she told me that she hadn't expected me to be a good mother as I was too concerned with "Going Out And Getting Dressed Up." In clothing from American Apparel, no less. THE SHAME!
I am now going to have to track down this woman at work tomorrow and do some sort of penance for my accidental apparent lack of glowing motherliness.
I'm pretty sure that the Duchess of Cambridge doesn't have this problem. And I bet she never has to carry a pushchair up a flight of stairs either.
*I don't really hate being a parent by the way. It's great, honestly.