Sometimes no matter how lucky you are in life, you feel down. Or insecure. Or like you don't belong. It is a tough emotion that comes and goes, starting when you're just a little person getting to grips with the world. You might be able to cope with it better as you get older but you are never immune. It is what you want to protect your children from on their first day of school, whilst knowing that you can never completely shield them from the realities of life.
When I feel lost or lonely, I shop. It's easy online these days, you just click a button and someone somewhere will send you something that will make you feel better. Younger. Older. Less like a haggard mum. More like a "yummy" mum. More stylish, more fun. It's an expensive hobby, but hey, you can return most things when it turns out they just make you feel fat, frumpy and irritated.
It is amazing how easy it is to sink into a negative cycle. Small things become big things. Coincidences become imbued with huge life-changing meaning. Then, something small can lift you out of it. In the past couple of weeks, two things have revived me.
Firstly, a very kind lady donated her old Dutch mother bike to me, a "Mamafiet". It is big, strong and bullet-proof. It has seen several owners. It is not only a mother, it is a matriarch. When I ride it, I know who's boss and it ain't me. It has the words, "SPARTA Amazone" written on it. Yes that is the brand and the model but could they have come up with any more stirring images of strength to stamp on a bicycle? Spartans shall never be defeated. Amazons are feisty female warriors. It is a superbly stable bike, rather like a motorbike, but at the same time feels like climbing on an elephant. Brute strength but slightly unpredictable. It rides like a dream. I took my daughter for our maiden voyage on the Mamafiet on the weekend. Wow, we must be tough females if we were riding on our bike for uber strong women. As soon as we have a seat on the front for the baby, we are off. There is no stopping us. Adventures here we come, with as many baby wipes as we can stuff on the back, the world is our oyster. This Mama bike is a great boost to my mama self-esteem.
Secondly, I went to a sewing workshop with an old friend, organised by a new one. A group of women learning to sew on a Sunday morning might seem a little 1950s domestic for the serious feminist, but these days, we don't learn to sew in school and we don't have to sew at home. To prevent a skill being lost, we choose to sew and enjoy each other's company at the same time. I can hand sew-ish, but I have a fear of machines. Sewing machines always feel slightly out of control to me. If I push a little too hard on the pedal, it will run away with me and I will hurdle into the stratosphere. So I can do long laborious hand-sewing or quilts for a dolls-house but I've never really made anything useful. In the workshop, we decided we were going to rustle up two drawstring bags for our girls. To the seasoned sewer, these are ridiculously simple, I know. To us, it felt like Challenge Anneka (ah yes, old school reference there!). Iron, pin, clamp, forward, reverse, turn, right side, wrong side. Then applique a fun design on the front. The drama of would we make it in time and the satisfaction of creating something with love for our little ones was wonderful. Something they could use. We left on a high.
These two things brought me out of the dumps and made me happy again. Possibility and adventure. Creativity and friendship. And these things cost next to nothing. Unless I decide that I really, really need eye-catching Dutch panniers or a swanky sewing machine for my new hobby. But right now, I can probably live without those things. I want my children to know that it is ok to feel sad or lonely sometimes, so long as you seize the opportunities that are there and be grateful for the wonderful things you have. With a bit of positivity, us girls can do anything. Anything at all.