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“I’m a Great Park Mum, but a Really Awkward School Mum”

Writing by Freya Bennett // illustration by Nea Valdivia

My daughter has just started back at school, and I’ve realised that while I was a great park mum, I am an extremely awkward school mum.

I am a big over-sharer. I hold no illusions of my ability to be discreet. It’s with no malice that I not only share all my traumas but will often also share friends’ traumas with complete strangers too. Please don’t ask me to keep a secret, I physically cannot.

I have found myself on many an occasion telling new acquaintances my life story even before learning their name. This has made for some awkward interactions on planes or in doctors waiting rooms, but so far, the connections made have always outweighed the occasional discomfort others feel in learning about my fungal rash that just wouldn’t go away.

When I had my daughter, I realised this over-sharing was the perfect kind of interaction to have with other parents at the park. Especially mothers who had been through pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve not met a mother yet who isn’t keen to share her birth story – I am here for the story of your episiotomy, please re-tell with agonising detail – photos encouraged.

Amidst pushes on the swings, it was so easy to share the gore, the trauma, the magic – I think being sleep deprived enhanced our ability to let go of social norms because who has time for niceties when we’re all being tortured by tiny little despots? The great thing about the park, is that after all the juicy divulging, you leave and most likely, won’t see that person again.

I’m now learning that school-mum life is a whole different kettle of fish. You see the same parents every day so sharing your current medical problems or re-telling recent sex dreams is going to become your personality and you’re stuck with that for your child’s whole primary school career.

There’s also my child to consider now. At the park stage of life, she was just a nappy wearing blob who couldn’t care less if I shared with the world stories of my pelvic floor physio, who conducted a whole conversation on her favourite local eateries, one hand deep inside me, all while reminding me to push like I was doing a poo. At age 6, she’s showing signs of being embarrassed by my openness – part of which I find incredibly amusing, and part of which I understand is now my job to curb.

But I don’t know who I am without my over-sharing, so waiting at pick up with the same parents I just saw a few hours ago at drop-off, I find myself becoming extremely shy and not really knowing what to say. We’ve already discussed the weather that morning and “How was that weather we spoke of earlier?” just doesn’t make for riveting conversation.

I see other parents happily chatting with each other and try my best to listen in on their conversations in order to learn how to have a normal exchange, but so far, despite taking mental notes, I’m unable to recreate the magic of small talk.

I can’t say I am excelling at curbing my desire to overshare, this was compounded by the fact that I spent much of last year, my daughters first year of school, pregnant and couldn’t help but overshare the details to willing and not so willing parents at the gate. Some seemed genuinely interested to know that kiwi fruit is a really great laxative, much better than anything you can get at the chemist (you’re welcome). Some, I’m sure, have avoided eye contact in an attempt to restrict their exposure to more details of my bowel habits.

Until I learn how to behave myself, I will limit the oversharing to parents I know can handle my enthusiasm for detailed descriptions of panic attacks, recent surgeries and a full history of my family traumas. Whether I get there at the school gate or not, I am excited that I have a new baby to take to the park and continue my role as park-mum over-sharer supreme.

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and editor from Dja Dja Wurrung Country who loves grey days, libraries and dandelion tea. You can follow her on Instagram @freya___bennett

Andrea (Nea) Valdivia

Andrea (Nea) Valdivia is an illustrator from Lima, Peru based in Melbourne, Australia with a passion for the arts, specialising in traditional and digital illustration, as well as graphic design. Andrea is passionate about using her art to make different statements and she especially loves creating colourful characters that tell a story in an aesthetically pleasing way. She is inspired by nature, animals and people.

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