South London Photographer: Matriphagous spiders and other little monsters

Have you heard of matriphagous spiders? There is an Australian example who gives birth to her babies and then begins to liquefy so that they can feed on her, starting with her legs and working upwards, finishing their meal of Mum with the protein-rich eggs she keeps in her belly especially for their grisly pudding. I think about this spider often as I meander through motherhood trying to partition my time, internal resources and headspace fairly for all of us but also realistically.

Like most mothers and many fathers it’s not always easy getting the balance right and I seem to swing between ignoring the feral ones rather too much whilst getting on with my own stuff or abandoning my studies and neglecting myself periodically to concentrate on them. Christmas, of course is about my boys and that along with my own need to have a bit of a rest means I am consequently rather behind on college work, which needs addressing as soon as the New Year begins. All of this lies heavily on my very poorly head as I lie in bed with the most terrible cold for the second day running.

As colds go it’s a pretty bad one and I’m reminded of the spiders eating away at their maternal parent. Finding time to rest isn’t always easy (as I type a small person is clambering all over my legs telling me all about a book I’ve read to him at least a million times and now he’s hugging or should I say head-butting that poorly head of mine). They certainly are quite demanding little creatures but at least they aren’t literally eating me up alive. However, I do currently feel a little like I might have forgotten to look after myself in some way.

While it may be an economical albeit rather gruesome solution to the spider’s evolutionary needs there would be an awful lot we’d miss out on if we procreated in the same way.

Like how Son No 1 was determined to make sure I received an extremely special present and so badgered his father to fund his extravagant gift. Or the beautiful photography book that he and my mother chose for me which actually bought tears to my eyes when I opened it… (I do wonder if I’m heading for the menopause because I seem to well up at the slightest thing in the same way I did during my pregnancies). Or the wonderful get-well card they decided to make me yesterday (again, I got a little teary)because I was stuck in bed all day drifting in and out of feverish sleep; that is when when Son No 3 would allow me and thank you to my mother for removing him for the afternoon.

I’d hate to miss out on Son No 3’s solution to the fact he’s not allowed to use swear words and so instead yells, “what the thumb!” when something irks him or simply because he can. How awful not to have the hugs that all three boys shower me with, although not so much the eldest now truth be told (weep, weep). On Christmas Day I did a jolly good impression of a post menopausal elderly Aunt by falling asleep on the sofa at about five pm surrounded by chaos and noise, and I was woken with the slobbery kisses from a two year old which if you must be jolted from a post-prandial doze then I’d say it’s one of the best ways to go about it. And the joy in Son No 2s expression when he opened his present – I really got that one right – was definitely something worth not being eaten for.

“Mum, mum! Son No 3’s got no trousers on!” is something that gets yelled at me fairly regularly. He is very good at going to the loo on his own but it’s all too much trouble getting dressed again, which is usually fine at home, although as you can imagine has its occasional perils, but at a Christmas party in someone else’s home it is probably best to retrieve said child from the wriggling mass of small people and replace his underwear at least.

I love those moments. None of these happenings are earth shattering on their own but add them up over time and the whole mothering thing, tiring, tricky and trying as it can sometimes be, amounts to something pretty special and makes our own evolutionary path extremely worthwhile.

Being a human being rather than a self sacrificing spider means being deeply embedded in a sophisticated culture and one of our cultural mores is recognising time passing and marking it in some way. Generally we like to start a new year by giving something up or attempting to better ourselves. I’m not sure what I’m going to give up but if I could convince myself to do without my smart phone I certainly would. It drives me mad. My own madness with it drives me madder.   And there are only so many stories about animals being nice to each-other on Twitter a person needs to read and then weep about.  So I think, my New Year’s resolution is going to be about being more present in the here and now!

As the sun sets on 2014 what are others thinking about giving up or taking up in 2015? Whatever it is, good luck! I hope you all had fabulous Christmases and have the sort of New Year you’re hoping for. I’m going to get over this hideous cold, tidy up my home, which is what I normally do with much gusto during these in-between days and then catch up with my studies. And I shall always try to remember; at least I’m not a matriphagous spider from Australia, even though metaphorically speaking it can sometimes feel that the little monsters are indeed devouring me.

Happy New Year! xx

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A stunning sunset in Wandsworth just before Christmas
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