It was only after I watched my son skip happily into his classroom that I realised the teacher’s eyebrows were raised at his shoes. Thinking his Velcro had come loose, I took a shifty myself, my heart sinking as I spotted one bright blue trainer and the dull shine of a school shoe.
I thought I’d been getting the hang of this parenting malarky after six years, the babyhood lost in a hazy delirium, a blur of tiredness and feeling inadequate. I do remember the endless scrolling, sat alone in a dark nursery endlessly rocking the supposed bundle of joy in my arms that would screech every time I tried to put him down. I’d scroll past influencers, a mixture of mega-rich mummies with Bugaboo prams and travellers with sun-kissed skin who had content babies nestled in slings while they explored faraway lands. Both felt out of reach, partly because I was broke and had found my buggy in Oxfam, but mostly because my baby had unexpectedly been delivered at a hefty ten pounds one and was now so heavy that heaving him across India in a sling was probably a little unrealistic. Still, there was a part of me that still believed that if I woke up a little earlier, worked a bit more, tried a little harder… I could definitely be blond and sun-kissed and carrying my enormous child around in a sling.
Then I read Lucy Beaumont’s new book Drinking Custard. In between making fish fingers and tackling the obstacle course of Lego in my front room, I laughed out loud as Lucy recounted her experience of parenting – the time she was hospitalised when pregnant with chest pains that turned out to be the result of a big burrito, the incident with an olive and the tiredness that became so intense that she once forgot her child’s name. Unlike the Instagram posts, Lucy’s experience of parenting felt relatable.
In the book, Lucy describes the reasons she wants a child, she imagines going to bed early and wearing white all the time, like the mums in nappy adverts. It all sounds blissful and idyllic and much like the daydreams we all have when in a moment of absolute madness, we turn to our partner and say: ‘let’s have a baby’, like we’re deciding what to have for tea. I asked Lucy whether these dreams had come true.
“Well, it’s not like a Pamper’s advert,” she laughs. “You can’t have a white shirt, and a white carpet and a white sofa and, when they say it’s tiring, it doesn’t quite cover it.
“I knew I’d be neurotic, but I didn’t know I’d be this bad, I do wish I’d relaxed a bit more. I think I thought I’d take more things in my stride.” Instead, her husband, comedian Jon Richardson took the lead. “He’s just a natural at everything. If he could breastfeed, he would have done, he was quite upset that he couldn’t. I think he would quite have liked to have taken over and done it all I think.”
“I knew I’d be neurotic, but I didn’t know I’d be this bad”
Yet it didn’t start off so well, when Lucy went into labour, she found Jon hurriedly ordering a four-man tent online.
“I think it was his natural animalistic instinct taking over, that obviously did happen back in caveman times. They’d impregnate a woman and then leave. I think his instinct was to run,” she smiles, then gives him the benefit of the doubt. “I think he was also thinking that if we lost everything, we’d have somewhere to live, which is weird as well. He went in the garden in it a few times, because he wanted to experience camping and I wouldn’t go with him.”
Despite everything, I know what Lucy means when she talks about her daughter. “I love everything about her. It’s unconditional, isn’t it?” She even talked about having another child at the end of the book, but mostly to finish the tins of custard she had left over from her cravings during pregnancy.
I’m not sure I’m there yet, despite being absent from social media for years now, I’m still worried about how I’ll stand up against middle-class mums dressed head-to-toe in Joules.
“You get a bit of all sorts on Instagram now,” Lucy says. “Celebrities have to sort of endorse this luxury lifestyle and that helps them advertise stuff, but there’s lots of really honest stuff too.”
And just like that, it clicked. I knew influencers weren’t portraying reality, but it didn’t occur to me that everyone else was struggling, flip-flopping from disaster to disaster in a haze of tiredness and unconditional love. By being honest, Lucy’s book captures the hilarity that ensues when a child enters the world, and even if parenting isn’t as glamorous as influencers make out, it’s certainly funny!
Drinking Custard: Diary of a Confused Mum by Lucy Beaumont published by Monoray, out now, £18.99 hardback (octopusbooks.co.uk)