When Hums text messaged me from work with The News, I was a little offended. After all, The News had broken over three hours ago, how could he ever imagine I wouldn’t already know?
“I follow Kate Middleton’s life very closely. Naturally, I am well aware she’s preg … er, with child,” I explained primly.
Actually, I don’t know if I have ever said or done anything ‘primly’ in my life but it seems an appropriate adverb to use whilst discussing the Duchess.
Kate Middleton’s pregnancy announcement sent waves across the internet and why should that be surprising? She combines several fantasies harboured by otherwise quite rational women (such as myself) in one real life person: she is smart, beautiful, has a great wardrobe and a prince for a husband. She may be a future queen, but I can imagine myself hanging out with her over the weekend. I’ve repeatedly ogled her wedding video, seen her look stylish and glamorous while doing royal charity work and be hip and happening applauding British athletes at the Olympics. She is always perfectly groomed, smiling and pulled together. In a few months, I will watch with the rest of the world as she brings a whole next level of meaning to the term ‘pregnancy glow’. And though I shudder to think of the potential behind jokes about ‘crowning’ at the time of delivery, I am convinced she is awesome enough to somehow make it through even that torturous time looking gorgeous. After which, she’s going to spend the rest of her life looking the very picture of a serene and loving Mama with lots of little royal highnesses wearing cunning pinafores, petting their Shetland ponies, eating scones with jam for tea and exclaiming “I say!” (because that’s all they do over in England. I know, since I’ve read all my Enid Blytons very carefully).
But along with the pregnancy announcement came the news that Kate is suffering from acute morning sickness and that she is, after all, human, like the rest of us. It always strikes me as fascinating, this realisation that no matter who you are or where you come from, a planned pregnancy will be the reason for feeling like absolute crap and becoming a mother will make you irrevocably different. Kate probably has no inkling of just how much she is about to change.
As for myself, a lot of things have changed since I’ve become a mother but the most startling of these has been my changing notion of happiness. And since I’m always quick to assign blame elsewhere, let me clarify that this is entirely the fault of my offspring. Before they arrived in real physical form, I had imagined happiness would be of the television advert variety: throwing the kid in the air and laughing up at him as the sun set in the background.
But now, happiness as a mother is something else entirely. Happiness is seeing your four-year-old polish off a big glass of milk. It’s in that milk moustache that he doesn’t bother wiping away. Happiness is in catching that stealthy look your 13 month old throws over her shoulder as she checks to see if anyone is watching her rip her Baba’s books. It’s hearing her mutter “A-B-C, A-B-C” as she tears the paper. Happiness is watching the kids do the “Hot Dog” dance in the middle of the mall because they can hear some far-away music. It’s them falling asleep in the car, heads lolling forward in their car seats. Happiness is the baby pulling her brother’s hair and him wrestling her to the ground in retaliation. It’s your boy refusing to give you any of his M&Ms and then carefully putting a red one into his excited sister’s open mouth. It’s the doctor telling you the kids are growing well; it’s the weird Urdu/English baby talk your parents do with their grandkids; it’s the look you and your husband exchange when one of the kids says something particularly hilarious in anger.
These days, happiness in my life is every time Beta calls me either Princess Mumma or Beautiful Mumma, his newest monikers for me, picked up, undoubtedly, from some cartoon. He punctuates every sentence with these names and I act nonchalant though, secretly, I get a little glow every time. It warms my insides, diffuses my irritation, makes me smile, even perhaps, stand up a little straighter and, maybe, fix my hair a bit. When I give him a bowl of grapes (his favourite snack), it’s “Oh thank you, Princess Mumma!” When I put on my gym clothes, it’s “Bye-bye, Beautiful Mumma!” And, at night, as I lean in to kiss him it’s “Tomorrow, Beta and Mumma, we will do some beautiful painting, right, beautiful Princess Mumma?”
This only proves that all the hours I spent admiring Kate Middleton were pointless because my son has reminded me of a truth I knew all along: you are beautiful to whom you are beloved and you don’t have to marry a prince to be a princess.
But of course, lest I float too high in delight, the husband can always be counted on to bring me back to earth. In a riff on Beta’s nicknames for me, Hums has jokingly taken to calling me Princess Beautiful, specifically when he wants to boss me around. So, on a weekend morning, he might call from his majestic perch on the couch, “Hey, Princess Beautiful, let my breakfast be served to me!” which reminds me to accept another truth: I didn’t marry a prince like Kate. I married a king.
Hiba Masood is a stay-at-home mother to 3-year-old Beta and 7-month-old Beti. Writing about parenting affords her time away from actually doing it.
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Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, December 16th, 2012.
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