Retro WoogsWorld featuring Jessica Rowe.

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I first met Jessica Rowe at the launch of her book Love. Wisdom, Motherhood.  She is everything I am not.  She is tall and elegant.  I am squat and clumsy.  She is a successful working mum with two gorgeous girls while I am a slovenly housewife with two sons.
She NEVER swears while I am like a fishwife on crack. Her husband does not wear puffer vests.
But we both have one thing in common. We go brain dead at the park.
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There are those glorious, fleeting moments of looking after small people. Times when a smile, a squeeze of a little, chubby hand lifts your day out of the domestic drudgery for a nanosecond. Thank god- because there are plenty of tedious, boring bits about having children that sometimes are enough to have me running to my psychiatrist.

You may know that I’ve had post natal depression- and thanks to my patient family, doctor and great medication- life is good now.

But too often I reckon, as mums we aren’t very good at fessing up to the tough, brain dead times. How many squashed sultanas can you wipe up in a day, how many loads of washing do you put through the machine, how many feral coffee cups pile up in your car? Too many to count…

I can deal with most of that, most of the time but what I continue to struggle with is taking my small girls to the park. Somehow I hear myself chirping in a cheerful voice, ‘Oh great, how about the park!’ Stupidly, I’m thinking my daughters will say, ‘Don’t worry Mummy, we don’t want to go to the park. We would much rather sit here quietly in the cafe, while you drink your coffee while it’s still hot. And why don’t you flick through that crappy magazine in peace!’ Yeh right… So off we head to the park, my heart sinking.

Why does the sight of swings, slippery dips and sandpits make me feel so despondent? Well, there are only so many times I can push the swing, stand at the bottom of the slide and look enthusiastic. I find myself zoning out- dreaming of dancing on bars in the Greek Islands… I also think I’m allergic to the playground because I don’t feel confident navigating what I call the ‘politics of the park’. Do I intervene when another little person snatches my daughters’ buckets and spades? Or do I stand back and let them sort it out? If you see another child hitting or pushing one of your kids do you go up and talk to the aggressor? Do you talk to their mother?

Well against my better judgement I’m a bit of a hover-rah… one of those mature aged helicopter mothers that various articles counsel you against becoming. I will leap in and remove my daughter, and say something to the other child like, ‘It’s not very nice to hit…’ Often I will get glared at by other mothers, as my daughters and I scuttle to the relative safety of the pirate ship. But the conflict doesn’t end there.

The next moment I look around to see my eldest daughter screaming at the top of the slippery dip. ‘Go away everybody. This is my park. My slippery dip. I’m not sharing, go away…’ The other children climbing up to the top of the slide are getting restless. But my daughter isn’t budging. I feel the rather smug looks of the other mums, especially the woman whose son had given my child a bit of a shove…

I’ve worked in newsrooms for many years but the politics of those places are nothing on the park. My heart starts racing, my hands are clammy… Oh come on Jessica, I think to myself.You’ve interviewed the PM, dealt with unpleasant bosses so why is this negotiation with a small girl getting to you?

Eventually I manage to coax my daughter down from the slippery dip. The other kids are getting their turn. Oh please can the sandpit swallow me up now… Such ‘adventures’ do my head in because it makes me feel like my parenting style is on public display. In the early days especially, those fun, fun (NOT) toddler times were particularly stressful. I felt like I was the only mother with a child who would scream and rant and rave. And my warnings in a false, high pitched tone, like- ‘Okay we’re going to leave in 5 minutes’- just didn’t work.I remember half dragging, half carrying my screaming daughter who didn’t want to leave the park, while I had her baby sister attached to my front in the baby bjorn. The baby then started screaming as it was time for her feed. I wasn’t far behind. The hot, thick tears were falling thick and fast down my face. Thank goodness I had my sunnies on. But they were starting to fog up, so we made slow and stumbling progress back to the car.

Ironically, only two hours before, a paparazzi photographer had captured a picture of us all laughing. But don’t be fooled by such images, pretty soon it does end in tears. For all of us,

However, I’m loathe to end on a negative note, although I’ve always been a big believer is saying it as it, I’m also a big fan of looking for that silver lining. Now I try not to beat myself up for not taking the girls to the park. I enjoy the dress ups, the tea parties and silly voices. And the silver lining is when my darling daughters hug me tight and tell me that they love me SO much. And my eldest whispers to me that she will be dancing in her dreams tonight. And there’s not a park in sight.

Are you afraid of the slippery dip?