I was at my mum’s house a couple of weeks ago, flicking through the magazines that fall out of newspapers, and I read this article where Bryony Gordon (who is now my favourite) and her mum compare experiences of motherhood. One line in particular caught my eye.
“I think my mum was really shocked by how badly I took to motherhood. She didn’t say anything at the time, but she didn’t need to – the stunned look on her face said all that I needed to know.”
I relayed this to my mum, laughing, and said she probably thought the same about me. But instead of sharing my amusement, she looked at me, surprised, and said that that was absolutely the opposite of what she thought. And that, in fact, all my dad, and my older sister, and everyone else ever talks about is how much better I’ve taken to motherhood than they all expected. And that they are proud.
My initial reaction was to beam with delight and pride and do tell me more! Followed swiftly by, are you kidding me?! I’m a mess!
I was genuinely surprised that she said that. Because most days my house is a dump and my parenting skills haphazard at best. My mood is a jumble of unreasonable emotions, and I’m exhausted, and not always completely enamoured with this motherhood lark. A lot of the time I feel like I’m losing and I generally have no idea what on earth I’m doing. At least once a week I question whether I am in any way coping. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered with it all and that makes me a bad mother. Often I lose patience with the whinging and that makes me a bad mother. I bloody hate playing with the Playmobil and reading stories and watching CBeebies that makes me a bad mother. I am so much worse at all of it than I ever expected to be.
Mum tells me I’m doing just fine all the time. Every time I doubt myself. But, for whatever reason, what she said this time has stuck with me and now, every time I feel like a failure, I’m trying to remind myself that people are having conversations not about how I’m barely scraping by, but how well I’ve taken to being a mum. It makes me feel proud. I think people should be telling mums things like that more often. We’re all doing just fine, even if we don’t feel like we are.
Much later, when the toddler was in bed and I was still revelling in the glow of being a successful parent in other people’s eyes, I had another thought: just how badly did they expect me to fail that this looks like success?! But, hey, either way I’m still up on expectations. I think that’s enough for me!