Mothers are only human. Unfortunately by that definition, we are unequal to the task of raising children, because some days mothering requires superhuman abilities. On those days when it seems like everything is going wrong, we need to remind ourselves, and our fellow mothers, of a few simple things.
1) It’s not your fault: When the chips are down, and when the toddler is laying in them, crushing them all up in the supermarket aisle. It isn’t because other mothers are much better than you. It isn’t because you failed to teach them proper manners. It’s because toddlers do that. No matter how calm you are, no matter how hard you work to to help them understand, to reason with them, to explain it all on their terms, your toddler will lose the plot in public sometimes. Other times it will be worse than the supermarket. It might be at Great Aunt Esmerelda’s 100th birthday party in front of the entire family. That’s what toddlers do. In fact sometimes preschoolers do it, sometimes, older children do it too, and sometimes even teenagers do it. Sometimes mothering will involve great embarrassment, but it’s not because you have failed, it’s because you are human, and so are the kids.
Margaret P: Ben used to take his clothes off when he got angry. The day he did it at a funeral I wanted to die. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. At the wake I was hiding in a corner hoping no one would see me but the wife of the man whose funeral it was came up to me and said that she was glad I had brought him, he reminded her that life goes on. She ended up making ME a cup of tea! Then she told me a rather amusing story about my own husband doing the very same thing in her kitchen when he was a pre-schooler!
2) It IS your fault: When the kids make you proud, don’t heap all the praise upon them, as if somehow or other they are just marvels of humanity. Acknowledge your role in raising them and supporting them as they achieve great things. Maybe you can’t play a note on the piano, maybe you’re the worst singer in history, maybe you can’t draw a stick figure, and yet your child is some kind of prodigy anyway. It doesn’t mean you didn’t play a role in it. You did! Mothers are notoriously absent from the limelight, content just to see their child succeeding, but without your presence, they might not achieve quits so much! You supported them as they achieved greatness, and you deserve some credit for that. Give yourself a pat on the back!
Rebecca S: My daughter Olivia won the state cross country event. I’m overweight and I hate running. I was so proud of her achievement, that I was in tears. But I cried even more when she thanked me later that night, and told me that she had only won because I made her eat vegetables and cheese omelete.
3) Never say never: Don’t look at your one year old happily sharing and think they will still be like that at three. Don’t assume that your two year old who always says please and thank-you will always be polite. They grow up and they change. If someone’s rambunctious three year old snatches toys off your one year and and pushes them to the ground, don’t say “Emily will never do that, she’s far too well behaved. Emily is a kid, just like every other kid that ever lived, and one day she will be three and it’s entirely possible that a one year old will have “her” toy.
Kamaria A: When Firdaus was a baby he was sweet, like an angel. When he turned three he changed so much! I thought he would never harm another child, and I felt so bad that day when he did. The other mother reassured me that it was MY response that counted, not that Firdaus lashed out. She said she had six children and that each one of them had been similar at that age.
4) Expect change: If you go into mothering expecting well behaved, predictably polite, calm children you will be in for a shock. You may well have a one year old who is all those things, but one year olds and three year olds are often polar opposites. Parents often warn other parents about “the terrible twos” and some kids are pretty trying at two, but then three comes along, and it’s not any easier, then four, and five ….. and welcome to mothering. The job that doesn’t get easier as you get more experienced! Just keep on loving them, and refer to point number one and two above as often as you need to. You can do it!
Amber G: I thought I would always be polite and so my children would follow suit. It came as quite a shock when my two year old started screaming profanities at me in the cafe. Other mothers were glaring at me and I felt dreadful! Fortunately, at 32 he asks very politely if he can have some cake. The modelling of manners doesn’t result in instant gratification, it’s a long term project, and I’ve learnt that slowly having raised my three boys!
5) Be kind to other mothers: If you see a mother with a child lying in a pile of chips kicking themselves around in circles, smile at her. Acknowledge her and her effort. Even if you can’t SEE any effort. You don’t know what her life is like, you don’t know that her child isn’t autistic, you don’t know her husband didn’t walk out with his secretary yesterday, you don’t know that her father didn’t just die, you don’t know that she hasn’t just had a miscarriage, you just don’t know! So smile. Treat her in the way that YOU would like to be treated if it was your kid lying in the pile of chips. After all, the only thing you actually know is that her kid wanted chips, so just smile.
Persephone C: When Maddy was about 2.5 we went out for a farewell dinner for a work colleague who was going on maternity leave. Maddy was so embarrassing, she was loud and throwing things! So I tried to leave. Fortunately my work mates all stepped in and played with her, and the restaurant staff brought her toys and ice cream, and a free bottle of wine for our table! It was a great night, but only because good people stepped in to help both Maddy and myself.
So be kind to each other, and most importantly, be kind to yourself, because mothering is often a thankless task, despite the many little joys along the way. Older women often remark that their years mothering were the happiest of their lives, and perhaps in hindsight it is true, but if you asked them how much they were enjoying it on the days when they were tired, embarrassed, running behind schedule, feeling watched and criticised, they might have felt differently about it. Motherhood may be incredible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the hardest job you’ll ever do.
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