I totally lost it the other morning. Flipped the lid. At my four year old. Why? Because she was being a normal four year old. It’s a side of me I absolutely hate. If anybody saw me in the moments where I’m freaking out at my children I would be excruciatingly embarrassed because I know it’s wrong. And I know better.
I freak out at my gorgeous children sometimes in a way I absolutely never did in the most difficult, pressurised situations I encountered in the workplace. Not once in my career did I stomp around having a conniption at actions my colleagues took. And believe me, I encountered my fair share of a**holes along the way.
I know the tricks – count to ten, be firm but fair, it’s just your ego talking, walk away. There is no excuse. And yet, I fail over and over and over again. It feels like the closeness of the mother/child relationship, the melting-together of our lives and the lack of boundaries of any sort, means it’s hard to find the emotional limit when things kick off. And so I find myself acting like a child myself, reverting to a self who finds it hard to keep a lid on all the feelings.
What is it about being the adult in a situation that can make me six again?
I dropped her to playschool (all smiles for the audience, like the John/Mary combo in Father Ted who, out of the public eye, are ready to sink a bread knife into each other). When I’m being a bad mother I feel so two-faced. By this time, of course, we had reconciled and I had apologised so that she would know I know it’s not OK for me to get so cross. But we were both a bit worn out. At these times I cling onto the parenting mantra of Repair Repair Repair, praying it really works.
I felt terrible all morning, wondering how I could make it up to her. Maybe we could spend some time together later and go for a walk or I could take her to do the grocery shop? But I knew the only way to make it up to her is for it never to happen again. For me to just woman up and be the grown-up, caring parent she is entitled to have. I was out walking the toddler to sleep at the time and said out loud, to the sky; ‘Just STOP doing it’.
I’m finding this difficult to write. But I want to write about being a good enough mother.
Given all of the above, I know I am a good mother; bad points, bad example, bad days included.
I just finished Demi Moore’s autobiography Inside Out. It has everything; hardship, trauma, drama, Hollywood, glamour, addiction, motherhood, romance, betrayal, insight. Her truth, she says, and I believe it all. I raced through it – one of those books that makes you sneak away and hide for the two minutes it takes to zap the breakfast porridge just to find out what happens next. Read it if you can.
One of the things which struck me was that she always felt she did a really good job of being a mother – and that’s something we never really hear women say. Feeling guilty or feeling we’re not good enough? Yes, we hear plenty about that. Usually women feel they didn’t do enough, or weren’t there enough or should have worked more or less or should have, would have, could have… which is definitely a hang-over from the idealised, virtuous, all-surrendering mother archetype that pervaded literature and culture for so long.
The narrative needs to change so that we can embrace motherhood for the insanely visceral, human relationship that it is.
We need to hear more women say they believe they are good mothers in order for us all to actually start to believe that being a good mother does not equate to a state of ‘perfection’. Because nobody is perfect. Everyone has faults and loses their patience and acts badly now and again.
I am not perfect – and I truly wish I was. All I can do is continue to learn the lessons.