I am not always the mum I want to be. All too often, I am NOTHING like her. And the person I become, I don’t even recognise. She is a BAD mum. And before you all rush to tell me I’m a great mum and not to be hard on myself – and thank you for that! – I know that we all go through this. I know that I’m human, real and raw and incapable of perfection. But if you were to say to me, “Hey, you’re doing the best you can”, in my heart of hearts, I know that this is not always true. Sometimes I choose not to be better.
It’s not exactly apathy and it’s definitely not deliberate but there are times when I know I should lift and I just don’t. I’m too tired, I’m stressed, I’m hungry, I’m over it. All of these things can be true at any given moment. But this is the gig. And my kids need to know that no matter how hard it is, I will always do my best.
As a domestic goddess, I fall down a lot. I boil pots dry (two in as many days once), I forget wet clothes in the washing machine (is there a worse smell?), I feed my kid number-ghetti (again) because I haven’t got my shit together in time for dinner and yet I find time to cook chocolate fondant for myself (three times in one month!) because I am a sugar whore and there is no stopping me.
But all these things I can forgive myself for.
It’s when I let the tiredness, the monotony, the feeling of being caged get right under my skin that I morph into someone who one; I never thought I’d become, and two; I really don’t like.
My three-year-old feels like karmic retribution for the hell I visited on my mum as a child. He tests me daily. As all good three-year-olds should. THAT’S HIS JOB. And mine is to guide him through this stage. I’m pretty sure the job description doesn’t include screaming, “You don’t get to make the rules!” in your toddler’s face. Yep. Did that. Made him cry, made me cry and then, when the ugliness dissipated, it made not a lick of difference to his behaviour. And why would it? There was absolutely nothing useful about it. Nothing instructive or helpful. Just a woman losing control and taking it out on her tiny son.
Look, I can even forgive myself for that. But when those kinds of moments seem to be repeated, frequently repeated, I start to think I’m not learning from my mistakes. And I am so completely out of ideas about how to deal with a defiant three-year-old that I have resorted to a campaign of fear to make him realise who’s boss. And I know that parent. I’ve seen them in action. As a child, I never wanted to stay at their kid’s house because it was unpleasant and it was scary. And their children were clearly damaged by this style of parenting.
I wasn’t raised that way, to fear my parents and for the love of God, that’s not how I want to raise my own family.
It’s frightening how easily we slip into behaviours that we abhor in others when we have been pushed to the brink.
The best I can do is aim to learn from my mistakes, to try to be more creative when dealing with my child, to read and ask questions and be always striving to do better. My kids deserve no less than that.
And when I trip up – AGAIN! – I’ll hit the restart button, take a few deep, DEEP breaths, power up again and remember that these little people are the fucking loves of my life and I don’t ever want them to think otherwise.
To that end, I found this article helpful. You might, too.