I’ve often wondered, what makes a good mother? And if I were to be marked out of 10, what would I get?
I mean these days are you considered a maternal goddess simply because you manage to keep your offspring alive, fed and watered till they’re 18, or is there more to it than just ensuring the survival of the young? Maybe it’s about teaching Junior not to knock every other child to the floor, in the stampede to get the last biscuit. Or how it’s unacceptable to spit at passing old ladies in the street, or hold up the local corner shop with a Swiss army Knife, for the sake of a pocketful of jelly beans.
Basic ground rules no longer seem to apply to kids today and it’s hard to know what will keep them from falling off the straight and narrow. Personally I concentrate on good manners, eating well, doing what they’re told – and the all important learning not to interrupt me when I’m on the phone. But who knows if this is enough.
Perhaps there should be a Parents Manual 101. A check list so we can tick off what we’ve done right, what we’ve got wrong and and what’s still to come. Actually scratch the last one. If we knew what was to come, the survival of the young would be put into jeopardy and Prozac sales would sky rocket.
I do sometimes feel that I probably fall well below the Mother’s Mark – that’s the parental version of the Plimsoll line, there to let you know when you’re about to drown in another child rearing disaster. These feelings of inadequacy are often as a result of me completely losing the plot, followed by my temper. Generally over something that is, in the grand scheme of things, really not that important at all.
Like my daughter sifting through her dinner as if I’m deliberately trying to poison her with an olive. Or my son deciding that the clean, cream wall is the perfect empty canvas on which to exercise his untapped artistic talent. The sort of stuff that I no doubt did at that age – and got a smack for.
So when one tearful child has gone to bed with no pudding, because he refused to eat any of the vegetables, or the other is glaring at me as she stomps to her room because I’ve abruptly switched the TV off – without giving a full 60 minute’s worth of warning – then I feel like crap. Well actually, lets be honest, initially I don’t feel that bad at all. I’m normally glad to have some peace and quiet at last and a chance to sit down without being talked at, tugged down to floor level or questioned over everything I say.
It’s about an hour later when I go into their rooms and see them laying there, all angelic looking with a tear still clinging onto an eyelash. Then I feel like crap.
Worse still, when looking for reassurance the next day, I ask my daughter, “So do you still love me or am I the meanest Mummy in the world?”
“Of course I do”, she says, looking horrified at the very suggestion she wouldn’t, ” you’re the very best Mummy in the world”.
And that’s when I feel REALLY crap. As I think to myself how important, on a scale of 1 to 10, was it that she ate that last piece of aubergine.
The trouble I find is that intending to be nice, loving and patience to my children every minute of the day, and actually achieving it are often about as far apart as the North and South Pole.
Sometimes it’s impossible not to be a bitch, even to them. I never mean it, but they seem to have this knack of catching me at a time when I’m especially stressed out, tired and hungry. They then pull out all the stops and leap up and down on my very last, very frayed nerve. At that point, unfortunately for them, the most appetising looking thing to bite off just so happens to be their heads.
To make matters worse, it’s at these times that I come out with the most god awful things. Threats I have no intention of ever carrying out, character assassinations that are completely unfair and phrases that instantly morph me into my own mother. I hear the words come out, and even in mid flow think to myself ‘what the hell, shut up will you’.
I’m presuming, or rather hoping I’m not alone in all of this. Judging by some of the sad looking children and the angry, muttering mothers I’ve seen stalking around the supermarket and away from the playground, I’m guessing not.
In a perfect world I’d deal with stress better and never take it out on my kids. But the trouble is, as with most multi-tasking mums, half the time I’m too busy trying to work to play dress up with Barbies, and too busy cooking, feeding and clearing up to make necklaces out of pipe cleaners and the contents out of the ‘Bits’ draw. By the evening I am certainly too bloody tired to discuss in detail, all those things that children find endlessly fascinating, and parents find, well, boring.
Yesterday for example, after a long day at the keyboard, my daughter informed me that for her latest school project she had to learn all about the banana. Now it’s not that I don’t care about the banana project, or wish to restrict her learning all about the cutting edge life cycle of this thoroughly nutritious fruit. But my brain just doesn’t have enough functioning cells left at the end of the day to process such an uninteresting topic.
I could let her lose on the Internet to find out more, but god only knows what would pop up if she Googled ‘ banana + picture’. I have images springing to mind, and none of them I wish to have burned into the memory bank of my 8 year old. I am tempted to just be blunt – ‘A banana grows, it’s peeled, it’s eaten – end of story’. But I suspect this just won’t cut it.
Besides that, it would be mean to crush her imagination and wish to learn. Particularly as I’m something of a witch when it comes to policing her homework and making her learn her times tables in the holidays – when all the other little girls seem to be out chatting with their friends on the street corner, wearing 2 inch silver kitten heels and eating sweets…
Juggling life and kids is an uphill battle at the best of times. Add to that a job, whether in an office or 10 feet from the kitchen table, and you may as well throw in a couple of knives and a blindfold. I wonder how many woman wish they didn’t have to do it all, or at least to be seen to be doing it all.
Given the choice, some days I think I’d rather go back to the Stone Age way of life. Sitting at home in my nicely decorated cave, with nothing to do but carving up and cooking whatever gets dragged back in through the door after the hunt. As long as there was Ebay that is, and Eastenders on the telly.
Anyway I have to say I felt slightly better about my mothering skills the other day, when I set eyes on this picture. I may bark, bite and occasionally smack my kids, but at least I’m not subjecting them to this type of beauty pageant child abuse. I ask you, what sort of self obsessed mother does this to her child? It’s freakish, warped and quite frankly creepy.
In comparison to these ‘eyes on the prize’ mothers, I’m practically Maria Von Trap, with a little Mary Poppins thrown in for free.