Yesterday I saw a mum sitting with her two sons outside a café burst into tears as one of them dropped a piece of the jigsaw puzzle he was tackling for what must have been the umpteenth time. His wails of frustration combined with her unchecked tears told me a very familiar story. I considered asking if she was ok but resisted as she almost visibly pulled herself together, regaining her composure and possibly re-applying the mask that she turns outwards to the world. She could have been any one of us, mothers holding everything in the most delicate balance, working so hard simply to cope with the everyday pressures while the world calls us ‘capable’ and ‘clever’ and ‘super’.
Oh to be able to let our guard down sometimes. To be able to say, ‘I really need a break’ without being judged a basket-case or a failure. And more importantly, not judging ourselves as such. Whether working or stay-at-home, we are all simply trying to do the best by these funny, engaging and beautiful little individuals. Their reliance on us is absolute (even though from the age of about seven it seems they would hotly deny it), our moral compass is their indication of right and wrong, our values their touchstones.
My parents jokingly say that my brother and I turned out alright despite them (with a few bumps along the way). I now know this to mean that they did not obsess over the minutiae of our extra-curricular learning or whether we were learning vital social skills, these would come simply through our being a part of their world and learning as we went along. There was so much less chatter about how to do everything and what was right and wrong and therefore, I wonder, fewer judgements of each other?
Don’t get me wrong, I know the resources available to parents now are quite amazing and provide a very real support to many many parents, as the use of online sites such as Mumsnet and Kidspot attest. It is all too easy though to allow the constant flow of advice and information to overwhelm you, to feel as though you are the only one who doesn’t know how best to sooth a colicky baby, discipline a belligerent toddler, guide an older child through the rough and tumble of the playground.
We all have our inner voice, our gut instinct and the knowledge that there is no-one on earth who knows our children as we do. We should perhaps turn inwards a bit more, listen to ourselves and not bow to the pressure of others’ perception. We all deserve membership of the Motherhood Survival Club, a place of no-holds-barred mutual congratulation and understanding. Life with small children is exhausting, bewildering and exhilarating. There are no prizes for heroics and probably not a great deal of thanks at the end. However, as we tell our children, as long as we try our best, are kind, and remember the old adage ‘do as you would be done by’, we should all come out relatively unscathed.
If you have managed to stomach my pontificating (as my Dad would call it), have a look at the post on Children’s Books, please add your own list, the diversity of favourites is amazing!