“Behind every child is a mother who is pretty sure she’s screwing it up”.
I read this on one of those little hanging plaque things to put up in your house, and it made me smile. Not because it’s particularly funny, but because it seems a pretty apt assessment of my 18 months as a mum-in-training.
I doubt myself and ask a zillion (give or take) questions daily; how can I get Bear to eat (anything, sometimes)? Should she watch less TV? Should I have made more of an effort to go to soft play when it was pouring down? Should I not be on countdown to bedtime when it’s only 2pm? Should I not roll my eyes when we listen to Bear’s CD of music for the 5th time on the same journey? Should I not be high-fiving myself when I manage a trip to the loo ON MY OWN (yep, check me out – it did happen once)? I have a lot of friends at the same stage of Mum School as me, and some that have a few more years of experience. From what I can tell you never stop questioning, doubting, procrastinating, worrying and comparing (go on, admit it) yourself and your mummying skills.
Moment of realisation
But seeing that plaque made me realise something. For the first time in my 34.5 years on this earth, it has never ever occurred to me that my mum might have once felt like she was “screwing it up”, or that she ever questioned, doubted or procrastinated over decisions when it came to me or my brother.
By all accounts I was a bit of a…errr…challenge (that’s fair, eh mum?). As a baby, sleep was my nemesis. As a toddler, tantrums were my best friend. You only have to mention Stoke town centre to my parents and they’ll tell you about the time that, aged 3, I was carried under my dad’s arm, kicking and screaming, and frogmarched back to the car because I couldn’t get my own way over something or other. I think ‘hard work’ would be the polite way of putting it.
If eBay was around in the 1990s, I’m sure there were times they’d consider listing me. As a teenager I was moody, argumentative and, as my brother so honestly put it once, “what’s the nice way of saying ‘a bloody nightmare’?” If I wasn’t allowed to do something, I’d try my best to do it. If I was allowed out until 10, I’d rock up at 1. You get the picture. Then off I went to uni in 1998. I remember very clearly my mum crying as we said goodbye; yep, even though this moody, argumentative pain-in-the-backside was fleeing the nest for a few years, my mum cried.
In my eyes, my mum is the best. Even now my brother and I are married and parents ourselves, mum and dad would still do anything and be anywhere for us. I know how lucky we are to have that relationship. I just wish Norfolk was nearer to Cardiff, but while I work on sorting that out we will certainly keep BT in business.
Do as I say, not as I do
Behind every child there may well be a mother who is pretty sure she’s screwing it up, but I didn’t buy the little hanging plaque. Because while I’m only human in having doubts and insecurities, I hope Bear never has to know about them as she grows up. I hope she is confident and strong-minded, and – when she is my age and a mother herself – I hope she will be as proud of me as I am of her Nana.
I can also only hope Bear never takes inspiration from my pain-in-the-backside attitude as a teenager, because these days we actually DO have eBay…
So happy Mother’s Day, mum. Thank you for not leaving me in Stoke town centre that day (even though you were no doubt very tempted). If I am a good mum to Bear, then it’s because you’ve taught me how.
Thank you for being my mum.
On a (sort of) related subject, Ocean Finance has carried out a bit of research into the true cost of parenting – you can view it here if you like. While the views expressed are solely the author’s, I was questioned as part of the research process which is why I’m pimping the finished piece here.