In my head exists the perfect mum. She’s been there since long before I had children, only the problem is that since I’ve had the kids, she’s stayed there – in my head (and here). In real life exists a kind of watered down, shit version of her, or at least that’s how it feels some days.
I had all these ideas of things that I would and wouldn’t do as a mum. I was full of opinions, ideas, plans, and expectations of myself. I was under no illusions that sometimes children are difficult, and I was fully aware that I would encounter my fair share of tantrums, arguments, biting, scratching, snatching, refusal to eat and everything else in between and beyond.
I Thought I Would Handle It Better
Despite growing up with a nagging feeling that I’d never be good parent material as a result of my short temper and cold temperament, when I found out I was expecting Amelia I had all these ideas of how I was going to totally handle my shit (and hers!) impeccably and without resorting to some of the shit tactics I had witnessed over the years.
I expected tantrums, but I knew that I would handle them with grace and poise. I would exchange mildly amused “that’s life, eh?” glances with other mums in the supermarket while my kid thrashed on the ground over a kinder egg or something.
I expected demands for said kinder eggs when I had quite explicitly said “no” already. But I knew that I would stand resolute in my decision making, and never ever would I allow a child to change my mind simply by moaning.
I expected there to be days when I could not wait for bedtime and some peace and quiet, but I knew that I would never bribe my kids to be quiet with electronics and food. I would encourage my children to develop and use their imaginations, and I wouldn’t dream of rewarding or bribing them with food for fear of promoting negative relationships with food.
I Had All The Answers
Prior to having my own kids, I’d spent years watching other people doing it wrong. I’d watched my own mum tell my younger brothers “just eat this much and then you can finish” while sectioning off a part of their plate. I knowingly told her that my kids would know that if I had put it on their plate that meant I wanted them to eat it. There’d be no picking and choosing at my table.
I had seen mums in coffee shops responding to tantrums with soothing tones of “Oh Dear. Is that a nice way to behave? When you are ready to talk to Mummy nicely I’ll be over here waiting” while shaking my head and tutting. Someone needs to tell that kid off… I knew this.
I’d seen Mums on their phones on the train while their kids sat next to them head resting on their arm while they watched the world rush by out of the window. I had known, then, that there was nothing more important than your child. there was nothing so important that you should be missing this golden opportunity to have a conversation with your child. I had known that I wouldn’t spend time on my phone when I was with my children.
Some Days Are Better Than Others
The reality is that some days I come really close to being the mum I think I should be. Some days I come close to being the mum I thought I would be, and more often than not those are not the good days. And some days are just a complete write off. The kind of parent that I want to be has changed and adapted as the days, months, and years have passed.
Some of the things I was resolute about in the beginning I am now horrified that I ever believed. Others have stuck with me, and the rest has adapted and morphed into a new set of parenting ideals. But it doesn’t matter how many parenting ideals I have, how many of those I am resolute about, and how many have changed over the years. Because the true reality is that sometimes even I am going to go against my own ideals, because I am human (and probably tired/hangry/stressed). Sometimes I’m going to do it wrong, and sometimes it just isn’t black and white.
Humans learn through experience, so I can only hope that as my experience grows, so does the ratio of getting it right to getting it wrong! Maybe one day I will be the perfect mum, or maybe it’s just enough that I’m striving to get there.