It was by an old university friend, talking about the recent breakdown of her marriage, her slide into depression, the break she must now take from her job and, most upsetting to read, the fact that she cannot currently live with her cherished children.
I haven’t spoken to her since we graduated, but I felt such an overwhelming sadness for her I found myself silently sobbing into my cereal.
A short while later I was trying to get my four-year-old dressed for school. She wanted to get her dolly dressed first and instead of bemoaning her useless timekeeping, this morning I let her dress ‘baby Maddie’ first. She was still ready for school on time and, as she skipped off – content that her dolly was in the correct attire for the day - I gave her an extra kiss and told her I loved her three times instead of the usual two.
And instead of battling with my two-year-old to brush her bird’s nest of hair, today I am letting her leave the house looking bedraggled and
unkempt. But smiling and not tugging at the pigtails I have forced upon her because I think they look better. When she appeared in my bedroom doorway with her hands covered in her big sister’s sparkly lip gloss moments later, I smiled instead of shouted.
Today, that invoicing that needs to be done and that ironing that’s been piling up for weeks, will be finished when my daughters are in bed. We will be having whatever I can find in the freezer for dinner and, yet again, the bathroom will remain uncleaned.
Because today we are dressing up as fairies and dancing round the living room; we are planting strawberries in the garden; and we are going to splash in muddy puddles with careless abandon.
Today we are doing all the things I read on my old friend’s list of reasons she’s a ‘bad mum’. Because I think they make you a good mum. I just hope she realises that too.