- It was a whole day of listening to interesting, articulate and intelligent women with only a few token men (most of whom were also quite good, I should say).
- I laughed. A lot. Particularly when Jo Brand came on. (And when I learned the phrase ‘mimsiwoowoo’).
- For nine hours, my having kids was just assumed and not seen as a disadvantage I had to overcome.
- People wanted me. Well, mainly advertisers. It was a new experience – as a teacher you have nothing to give, so nobody tries.
- I got to interact with friendly strangers as we tweeted each other on the big screen while the debates went on.
- I discovered some new role models; Stella Creasy, Viv Groskop, Sonya Cisco, Prof Tanya Bryon, Laura Bates, Sarah Crown, Helen Lewis, A L Kennedy and Jo Brand. (If I’m honest, some of these may have developed into girl-crushes).
- I got to bump badges with other bloggers (no really, we were wearing fancy badges that share contact details when tapped together).
- I was reminded how special words are. As A L Kennedy said, ‘I love shoes, but nobody burns f*cking shoes’.
- I learnt a new word – ‘aphorism: a truth written or spoken in a concise and memorable form’.
- The champagne and canapés.
Sometimes I feel invisible. Or, if not invisible, at least that people have categorised me as something generic and made assumptions about who I am so that they are not actually seeing me.
I find this at its worst when people other than my children call me Mum. People who know my name, who have known me since before I had children, who chose to call me Mum because my children are around. I love Quibble and Squeak calling me Mum – it shows that I have a special place in their life – but there is no reason for anyone else to. It strips me of my name, my individuality and my identity.
I know I am a Mum. It is the most important job I have, because even when I’m at work, I’d drop everything for my children if they needed me. It is both frustrating and wonderful (although I like to think there is more of the latter) and it does mean that there are times I have to put myself last or make little sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be anything else.
There seems to be an idea that once you have become a mother, you have to put your children above all else; be a mum first and rarely anything else second. Watching films and TV, I see dads getting to be action heroes, politicians and lifesaving doctors, while mums get to be, well, mums. Or bad mums if they do something else (their juggling always seems to fail). Where are the women my age being more than solely a mum? Where are the people like me?
This is the reason why love the challenges at work. Why I have booked tickets to Mumsnet Blogfest. Why I was so excited to spend last weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon at the RSC. So that I get to keep being me. So that I get to do things and have conversations that are not just about babies, children and housework. It’s also the reason why I blog: I get to write about the things that interest me; the important things in my life. And yes, that may involve my children. After all, being a mum is part of being me. Just not the only part.