I know what you’re thinking. Mums are easy to spot. The bags under the eyes and the presence of juveniles tends to give it away. Well, you’re right of course. But sometimes Mums attempt to travel incognito. You may come across them at the gym, at work, or very occasionally at a shopping centre or cafe WITHOUT THEIR CHILDREN. Here are the key features to look for so that you can reunite the lost mother with her children as quickly as possible.
1. Look for bags under the eyes.
Oh, right. Sorry, I already said that, didn’t I? Sleep deprivation can make you vague after a while.
2. Check out her handbag.
Is it actually a handbag? Or did she just grab the nappy bag out of habit on her way out the door? Or am I the only one who does that?
3. Check out the neckline of her shirt.
Is it all stretched and misshapen?
This is the effect of endless pulling at the neck opening of an ordinary wide-necked t-shirt. You’d think this would only affect the Mum for the duration of her breastfeeding relationship with her baby, but no. I can assure you that a five-year-old will happily grab his caregiver’s shirt as an aid to heave himself off the couch, out of the car, or onto her lap as he sees fit. No item of clothing is built to withstand this kind of abuse. And there’s no point buying new shirts when they’re only going to get ruined and the baby still needs access anyway…
4. Check out her hair.
Is there a good few weeks of regrowth at the roots? Does it look like she left the house with wet hair this morning? If her hair is long, is it tied in a ponytail? (Bonus clue: is the ponytail secured with a Barbie elastic instead of a plain grown-up one?). Is she perhaps wearing a hat to disguise the worst of it, even if she is inside? Does she appear to have mashed banana in her hair, or a fringe that has been trimmed by a toddler? All dead giveaways.
5. Sneeze. Ask her if she has a tissue.
Any self-respecting mother will be able to swiftly produce a clean tissue from somewhere on her person at a moment’s notice*. She’s likely to have it tucked under her bra strap, up her sleeve or in her jeans pocket. She won’t have it tucked under her watch band though. If that’s where she pulls it from, it’s a Nanna you’re dealing with. Different breed entirely.
5. Ask to borrow her smartphone. Check her browser search history.
OK, I know that’s not realistic; nobody would just hand over her smartphone to a stranger, no matter how sleep deprived she was. But roll with me on this one. If her last three search items were ‘How To Clean Vomit Off Carpet‘, ‘Peppa Pig Times ABC2‘, and ‘Dairy-free Apricot Slice Recipe‘ (as mine were yesterday) – it’s difficult to imagine she is anything other than a Mum.
6. Check for telltale stains on clothing.
Now, general staining isn’t necessarily an indication of motherhood. Toothpaste on the shirt could just mean she has poor aim. Coffee on the sleeve could just mean she’s clumsy. Mud on the ankles could just mean she spends time outside. But there are a couple of specific stains or marks that suggest this woman is a Mum.
a. A pale milky patch on either shoulder or down her back suggests she has a babe in arms. My babies both chucked milk up merrily during their early months, usually as we were about to walk out the door, and I wasn’t always at the ready with a burp cloth (sleep deprivation something something). At first, I used to rush back for a clean shirt. That got old quickly when I realised how much laundry I was generating, and that my clean shirt was likely to be covered in sick again before I could say ‘Man, this baby spews a lot!’. So I settled on dabbing the offending wet patch with the clean burp cloth and wearing the mark as a badge of honour for the day.
b. A greasy-looking mark on her jeans starting just above the knee and getting fainter as it gets higher. This is the mark of the toddler, who loves nothing more than to stagger over and smear its nose and mouth lovingly on its mother’s leg. Mine is pictured below, and it’s been more accurate than any growth chart at tracking my daughter’s height – my stain inches higher as she grows. There’s a matching one for my son at around waist level currently.
7. Stand a discreet distance behind her and yell ‘Mummy!’.
Alternatively, just watch what she does in response to a random child crying or calling its mother. She’ll turn around, even if she’s fully aware her children aren’t nearby. I can almost guarantee it. If she doesn’t turn around, you can be sure she’ll at least have a little smirk on her face as she revels in the experience of hearing a child
lose the plot need some ‘time-in’ without it being her responsibility. Bliss!
*I said any self-respecting mother carries tissues around all the time. That clearly doesn’t include me, given that I’ve described my parenting style as ‘lacklustre’ more than once. I’m constantly caught short in the tissue department and have to wipe noses on bibs, napkins and spare socks out of the nappy bag. My poor children, I’m not sure exactly what they did to deserve such incompetence.
What are your thoughts? Have I missed anything? Leave a comment and let me know if you have any other sure-fire ways of recognising a Mama when she doesn’t have her sprogs in tow!