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Lucy Mangan: ‘Don’t Listen To The Celebrity Mama Brigade’

Normal mothers have to work the career/life juggle differently, says writer Lucy Mangan

One of the most important rules of modern times is to ignore any kind of life lesson a celebrity purports to be sharing with you. We must always remember that these are all people who are either a) pathologically egotistical b) maddened by decades of semi-starvation c) richer than God or d) all of the above.

The applicability of their pronouncements to real life, therefore, is not worth – as I believe the French say – une bucket du warm merde.

Time for a rethink

And this is never truer than when celebs divulge how the recent acquisition of offspring (via either traditional methods, surrogacy, international adoption or simple gifting by over-eager fans) has changed them.

Sienna Miller is the latest. She has re-evaluated her priorities and will now cherry-pick her roles, so that she doesn’t have to be away from her daughter for too long. Genuinely hurrah for her.

But, normal mothers, please don’t feel that this has anything to do with your life. Re-evaluating your priorities – and then acting on said reappraisal – is something few of us can really afford. We may feel the desire to do so, of course.

When you fall in love with your baby (which, by the way, can take seconds, days, weeks or months, but we’ll talk about that another time…), it’s just like any kind of amour. You want to spend all your time with them and the need to get up, earn a living, cook, do the laundry etc are just petty intrusions between you and your beloved. So you minimise them – with fake sick days, takeaways and second-tier knickers pressed back into service – and indulge.

Back to the office

But, with a baby, things are different. Minimisation of anything (except sleep) is impossible and things that were once choices – what food to buy, how much cooking, cleaning and washing to do, to go out with friends or not – become either necessities (generally the chores) or impossibilities (leaving the house).

And, unless you’re well-funded, work becomes more, not less, vital. Only if you’re an A-lister or somehow otherwise freed from normal constraints do you get to re-evaluate freely.

The rest of us find ways to accommodate the most pressing parts of our new feelings, then feel bad if we can’t/don’t want to be with our children all the time.

But it’s all a nonsense. Celebrities have staff to cope with life and nappies, so they can then do the fun bits in between. For the rest of us, there are compromises – some small, some brutal, all necessary and all fine. Though takeaways will always help…

For Lucy Mangan's monthly column, subscribe to Mother & Baby magazine here.

Lucy’s new book Charlie's Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket and Roald Dahl's Greatest Creation is out on September 4th.

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