Picture the scene. Four well-dressed, elegant women are in a restaurant for lunch. They have style, panache, presence. Under the table hide the fabulous shoes and beautiful handbags. In the midst of their catch up and conversation, the shrill tones of a mobile phone are heard. All talk is abandoned as the women furiously scramble for their handbags and start to rummage through them.
The detritus of their lives come flinging out in the search for the elusive phone. As the ringing subsides, they all look at the table at what came out of their bags.
Gone is any illusion of sophistication and with it any notions they might have had about being completely in control of their lives. The little Lego figures, toy cars, pink butterfly hair clips, half eaten lollipops and endless baby wipes give the game away.
They are all mothers taking a well earned break but even if they leave the babies behind, the baby’s bits still come with them. The handbags are no longer a haven of grown up gear, now they contain everything belonging to the family and maybe a lipstick for themselves if they’re lucky.
One of the oddest effects of becoming a mother, one of the things that nobody ever tells you, is what happens to your handbag. Actually even if you were told, you wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Gone are the days of cute little clutches containing only lipstick, breath mints and some cash. Gone are the days of the gorgeous leather laptop cases containing important documents and fresh make up. The days of beautiful, grown-up bags with jewels, tassels and cleverly draped scarves are definitely consigned to history. Motherhood brings a whole new type of bag containing absolutely nothing that actually belongs to us and yet is bursting at the seams with essential items that we cannot leave the house without.
The size of the bag is different, the weight is definitely different and the contents have completely changed. Now we have to fit in the contents of the toy box, the contents of the fridge, a library or two, a first aid kit and emergency toilet requirements.
In fact, it’s a suitcase I need, not a handbag. It’s actually remarkable how a handbag, its size and its contents, is symbolic of where a woman is at in her life. However, if your current handbag is doubling up as a nappy changing bag and you no longer have a child in nappies, you may be in more trouble than you thought.
So, ladies, it’s time to take ourselves firmly in hand. I will lead by example and empty the contents of my current handbag onto the table. I will sort through what I have and what I need space for.
Right so; the four sunhats can probably go. The sun cream, sunglasses and sugar-free gum can stay. I don’t think I need the games console and charger nor do I really need Calpol. But I might hold on to the plasters and antiseptic wipes as someone always hurts themselves, and not always the children either.
Do I really need the crackers, the Lego man, the wipes, spare socks, reusable shopping bags, tennis ball, wallet? Wait, the wallet is probably not optional. Not sure if I need the Swiss Army knife either, but I suppose it could come in handy. You never know when you’ll have to skin a snake.
If the contents of your handbag reflect the contents of your mind, then there’s no hope. There’s clutter and junk everywhere, but it’s meaningful clutter, if there is such a thing.
The Lego karate man was in my hand as one of the kids took their karate black belt grading. The tennis ball was used by another when they played at a school competition and the spare socks were packed when the other child took the whole communing with nature thing a bit too far.
So maybe I’ll hang onto some things, but just don’t ask me for something useful like a pen or a tissue. I never carry them. I just don’t have the space.