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19th May 2018

Mum’s open letter to “30something mums” is a beautiful reminder for all of us

"If I’m to lose my self for a decade, motherhood sure is a delicious thing to lose it to."

Trine Jensen-Burke

We are almost at the cusp of this year’s summer holidays, a trip that will see us back in my native Norway, with days spent in both Denmark and Sweden too. And maybe, hopefully, a week in Palma too, before summer comes to an end.

My children are currently seven and four, and while spending time with them like this, soaking up delicious days where I get to spend every waking minute with them, is all sorts of amazing, it is also most definitively not a holiday. Or, let me correct that; it is not a holiday in the same way holidays were holidays before I had children.

Children who, at present, require my full and undivided attention at all hours of the day. Children who are still so young they need me for pretty much anything (bums wiped, milk poured onto cereal, monsters chased from under the bed). That’s just how these days are, though, no? These crazy hectic days of early-ish motherhood. Where we are knee-deep in the trenches, where me-time has been replaced with we-time and where we, before anything else, is MUM.

Where we know we are in the thick of it. Where we are aware it gets easier. But where we also don’t want to rush a single second of this magical time, no matter how wrecked we are.

And if this is you too, I urge you to read this gorgeous open letter mum and blogger Catherine Dietrich posted on her blog Littles, Love and Sunshine. Read it. Then look up and smile at all your fellow mums. Who are just where you are. Because sure we are knee-deep, mamas, but we are most definitively knee-deep together.

Here is Dietrich’s text in full:

Dear fellow thirtysomething mum,

I see you in the supermarket, I see you at the playground. I see you at the school drop-off, I see you on the train and in the kid-friendly restaurants. Sometimes you see me too, and we exchange a little smile, an eye-roll, an “I get it” moment. More often you don’t see me – you are chasing your toddler down the aisles, watching your pre-schooler like a hawk as she climbs higher than you’d like, admonishing your kid for pinching her brother, reaching for a wet wipe, mopping up a spilled drink.

A few days ago I was at our public swimming pool, and if ever there was a stark metaphor for life as a mum in her 30s, the public swimming pool has to be it. There we all are – the stereotypes we swore we never would be – wading knee-deep in the kiddies’ pool, eyes locked on our littles – and genuinely delighted by their antics. Although we may be there in pairs or groups, our conversations are piecemeal, we cannot relax. Our focus is entirely on our children. We are tired. We are distracted. Our tankini-clad bodies are battle-scarred and utterly not what they used to be. 

Up on the hill are the shiny twentysomethings. They are flipping through magazines, chatting to their friends, Facebooking and selfie-snapping on their iPhones. They are rested. They are toned. They are magnificently oblivious to what is coming their way in the future. They don’t even see us. Or if they do, they swear they will never be us.

It’s okay. We were there once, and we know better than to be offended.

You see, the truth is, we thirtysomethings have let ourselves go. No. We have let our SELVES go. We have small children and for the next little while, our SELVES will not come first. We will be sleeping (or not) according to the timetables of our toddlers and/or newborns and/or a combination of the above. Our hair will not be washed as often as we’d like. Sit-ups? What sit-ups? We will be wiping noses and bottoms and messes from the walls. We will be cooking what feels like continuously from breakfast to supper time and not leaving the table until at least a forkful of peas have been eaten. We will spend hours a week kneeling by the side of the bath and then reading “just one more” bedtime story until we pass out on the edge of the toddler bed. We will be fluent in the language of Paw Patrol, Sofia the First, Peppa Peg and Doc McStuffins, and will use said characters shamelessly as threats, bribes, or as digital babysitters so we can dash upstairs to grab a shower. We will find ourselves negotiating with terrorists even though we swore we never would. We will answer to “Uppy” and “More” and “I don’t want to”, and we will say “What’s the magic word?” more times a day than we ever imagined possible. This is thirtysomething. It’s not easy – and that’s the truth.

But there is another truth. Up there on the hill, nestled subtly amongst the twentysomethings, are the fortysomethings. They too are rested. They too are toned. They are alone, quietly reading a book. They see us, and they are sympathetic but also a bit smug. They’ve been there and done it and they know it doesn’t last forever. Girls, fortysomething is the holy grail. Fortysomething is coming.

The decade we get our SELVES back.

Not that I want to wish away the time. Although thirtysomething so far is a bit of a blur, it’s also a kind of magic. Never again will I feel a squidgy cheek rest on my chest in the middle of the night. Little arms reaching up to me after a fall. The delicious baby smell and the little pairs of skinny jeans and sparkly trainers. The scooter rides and monkey bars and the bed time stories with a small person in the crook of each arm. Hearing “I want Mummy,” and “Please can you help me?” and “I want to huggle you.”

Yes, fortysomething is coming, and it’s going to be bliss. But don’t let it come too fast. If I’m to lose my self for a decade, motherhood sure is a delicious thing to lose it to.

Love, Catherine

(Feature image via