It’s Mother’s day, I’ve been up with three children since the crack of dawn; of course I’ve been spoilt with lovely handmade cards, flowers and champagne (My husband and the children have truly excelled themselves this year!) But I’ve also…
washed bottles, cooked breakfast, fed three children, cleared up, done a load of washing, listened to my eldest son practice his ukulele, done sticking and gluing with my daughter (aged 2 and a half), and continually rescued the baby from several danger zones, like the windowsill and the sideboard, where he currently likes to climb!
I have done this on my own because today it’s my husband’s turn for a lay in. Before anyone blows a fuse about it being mother’s day please let me assure you that this is not a problem! We take it in turns every night to either get up with the baby, or get up at some unearthly hour with the toddler. At weekends we each get a turn to sleep until 9am. This is something we have done since the arrival of our first child and it is something we need to do to ensure that at least once a week we actually get some sleep! So anyway, today it was his turn.
When he came downstairs and put the kettle on he said “Isn’t it milk time for the baby?”
“Oh yes!” I agreed “We should probably do something about that. I wondered why he was shouting!”
My husband dutifully made up a bottle and took our grumpy baby off for milk time whilst I ran upstairs to find clothes for everyone so we could finally get dressed!
As I was searching through my daughters’ sock drawer trying to find an actual matching pair I started to feel ridiculously guilty. I had forgotten milk time. How on earth could I forget milk time? My poor baby! And then a familiar voice in my head piped up “I am such a bad mother.”
Fortunately, for me, I know that this is not the case and my own mother will freely admit that she completely forgot to feed me once or twice! Probably because we were busy having fun doing something that was more important to us than lunch, but I can guarantee you that she will have had that same thought of “bad mother-ness.”
Then I began to think of a conversation I had with Louise yesterday about some photos we recently had taken. We both liked the photos of each other, but we both struggled to like the ones of ourselves. This is not a reflection on the photographers, it is a reflection on the critical way in which we see ourselves. When I look at myself I see dark circles under my eyes, hair that ‘needs a bit of work’, poor posture and bad skin.
So this made me begin to wonder why? Why are we so hard on ourselves as mothers and as women? After all I had done 9 “good mother things” this morning before I missed the cue to give my son his milk on time! I’m sure I would have worked it out fairly swiftly had my husband not helped me out.
9 seems to be a bit of a magic number in self-esteem terms. I recall some training that I did several years ago when I used to work closely with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health team, and one thing that has stuck with me is that for every negative comment a child hears and believes about themselves, 9 positive comments/ beliefs are required to boost their self-esteem back to where it was. I’m not entirely sure where this information has come from, but I can see that it only took one minor thing to knock my other 9 successes down and cause me to focus, albeit briefly, on my terrible parenting. Maybe if I could not see those 9 positive things it would have really impacted on me?
I think that both the media and work environments contribute hugely to our feelings of inadequacy. Every advert I see aimed at parents highlights something else I have “failed at” or “could do better at”. Wear this make up to get rid of those dark circles under your eyes, wash your hair with this so it doesn’t look so limp and lifeless, feed your baby this food because what you are feeding them isn’t good enough, a “good parent” would drive this car to keep their children extra safe and they would go on this family holiday to Disney Land! Fail, fail, fail!
And in the world of work this “how can you do better? How can you be more effective?” culture continues. Coming from a background in teaching and education we were forever criticised, often by politicians who had never even been teachers, no matter what we did it was NEVER good enough. I worked my fingers to the bone and pushed my mental health to its limits and straight over the edge. And what for? To be told “Yes, that was OK, but what could you do to improve it?” What I did to improve this particular situation was to walk away from it! (Apologies for the rant! My views on the education system are another blog altogether!)
So today, I am going to cut myself some slack! Today maybe I could do better, but I don’t need to and I don’t want to, because what I do IS good enough.
It’s 11am am I’m not dressed – Hey, it’s mother’s day!
There are piles of laundry waiting to be put away – My children have clean clothes.
There’s glue on the kitchen table – We’ve been creating
There are toys ALL over the living room floor – we’ve been playing
The beds aren’t made – We’ve been busy (and they will be easier to get into tonight!)
I’m blogging on Mother’s Day – I can’t help it, I’m a blogger!
I’ve missed milk time – Doh!
So to ALL of you hard working ladies out there for goodness sake, sit down, put your feet up, ignore the mess/ creativity and just be bloody proud of what you HAVE achieved!
Image by Studio Visage Folkestone