Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Keeping Mum: Are mums of one real mums?

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Elizabeth Banks has upset single child parents.Photo / AP
Elizabeth Banks has upset single child parents.Photo / AP

There is really, truly, no end to the amount of animosity that women visit on each other - usually inadvertently - when they start commenting on motherhood (and yes, I include myself there).

Lately, The Hunger Games star Elizabeth Banks let off a hand grenade in the mummying community when she made the comment to People magazine - a common one, to be fair - that she didn't realise how easy one child is until you have had your second.

The clueless bint then compounded her error with the following quote:"Now I'm really a mum. Oh, I am a mum now! This is for serious - I am responsible for two people now."

Wow, hold the front page: Hollywood star responsible for two whole people! Never in our wildest dreams could we have thunk it possible. Leaving out the fact that the woman can probably afford plenty of help to ensure her "for serious" work with her children isn't too onerous, can we at least all agree that comment is a little insensitive? And actually does, in a passive fashion, suggest that when she had her first child she wasn't really a mum at all. But bloody hell, is she ever now!

Perhaps I just don't get it, because for me, the more kids I had, the easier it became (not to say it became easy mind you, just easier). The first, I reckon, is the paradigm shift, the nuclear bomb that blows your previous life to smithereens. If any people on earth have lived through the first few months with a newborn (then the first crazy toddlerhood, then the four-year-old testosterone surge...and so on), they have experienced the full-on joy and horror (joyous horror, if you will) of being a mum or dad.

Extra kids bring their own personality quirks and issues - and stretch the household resourcing that bit further - but two onwards is really just more of the first. (I would admit that at three, you do start asking yourself 'am I going to be able to afford all these children when they start eating like teenagers'- and that thought didn't cross my mind while just two of my progeny roamed the planet.)

This weekend I returned briefly to those pre-historic-feeling times of just having one child when my husband took our two oldest to visit their grandparents, leaving me with the 16-month-old. I have to say, it was bliss, mainly because I can now really appreciate having just one to dote on. The background bickering that is a constant backdrop to school holidays was gone; the nattering and whining was largely absent (baby doesn't speak yet). He's happy to womble around for long periods while I just watch him and have a few moments to think. Much as I love them all, it was a moment of quiet contemplation that I had not experienced in several years.

My mind drifted to what it would be like to be able to simply pack one kid up and take him or her wherever at short notice - the flexibility; not three different lots of clothes and other paraphernalia and three car seats to boot. It seemed simple. But then I was reminded of the flip-side to having just one - having to think more carefully about weekends and holidays when siblings can't be relied upon to provide at least some entertainment to each other (even if it usually ends in tears). Whether you have one or 20, there are downsides and upsides and no getting around the sheer investment of time and energy required.

Unless you are a Hollywood star, of course - but that's a whole other story.

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