Being a mum. Tough, eh?
It’s a multi-faceted role that is littered with mistakes, worry, regret, irritation, and pretty much every other emotion under the sun.
It’s a job I never feel accomplished at, rarely feel satisfied by my efforts (and if I do, it is always very short-lived), and I always have a pervading sense of not quite getting it right, however hard I try.
Let’s give an example of what I mean: I live in absolute dread of forgetting something important to do with my kids and school. Like not remembering they are going swimming, not packing school books or forgetting homework needs doing, having the wrong food in a packed lunch for a school trip, or a whole host of other things I could get wrong. This is a lot about me. I do worry that by forgetting something, my kids are going to get into trouble, or teased, or miss out. But I have to be honest and say that a lot of it is about how it reflects on my parental abilities. If you forget their PE kit, you are a crap mum. Right?
A prime example of this happened last week. My big boy told me that his class would start having PE outside, and he needed outdoor trainers. So, I got them ready for him. I panicked for a fair bit beforehand, mind you, because he can’t tie his laces, and all he has for outdoor trainers are a pair with laces. So, I spent ages fixing them just right, so that he could put them on without undoing them, yet they would stay tight enough that they didn’t fall off when he ran. I put more thought into it than scientists did researching the atom. But what I forgot to give any attention to was packing tracksuit bottoms or a hoodie (he went with his usual shorts and tee shirt), and as a result, he was so cold he had to put his clothes back on, and then wasn’t allowed to participate; instead, he had to walk around the football pitch. He cried, he told me; he said it felt horrible to be secluded like that. And yes, my heart just about broke; I’d let him down and I was a crap mum. Self-flagellation a-plenty that night, I can tell you.
I know, I know. I know that he will survive, may even have taught him some lesson (pack your own things for school, perhaps?), but I felt like the worse mum in the world. He’s a sensitive boy, and whereas most kids would be able to shrug it off, I think he feels embarrassment and humiliation more keenly, and it lingers for longer. And what would his teachers think? Would they talk privately about the mum that sent her child to school with shorts and a tee shirt? Didn’t she realise it was cold? Didn’t she care? Would they scoff, discussing how some parents were just rubbish? Maybe. But they couldn’t say any worse than I felt myself.
So, imagine my absolute delight, when I discovered that another mum – one I don’t know very well, but have always regarded as clued-up, and with it – sent her six year old to school with rain trousers that were too small for him. My youngest came home and told me that his friend had been crying because they were too short. I asked how short. He said they were half way up his leg. And my reaction? I laughed. I laughed a secret little chortle, riddled with glee, but also relief: I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only mum that got it wrong sometimes. I didn’t waste one moment imagining how she (and her child) felt. This is kind of odd behaviour for the highly sensitive, empathic women I usually am. But, nope. I was too busy smiling to myself, revelling in the relief that it wasn’t me that went to bed that night with thoughts of failing my kids reverberating around my head.
I think a lesson can be learned from that. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. No mum, especially one that has a busy life, is going to get it right 100% of the time. And if they did, really, what does that teach children? I would imagine that it would set them up for a fall; that’s what. A less-than-perfect mum makes them realise that the world is less-than-perfect; it allows them to face disappointment, and to deal with it. Not a lesson I would ever deliberately place on my children’s shoulders; yet, surely, an invaluable one, none-the-less?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net