Mrs Groff’s Mischievous Book of Motherhood Management is Maggie Groff’s common sense reference book for mothers. Her motherhood mission statement: To be the best mothers we can with the situation we’ve been given.
If you’re looking for mollycoddling, you’re in the wrong place. The facts, cheats, ideas and curiosities dished up here are served with zero sugar-coating. But the nuggets of wisdom within – did you know DESSERTS is STRESSED backwards?! – are sure to surprise, delight and induce plenty of lols for stressed-out, over-worked, under-thanked, banana-stained mothers everywhere. In the passage below, Groff paints a pastel-hued motherhood fantasy, then explodes it with a reality bomb.
There you go with your head in the air, a maternal superstar striding through the city in your pencil skirt and Jimmy Choo heels. You’re an important person on your way to an important meeting, and you’re leaving a jet stream of Chance by Chanel in your wake. You have already expressed breast milk for six-month-old Michaela Bingley-Bosworth, and instructed Julian, your latest PA, to call ahead and ensure that there will be camomile tea and figs marinating in spring water available for you in the boardroom. Julian, the treasure, is also organising a massage for you at 4pm.
Refreshed by an afternoon of fawning adulation from the suits at the meeting and the gentle rhythmic ministrations of Bruno’s experienced hands, you arrive home and prepare an impromptu five-course dinner party for six visiting state dignitaries while feeding and bathing your seven children and fielding calls from your company’s New York office.
For dinner, you serve salmon caught by the children when they went ballooning in Tasmania last weekend, beef from the Aberdeen Angus cattle station in which you have shares, fresh vegetables from your own organic garden, Vacherin cheese flown in from Switzerland, ripe Saturn peaches from Paris, and brioche that you made this morning before work. The white Irish linen napkins are pressed and rolled within antique silver rings bearing your family crest.
Your guests are sober and arrive on time. They bring burgundy from Domaine Leroy Chambertin. To set the tone, there is background music of you performing with Sting last year at Carnegie Hall. The food is sensational. The baby sleeps. At 7pm on the dot your older children, who are wearing pyjamas that were hand-sewn by goat-herders in Nepal (part of your charitable foundation), perform Chopin’s ‘Nocturne’ in B minor for the guests before saying good night in ten languages and happily retiring to bed.
The guests are impressed. Une femme magnifique! they say.
But your partner is on a one-way trip to the Lesser Antilles. And you haven’t got any friends.
You feed and polish the children before stepping into the shower. There is no soap. The phone rings, someone can’t find their homework, another needs a gold coin for the cake stall, a tradesman arrives and the dog escapes. The children have opened the fridge and are suddenly wearing orange juice. And it’s already 8am.
By 9am you have dropped your children at school and are at the supermarket. You are buying chocolate biscuits and a cake for Julia at work’s birthday morning tea. You don’t even like Julia. You look down. You are wearing slippers. Maybe no one will notice. Back at the car, you glance in the mirror. You look like a person who needs lessons with Napoleon Perdis. Your stomach is rumbling because you missed breakfast. You tear open the chocolate biscuits and eat six.
Everyone at work notices the slippers. And the squashed banana on the back of your skirt. As an excuse for the slippers, you grab a bandage from the first aid box, remove both slippers and apply the bandage to one foot. To hide the stain on your skirt you twist it around so the stain is at the front, and then limp around carrying a strategically placed clipboard over the stain.
For lunch you finish the cake as you can’t take a break because you are leaving early to take the children to ballet and chess club. The ballet shoes were not packed in the schoolbag and there are tears. But chess club goes without drama. Until a pawn to queen’s knight goes up an opponent’s left nostril.
At home, it’s spag bol for dinner. Oh no! You have lamb mince, not beef. Maybe no one will notice. Especially after you burn it a bit while chatting to a friend on the phone. A neighbour appears at the kitchen doorway to return the key used by the tradesman. There is loud drumming coming from an upstairs bedroom. It stops suddenly and there is a piercing scream. You and the neighbour look up. A door slams and someone shouts, ‘I hate you, you sick fuck.’ You smile at the neighbour who quietly retreats.
It’s dinnertime and you dish out the spag bol, heavily disguised under Mount Parmesan.
‘I’m not eating that!’ announces the youngest.
‘It’s your favourite,’ you say encouragingly.
‘Not when it tastes like dead ferret,’ comes the reply.
So it’s frozen pizza for dinner. With a mandatory apple for dessert.
It’s over. They are fed and watered and supposedly in bed.
You collapse on the sofa, which feels lumpy. That’s because two apples are under one of the cushions. But hey, the TV and wine are yours until your partner arrives home from a late meeting. But not quite. Someone small appears in your field of vision. A Christopher Columbus project is due in tomorrow and hasn’t been started yet.