A Diary of Motherhood: Year One, Week Five

This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

And just like that you turned thirteen months. It's hard to explain just how quickly this month has gone by, especially because there is no reason for it. We have done almost exactly what we normally do each week; daycare, work, you and me against the world for two days and our weekends usually altogether as a family. We had a visit from my brother and your cousin in the middle of the month, and then back to normal again. The weather has been unpredictable and so on the good days we went out and played in parks or splashed in paddling pools, and on the less warm and wet days we turned to museums, libraries and your buckets of toys and books at home.

On Friday this week you had an extra day of daycare after missing a day a few months back and I spent it on a bit of a mission. The kind of mission I had already started to put off before you came along, but now that you're here, and I have a body that I'm still not fully familiar with, I will think of almost any excuse to embark on this kind of mission. I'm talking about the huge endeavour that is shopping.

Once upon a time I would happily spend all of my student loan on shopping, now I begrudge having to buy clothes so much that I regularly wear T-shirts with holes in and I am confident half of my underwear drawer was bought pre-2010...or maybe even pre-2005. The only kind of shopping I genuinely enjoy is the vintage kind. I still love rummaging for one-of-a-kind, classically tailored and well-made dresses, shirts and skirts. But vintage shopping takes time and a very patient baby, neither of which I currently have.

But with a day at my disposal and a family wedding on the horizon, I set about my mission this Friday... on the hottest day of the year so far. Despite the heat and humidity, I tried on a handful of dresses in a couple of vintage shops before coming across what I judged to be the perfect dress, a 1950s black cocktail dress made in a sturdy, but slightly shiny (and therefore forgiving) fabric, with a flattering neckline and the kind of full-skirt that should be twirled around in until the owner is so dizzy they can't walk in a straight line. As I stood in this dress in a small changing room of a vintage shop I'd long looked at but never had time to go in before, I noticed myself feeling things I hadn't felt in a while.

It was a sort of light relief, or realisation. It was like I was meeting several older versions of myself; the young teenager who spent as many Saturdays as she could shopping, the 20-something year old young woman who collected vintage clothes and accessories, and even the little girl who would watch films like Gone With The Wind or High Society and lust after those full skirts. In short, I'd forgotten how much fun clothes could be. I'd also forgotten how flattering the right ones could be. As I looked in the mirror I saw my waist, something I thought I'd waved goodbye when I said hello to two stripes on a stick. I saw a new shapeliness to my arms thanks partly to the dress' cut on the shoulders but also thanks to the two or three exercise classes I've been going to each week. And I saw my chin raise up with a new confidence. Here I was; a woman with a desire to look good. It wasn't about doing a good job as a mum, as a partner, as a writer, as a person. For a few moments it was just about picking a dress I would feel good wearing. Maybe, I will look good wearing it too, but that seemed to be of secondary importance.

I bought the dress, plus a hot pink clutch bag that is so small it probably won't even fit my phone let alone all the many, many things we will need for the wedding as you are also accompanying us, but as I strolled away from the shop, I felt a real need to celebrate my purchases, so I sat outside on the terrace of the bar opposite and ordered a glass of rose wine... and a large glass of water because I was very hot and sweaty.

The mornings that followed this "moment" have seen me dress with a little bit more purpose. I've opted for skirts or dresses over jeans and leggings. I've tried to do my hair in front of a mirror, and I even popped a spare mascara in your changing bag. I'm yet to use it, mind you, but it's there.

Why am I telling you all this? It's got almost nothing to do with you. Well, this is a motherhood diary and I've learned that quite a hard part of being a mother is not being a mother, i.e. how you take time for yourself, reclaim a bit of peace and mind, and frankly, how you make yourself as a mother, a parent, a happy balanced being. I'm not sure if it's my generation or just the curse of our information age, but I'd long thought that the measure of a mother was related to how much of themselves they gave to a child, be that time, money, effort, focus, energy... Now I am a mother, I can honestly say that this is a catastrophic, crazy mindset. If I had to give you everything, as in, if your life depended on it, I would. But your life doesn't depend on it. Right now, your life depends on me staying healthy, and it may have taken me a year to realise this, but part of staying healthy is doing what I can to feel good. If I'm happy, or at least not chronically unhappy, that's more likely to lead to you being happy. 

So that's why I'm telling you about the moment I stood in a dressing room in a vintage shop, and admired my reflection. I may have even smiled at it, popped my hand on my hip and taken a photo with my phone.

Remind me to show you the photo when you're older because it's a lovely dress and it was a lovely moment... Even if I was very, very sweaty...

Your now-panicking-about-what-to-do-with-my-hair, trying-to-squeeze-Ella's-pouches-into-my-clutch-bag, can't-wait-to-get-you-in-your-suit, crazy-in-love mother x

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before settling down with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. She collects vintage clothes, loves 70s disco music and writes stories that move you.
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