I wish I wasn't so rubbish at it, but I am. While nonsensical Mummy talk seems to come naturally to many of the other Mums at the school gate I stand feeling puddled, not really caring about the organic quota of the school dinners (Just tell me he ate something!) or whether my son managed to put ears on his self portrait (and what this says about both his psyche and potential as future prime minister) and instead embarrassing myself by saying hello to passing dogs. Out loud. And looking for all intents and purposes like any minute now I'll be put in a strait jacket, so truly bonkers is both my hair, and the "outfit" I have cobbled together in between singing the praises of gluten free crumpets so Finn will eat them, yet again crawling around on my hands and knees banishing the slug trails that are the bain of my laundry room and remembering that tube yoghurt and anything even resembling a biscuit are lunch-box no-no's, because ours is both a healthy eating and a church school and it wouldn't do to say thank you to God for the kind of yoghurt that spurts all over our little one's uniform and rot's their teeth in the process.
How do they do it, these immaculate women? How do they wander up the school path looking like they have just stepped out a Boden catalogue? Did they get up at four o'clock in the morning? Do they employ an army of helpers? What in heavens name are they on about? Can you buy smugness at the supermarket?
I've never been good at the element of competition that comes with middle class motherhood. I couldn't do the wailing that all new mums seemed to revel in when their babba's were newborns. (I was too busy being in love with my little bundle of joy to discuss his sleeping habits). I couldn't get interested in the salt content of anything, didn't flap if my son had pureed carrot in his hair and generally performed the role of inattentive Mother with aplomb. But nothing could have prepared me for the level of one up-manship that exists at the "big" school gates.
It is of course all in my head. Perhaps a reflection of my own insecurities as a Mummy (Should I care about which reading system the school prefers? Should I know the curriculum inside and out? Should I have inspected the toilets and asked Gerad's Mum to make sure he washes his hands after he goes to the toilet to prevent nasty Gerad spread germs from infecting my precious baby? Is Finn's shirt always hanging out his trousers because he is from a one parent family??) or as a woman (Do people know I've shoved my feet in these boots because I ripped the bottom of my trousers when I fell down the stairs this morning? Is the teeniest hint of cleavage inappropriate? Do nice women wear padded cagoules?). Perhaps all Mums feel the same?
But it is hard and this morning was no exception. I stood nodding enthusiastically as one mad (immaculate) mummy detailed the merits of drawstring welly bags and another flapped about the child to teacher ratio- and a bit of me floated off back home, safe in the knowledge that my child was safe and happy and yes I look like Mad Mary and having been blessed with an untidy face will probably never manage to look calm and efficient, but that Mrs lovely Carr seems to know what she's talking about and having a child in full time fulfilling school means I get to go home and sit down for the kind of blissful breakfast I haven't enjoyed since way back when....
I might not be in league for a Mommy merit badge and I doubt the invitation to become a member of the PTA will be forthcoming... but we are not the ones in school any more and saying the right thing only matters if you care less about who you are than you do about what you are.
Lets think of the school gates as one more test of our authenticity. And say be damned to toxic mummies everywhere.