Being a mother is a lot of things – joyful, fearful, enlightening, loving, exhausting, rewarding, hilarious, chaotic, spontaneous and so the list goes on. And being a mother, we naturally wear many hats – teacher, cleaner, mentor, dishwasher, driver, cook, diplomat, doctor, psychologist (oh and wife, friend, daughter, sister as well). When you sign up for the parenting gig, there’s no going back – it’s 365 days a year, 24/7. As my father-in-law once said – you’re a parent for life. You never really stop worrying about your kids – right until the day you leave the earth.
I think he’s 100% right, but quite frankly sometimes the relentlessness of parenting just wears you down. I have no doubt that I am not the perfect parent. Certainly I am not in the eyes of my men-children – oh no. The perfect parent doesn’t make you do homework, but lets you go out whenever you want, doesn’t make you tidy your room, or nag you to take off your filthy footy boots rather than wear them through the house, and gives you an unending supply of cash to fund everything your heart desires. The perfect parent has a great relationship with their teenager, and somehow always knows what to say to them when they’re angry or hurt, or annoyed, or worried (and don’t want to tell you). The imperfect parent (guilty) just seems to spend a lot of time yelling at them to do the stuff they need to do, or wondering how it is they are so disrespectful towards me and how did I not manage to teach them that they can’t speak to their mother like that? Worse still as the imperfect parent swears at them, should she be surprised when they choose to do it back? (yep, guilty).
The perfect parent knows to count to ten, and not lose her cool, and not make idle threats, and not say things she shouldn’t. Sadly, I have never been good at counting to ten – it’s not in my nature!
I’m not sure I am the perfect parent even in the eyes of Sister of a Man-Child. When you hear “It’s okay mum, I know you’re too busy to help me/play with me/talk to me”, the feelings of failure are immense. Is my life so damn packed full of stuff I have to do that even my youngest child is missing out on the love and attention she deserves from her parents? Are we just so driven to do everything we have to do that we don’t stop for the very important things (but somehow not a deadline driven task) such as reading a book to our child, or listening to what they need to tell us?
That’s when being a working mother can take its toll on you emotionally. When you almost feel like you are juggling so many balls in the air that you’re in danger of dropping them all. Along the way you feel like you are half doing everything. So you’re running out of time to answer all those emails at night, you’re a stressed wife with too much to do and barely time to exchange words, let alone have a nice conversation with your husband, you’re a useless class rep who’s not really doing what good class reps do, or you’re thinking about the sport commitments for the weekend and which child you will miss seeing play yet again? And while we do all this, we have the iPhone, or iPad, or laptop within easy reach, all trying to grab our attention and distract us further.
I recently had the chance to head away for 4 days for a “work trip” (okay, so there wasn’t any work at all), a short break from the madness of life in general. The absolute bonus when I got there was that none of my devices worked, so I was effectively disconnected from the world back home. Can I tell you it was liberating. I switched off completely, indulged in reading books (my child-free holidays are often spent devouring a good novel), and just spent time doing nothing. It was soooooo good. Did I miss home? Nope, not in only four days. I just lapped up the fact that I didn’t have to wash or cook for anyone else, that I could drink champagne for breakfast if I chose (I didn’t), go for a walk if I chose, go to bed early if I chose, or just lie by the pool and let time drift by.
Did it help me be a better parent? Probably not. But it did restore some balance in my life, some me-time, some think time, some free time. As for parenting, I really wouldn’t give it (or them) up for the world (but it was nice to for four short days). Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish.
So hands up, who else is a perfect parent? I’ll feel much better if someone would tell me I’m normal!!
Of course it’s not all bad, as this post shows. The Men-Children really do love me.