So When The Flower Gets Taken Out Of My Tummy Yummy, It’s Mummy

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Yummy, It’s Mummy

“Why can’t mothers slide comfortably into middle age?… Why is there such wretched pressure on us to look good all the time?… Why must there be such terror of getting a little messy?” Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of British Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007) (and maybe one day EU President?)

The school holidays are long. One has to imagine that this means I am blown away as my son and his friends disappear down the park on their bikes. But no. I just survived a week of taking my son to Gifted and Talented Summer School at the local high school and picked him up. Now, I really applaud my son for being accepted into this prestigious program, but Jax is pretty much fed up with another week of exposure to the local Yummy Mummies.

Yep – if anyone thought having a baby was all about the baby…let me pop that bubble. Having a baby means you’re constantly on call to look fabulous. Nothing else can. And with people having children later than before… looking fabulous all the time isn’t easy.

It used to be generally agreed that a woman, when domestic contentment arose, should worry less about looking good and more about being good and should move off the stage. This tacit agreement with society was in accordance with the rules of women’s fertility – therefore it was considered the only right and appropriate thing for ‘goods to stop being advertised when the ‘use by’ date has passed.

I remember when I was young how people admired the actress Goldie Hawn, not so much because of her Oscar (for Cactus Flower), but because of the fact that she was still tantalizingly attractive when she was the mother of Oliver and Kate Hudson. It seemed incredible that a 45-year-old woman could have two high school-aged children and be fascinating. Many found it inappropriate for Ms. Hawn to rock her head of long blonde hair, let alone appear in a champagne glass on the cover of Playboy. For months, controversy raged about the role of women of a ‘certain age’ – it was concluded that Ms Hawn was a freak of nature and not the standard for us lesser mortals.

Back then, the general rule was that being sexy belonged to 29 and under… after that, shut the shutters and close up shop. BUT more importantly, when you have kids… Game Over. This was not all bad. A break from unnecessary competition and the boringly complicated work of the female gender was welcomed as a kind of vacation. As un-PC as it sounds, there was actually some truth to the convention that being sexually attractive was a young person’s occupation.

Your twenties are your selfish decade. Freed from the shackles of childhood and still not trapped under the weight of responsibility, there really isn’t much else you can do but invest in yourself. For most women, a large part of that investment is in our physical appearance. And why not… these are the years of the ‘man traps’… it’s always good to cover the bitter pill of commitment with honey. But the work is usually finished by the end of the decade, and when the kids start coming, there aren’t enough hours in the day. Okay, there are those who are lucky enough to have an army of helpers and babysitters – but for most of us mere mortals, it’s non-stop washing and tidying up. It was really nice that no one expected you to look like you just stepped off the catwalk.

Then you could always spot your mother. Practicality was the word that dominated her appearance. Her hair was no longer than her shoulders – practically. She wore a suburban uniform with simple, uncomplicated clothes and little sensible jewelery (if any) – practical. Her shoes were standard 1.5 inch heels comfortable – practical. When she put on make-up, it would just be a light application of powder, a touch of mascara, a brush of mascara – practical. The older the mother, the more practical the uniform became – obviously the older you get the harder it is to keep up with the demands of young children. But the gymnast’s mother or the late prima-grada was always the same. You stop riding the fad train when you use your ovaries… well, they weren’t called OVERies for nothing. And society has given you permission to get off the bandwagon – after all, you’re a mother now. It REALLY wasn’t about YOU anymore.

And then… a cosmic event happened. The 30-something British actress was photographed walking on Hampstead Heath. She looked radiantly beautiful… and in front of her was a baby carriage with a little girl named Gracie in it. The child was hers…and the paparazzi were stunned. Anna Friel took a break from her acting career to become a parent… and there she is… looking good… actually more than that… she looked better than she did before she had kids. Desperate for a caption under this world-shattering photo, Fleet Street’s associate editor named it after the children’s breakfast cereal, and thus the phrase Yummy Mum was born.

From that moment on, the luxury of looking exhausted from running around after the kids all day was banished. Mrs. Friel was not in the prime of her youth, and she looked well. Since then, more than 40 celebrity moms, from Rachel Hunter to Brooke Shields to Halle Berry and Courtney Cox, have championed the cause, showing that no matter what age you are, having a baby means you can look great too. There is no exit clause. Being a mother these days is NOT a break from the pressure to look hot.

I remember going to my first party after my son was born. The date was circled on my calendar like D-Day on Churchill’s. I had to look great, and AT ALL like I gave birth to a child three months ago. The dress was purchased… a merciless mushroom gray silver number (DO NOT HAVE A BABY BORN THREE MONTHS BEFORE CHRISTMAS PARTY SEASON!!!). There is no room for a post baby tummy in that. And after a summer in maternity pants…suddenly I had to learn to stumble again in killer heels.

I had to get everything toned and FAST. (Don’t be fooled, only your midriff gets pregnant…EVERYTHING swells up…every inch of you!) Breastfeeding (once done for the benefit of transferring nutrients to the baby) becomes so essential that you can almost hear your muscles contract and watch with joy. your postpartum deflated breasts are pumping again. Sure, all that on-demand feeding gives you a healthy (if not a little heavy) baby, but that’s no bad thing. My child thought he had the best mother because every day his playful mother lifted him up and down 30-50 times… but I was actually using him as weights.

All this just to enter the party and hear my colleagues squealing enthusiastically about how I ‘bounced’. And getting in was all I could do. Having a child is exhausting enough without a size 10 operation at Christmas. All this grueling work to get in shape before the baby… and I arrived at eight and went home to bed before midnight. But it’s not just about the big events… you have to look good ALL the time because the least people say is that you’re ‘indulging’.

There was a time when she was invisible behind the cart, and the center of attention was the contents of the cart. The mother would spend more time preparing the baby for its debut on the local streets. She could have been in a dressing gown and slippers for all the attention she would get…it was all for the child. She’d be down at the park having a friendly laugh with the other moms, all in their unbrushed, unkempt glory. Being a mom back then was very chatty, very friendly and warm.

Today, a simple thing like going out for a loaf of bread means a face of make-up, shiny washed hair, skinny jeans and a cashmere sweater. Don’t forget this season’s additions people least people give you only 6 points to try. And… if you plan on walking behind the stroller in an urban area… ditch the killer heels. There’s no room for practicality in yummy mummy-dom… deviate from the rules and everyone will think you’re just a failure.

It doesn’t get any easier when the child starts school either. School gates are wicked places. Not. I’m not talking about children… Those are other moms. Where did they get their time from? They get out of their cars as if they are about to go to Royal Ascot! When I worked part-time when my son was little, I used to finish work an hour early so I could rush home and change before I got to the school gates. I witnessed a mum changing on the train to look good for the school entrance… as if getting dressed for work wasn’t enough stress when you have kids!! Even stay-at-home moms knew that your child was headed for social isolation if you showed up in hastily pulled jeans and a t-shirt covered in jammy fingerprints. You tell yourself that you are doing this for your child and you rush in.

It got easier for me when I went back to work full time and left my grandparents behind. But still, school events required my attendance, whether it was sports day, parents’ night or a school play – I was filled with fear that I wouldn’t be able to reach even the lowest rung of the required standard of Yummy Mummy. The general rule is that you need to look like motherhood is something you take on without a problem. It does not affect your physical appearance AT ALL. You and your offspring need to look perfect at all times.

When you have a baby – you jerk back – no post baby bump. Your nails will be painted, your lips will be on your head and you will be in this season’s clothes. Your heels will be high. Your hair will be long and well-groomed, and your earrings will dangle. Your baby will instinctively know not to reach for either. Your baby will be dressed like a grown-up mini (baby leather jackets were all the rage when my son was little). These rules apply until preschool.

Then you have to enter the birthday party arena with original themes and extravagant ‘thank yous’. (I remember when being thanked for coming was a slice of cake to take home!). You must also suppress any signs that you are any older than when you gave birth three years ago. By now you should be able to run after a hyperactive toddler in 3 inch heels. Said child must be clean and ready at all times for the Toddler Today cover shoot.

These rules increase as the child progresses steadily through primary education. When the child turns 11, you will need to look younger than when you had him. You may be middle-aged, but you have to pass as a slightly older twenty-something sister. Botox is no shame and dressing in anything Liz Hurly would wear is a must.

The child is now in high school. Now you have to be able to pass as a Sixth Former…or at least be the MILF standard (where Yummy Mummy rules say Rachel Hunter is now your role model). You also need to always be ready to show the other mom how hard you work by having an expensive gym bag visible. (This while wearing killer heels…you are NEVER to be seen in sportswear!) They always have to look at you like you just have to run because you have to be somewhere else…your life is one big juggling trick. Basically, as your child gets older, you get younger. You are the busiest and most amazing mom on the planet and… by the way, your stomach is always ready to be used as an ironing board if the need arises.

These delicious mummies scare me so much. It all seems like so much work! Half the mothers at my son’s high school never eat or can’t move their eyebrows because of botox. Where as I put on food seems to be going out of style and I find talking to someone who remains expressionless terrifying! But I am not brave enough to fight them. I wasn’t brave enough to show up at the Summer School for the Gifted and Talented in sweatpants and a T-shirt. I’m sad to say that not much has changed over the years… the slapping continued, the magic pants went on, the full Rachel Hunter ensemble continued… and I stumbled towards the door in killer heels! This was good for my son. Children love order, they don’t mind rebellion, but the last thing they need is a rebellious parent who upsets the status quo. So he ran towards me at the end of the session, pleased to see me as always. And I guess I look exactly the same as the other moms… Except for one important detail… At least I could raise an eyebrow!

by Jax – author of the JaxWorld blog

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