In this exclusive extract from Miranda Hart's hilarious new book, she warns against the four types of modern mum
I don't know if you have children, are considering having children, or are about to give birth. Or perhaps you consider yourself still to be a child, so having a brood of your own isn't currently an option. (In which case, please put this down immediately, listen to the midwives and for goodness' sake push when they tell you to.)
Or perhaps you're like a 'man child' from a Nick Hornby book, pursuing a monk-like, responsibility-free existence of computer games, beer and curry. Or perhaps you're of a more spiritual bent, and have recently completed a week-long workshop on "unleashing your inner child", in which case, I hope said child is now unleashed and wreaking havoc on the Lego mat.
Alternatively, perhaps you're terribly modern and brave, someone who can lean confidently back in their Philippe Starck office chair, buzz their PA for a chai latte (which I always think sounds like a terrifying martial art), tighten the belt of their size 6 jeans, kick aside their yoga mat and intone, "Yeah, I simply don't want children. Just not something I ever imagined for myself. I'm totally cool with it."
Whichever category you fall into, I -- with no children of my own -- say, well done. It takes all sorts to make a world. But, is it just me, or are we currently suffering an epidemic of what I call Extreme Motherhood?
It seems that some mothers have forgotten that human beings have been breeding, simply and successfully, for an awfully long time now. They've forgotten that children were raised by cave people. Fine humans have grown up with the minimum of hassle and fuss, yet this fact is ignored. The How To Bring Up Your Baby/Toddler/ Teenager section of the bookshop is growing by the day, while the list of things you're supposed to buy for your child and the things they're supposed to have achieved by certain ages is getting longer and more demanding with every new baby born. Mothers today are on a fear-based treadmill for bringing up their little ones.
It's all organic vegetables and superfoods and after-school clubs and "development" and naughty steps and no smacking and "give them a choice''. Ladies and gentlemen, please may I draw your attention to my scientifically vigorous research into parenthood, which has revealed four distinct varieties of "Extreme Mother" currently active?
Extreme Mother Type One
Extreme Mother Type Ones are terminally superior. The fact that they have successfully furthered their line gives them, they believe, superiority over all other human beings, especially over single, childless women. However, they reserve an extra-special bit of scorn for any of their fellow mothers who may not be getting it "quite right''.
Type One mothers generally end up with three or four children who will be given names like Bruschetta, Vinaigrette and Focaccia (girls), or Marmaduke, Frappuccino and Aspinal (boys).
Extreme Mothers Type One take pride and joy in two things. First, the fact that they own the largest 4x4 on the market, which was made missile-safe in Afghanistan and can hold 14 Bugaboos and an M&S picnic, no probs. Second, that they lost their baby weight via an extreme, military style "Mams and Prams" exercise class within six weeks of each child's birth.
Extreme Mother Type Two
Extreme Mother Type Two is marginally less extreme than her Type One counterpart. She takes motherhood a fraction less seriously but is, none the less, determined to maintain the illusion of absolute togetherness and control.
No, the baby will not get the better of Extreme Mother Type Two, at least not in public. The pram is top-notch Maclaren. The baby-changing mat is Cath Kidston, the canvas sack with all the neatly labelled Tupperwares full of nutritionally balanced food is Cath Kidston, the clips to keep the packets of organic rice cake snacks fresh are Cath Kidston.
Despite having three children, this woman's car is oddly clean. This is one of the ways in which she silently competes with other mothers. The other way is via the OTT nurturing of her child's embryonic gifts and talents: "He clapped! At Monkey Music. He clapped! Darling, eBay us a Xylophone; he's the new Mozart!"
When safely ensconced in her own home, Extreme Mother Type Two then falls into one of two categories. Let's call them 2A and 2B. Category 2A will keep up the beautifully controlled façade by breezing through the front door, forcing through her tiredness with a song, and maybe treating herself to a little home-made something from the Cath Kidston cookie jar for a modest, non-waistline-damaging sugar rush.
Category 2B, on the other hand, will crash through the door, give into the tears that she's been holding back all day, weep and wail and bellow as she chars the fish fingers, then stagger to the drinks cabinet to crack open a bottle of wine and shop for more Cath Kidston on her iPad.
However, if "company" were to appear at the front door, 2B would be able to sober up, spritz on some Jo Malone and have an aubergine parmigiana in the oven in three minutes flat. And she'll serve it up while telling tender stories of how "Motherhood's really offered me a chance to give something back, you know?''
I warn you, 2B is a very sneaky beast.
Extreme Mother Type Three
Extreme Mother Type Three would confidently approach a Type One mother in the park and say, "Oh yeah, sorry about the sick on the shirt. No point changing it, I thought. It'll only get sicked on again. Ha!"
Type One mother will respond to this by nervously peeling her child away from the sick-smeared Type Three, saying pointedly, "Focaccia, please come here, I am taking you to ballet now, and then we shall be learning how to make moussaka for dinner."
Type Two mothers are absolutely thrilled that Type Three mothers exist, as they present no threat to them whatsoever. The Type Three mother's car is a stewpot of wet biscuits, toy trucks, chocolate wrappers and two-year-old juice cartons.
She'll be able to socialise comfortably with friends who don't have children, so she doesn't subscribe to the theory that her kids watching an hour of telly while she has a natter with her mates is going to ruin them for life.
Type Three mother will also occasionally find herself of an evening in front of the telly, saying, "Oh my goodness, I haven't had a bath for three days.''
Extreme Mother Type Four
Our final type of Extreme Mother is one of a very special breed. She is the "Too Much Information" mother. Every morning, she'll arrive at the nursery gates and tell the other mothers how sore her breasts are, how hard the little one bit last night, how often the toddler woke up, when she last had sex and what that was like for the first time, post-birth.
"Urh, stop, please!" is what you really want to shout loudly in her face, but you maintain a fixed, middle-class smile. You took to avoiding her while she was pregnant, as she used to grab your hand and place it on her tummy, failing to notice that you winced in horror at the feel of her popped-out belly button.
Finally, Type Four will pass a lot of her time attempting to make friends with other mothers via activity groups. Sample phrase: "I've had this amazing idea! Percussion for Parents. Week One -- castanets. We shake it all out, and the toddlers dance. Like we're in a Spanish village!"
If I have painted a rather bleak picture, forgive me. I appreciate the deep and wonderful rewards of parenthood and genuinely admire all you parents. You're capable of enduring trials I can't even begin to fathom, which is why I have yet to bow to the societal pressures of the need to breed. Thereby so far avoiding the horrors of parenthood, which I will forever be in awe of. No, really, parents, I respect you enormously.
But I feel that all our well-intentioned Extreme Mother types should try to embrace a little calm. As adults we spend such vast amounts of our time worried what people think, trying to get through each day without causing fuss, or looking like a fool. But children don't have that worry.
They are, for that blissful time in their lives, free of all social convention and stress. So, please don't force them to wear the right things, eat the right things, learn and do the right things. No parent can ever get it right but, if you're basically decent and kind then it's hard to get it particularly wrong. We've all turned out all right -- so let them play. Let them be a mess. Give them a tin of beans and a big stick and cast them loose in the back yard with an Arctic roll.
Imagine for a moment playing by children's rules. If you were at a party and saw someone you liked, you could just go and hold their hand. If they then tried to kiss you and you didn't like it, you could push them over. If your aunt gave you a Christmas present that you weren't too keen on, you could throw it back in her face and burst into tears.
You could gallop freely. You could skip. Children have got it right. The tragedy is, none of this is permissible as an adult. Although one thing surely is -- and I'll bet you know what I'm going to say -- that's right, the galloping. Such fun! Who says we can't be free like kids from time to time?
© KingMaker Productions Ltd 2012
Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart, published by Hodder & Stoughton on Thursday