Mabel strokes my eyelashes with her pudgy fingers and the woes of the day vanish
02:03 GMT, 13 September 2012
When I get home from work Mabel, aged 15 months, likes to sit on the kitchen floor and empty everything out of my ‘bag, bag, bag’ as she calls it.
She inspects the contents studiously each afternoon and then comes over to sit on my lap.
Before I have taken my coat off, and while her siblings are otherwise engaged (homework/TV/rearranging an extensive collection of Moshi Monster toys), she begins to stroke my eyelashes very gently with her pudgy little finger.
Woes begone! Lorraine Candy looks forward to her young toddler playing with her eyelashes from the moment she leaves work (posed by models)
This provokes so much mirth in Mabel I can barely hold her wriggly body as she giggles.
She finds eyelashes hysterical. I don’t know why but they repeatedly induce all-consuming laughter in my toddler. I look forward to this precious ritual the moment I step out of the office and head home.
It’s uplifting, emotionally nourishing even. And obviously unforgettable — an oasis of unadulterated joy coming after a tsunami of stressful challenges.
I cherish those 15 minutes after coming through my front door as much as I cherish her. And I’ll take pure love where I can get it, even if it means laughing at my body parts (except my thighs. No one is allowed to laugh at them, they’re not funny under any circumstances). But I also cherish our special ritual because it reminds me instantly to be happy.
I’m a working mum. I’ve got my head round that as much as I ever will after ten years of parenting four children.
That’s my choice and it’s not going to change, but now I realise I take much more positive pleasure from Mabel’s mirth than I allowed myself to take from her siblings at the same age. This week as Mabel chuckled away, I remembered that I used to get upset thinking about golden moments like that during my working day.
‘How could you leave her’ my internal conversation would begin as I mentally wandered barefoot down a prickly path of self-loathing (and maternal guilt).
Some days would be a torturous journey of emotional conflict (and maternal guilt). But I don’t think like that now because it’s self-destructive and exhausting.
Each eyelid has about 100 lashes. If any are pulled out, they take seven to sight weeks to grow back
I embrace my Mabel moments as they are intended: happy, playful, simple pleasures.
She laughs, I laugh (it’s like watching the baby Panda sneezing on YouTube. Never fails to amuse. Google it, it’ll come in useful.)
The over-thinking, over-analysing has stopped because it wore me out and believe me, you can’t live like that. I’ve stopped struggling to juggle (as the ridiculous phrase goes) because I can see everything more clearly under the spotlight of a decade of maternal experience.
If you struggle it becomes a struggle. If you adopt a positive acceptance of the work versus parenting dilemma and squeeze the best bits out of both it seems to be easier.
Make your choice, do your thing, stick by it.
My eldest has her 10th birthday party this week, she doesn’t remember the delightful moments I had with her which I now share with her baby sister.
And she certainly doesn’t re-member my terrible fretting (murderous depression) the day I gave her a formula feed after three months of disastrous breast feeding.
All that anguish is irrelevant now.
Battle: Lorraine felt guilty about working as mother to her three older children
She’s happy, healthy, doing well at school, has friends and a spirited personality. She’s turned out well so what a waste of time that early worry was.
Why did I let the competitive pressure that surrounds new motherhood distress me Why did I feel so guilty at work
You can only do what you can do and as long as you love them that’s all that matters (an eminent child psychologist told me that).
So anyway, if you haven’t guessed by now, all of the above is a pep talk.
It’s the eve of the busiest three weeks of my working year, the week before a business trip away from the fearsome foursome. The first time I leave Mabel. There, I said it out loud: I’m leaving Mabel.
Please feel free to add any words of support, those of you further down this mothering road than me.
But my eyelashes are leaving with me and I’ll miss Mabel from the deepest part of my soul.
Will she cope (of course she will, other people have eyelashes).
Will I cope Answers on a postcard.
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine