I didn’t start Write More Live More for this to be a “mummy blog”, which I immediately realise has all the sneering connotations of “lady writer”, and “chicklit” and “airport fiction”. But it wasn’t my intention to talk about life from the front line of parenthood. Other people have been there before me, done it better, and I really want a Winging It sweatshirt, by the way…
But something has been playing on my mind recently and it solidified with a comment from Cambridge Historian, now temporarily emigrated to the US, when she said “children are often hard work whatever continent so Facebook shows only the good bits.”
My stepmum once said to me that being a parent is relentless. Last Saturday I was awoken at 6am, I tried not to be too grumpy. I got up with the girls, did them breakfast, and got us all dressed ready to go to their swimming lesson. After double swimming, showers and hairwashes, we proceeded directly to the supermarket, where I found myself steering one of those ridiculous car shopping trolleys around the aisles because the minis love them for about ten minutes. After a moderately stressful shop, resisting pester power (bloody Halloween and Christmas tat) we returned home, and I single handed lugged my shopping from the car which ended up being parked miles away from my door, and up 60 steps, all the while mini 2 whinging “carry me mumma, carry me”. I unpacked the shopping while being simultaneously bellowed at for snacks and drinks, started the weekend laundry, made mini 1’s packed lunch for her afternoon activity, made my own and mini 2’s lunch, we left again and walked to the afternoon activity, walked back with mini 2, ate lunch, did the washing up, got out the stuff for tea, hung the laundry out, sat down briefly with mini 2, fell asleep on the sofa, and woke up in a panic as mini 2 shouted “open your eyes mumma!” Feeling a bit dozy I put on a vegetable stew for the week as I had some veggies that needed cooking, got mini 2 ready to go out again, walked to fetch mini 1, walked them both to the hairdresser’s, where we all had our hairs cut, me listening out with pricked up ears for any sign of trouble while I had my hair washed (they were both really good), walked home, cooked the tea, ate tea with the girls, did the washing up, girls played for a bit while I faffed for a bit, watched Strictly Come Dancing, put mini 2 to bed, watched more Strictly, put mini 1 to bed… and pretty much went directly to bed myself.
It felt relentless. I was exhausted.
And social media only shows the good bits. So I have omitted my caffeine withdrawal headache, and when I shouted at mini 1 for not getting into her dancing clothes quickly enough, or when I said to them “I’m going to change my name and not be mummy if you keep on whining” or that I let them eat sweets given to them at the hairdresser’s, or that I told off mini 1 for asking for things at the supermarket and had to explain the concept of “a rip off” (bloody Tesco’s fresh orange juice machine) or felt guilty when instead of the Cawston’s Apple and Pear juice cartons she likes I bought twice as many cartons of own brand apple juice for the same price, and when I said the F word when I realised I forgot to buy mince, so we didn’t have spaghetti bolognese on Saturday night…
Sunday was much better. I reminded myself “time is how you spend your love”, so we didn’t go to the PYO Pumpkin place, as I originally thought we might. Instead, after some light cleaning, with mini 1 wielding hoover, mop and duster, we ran errands for an hour when the shops opened then came home, had spag bol for Sunday lunch and then chilled out on the sofa. We watched Elf. We all felt much better.
And then I thought about my mum friends. Would they be surprised if they saw me lose it with the girls? Probably not. Would they recognise the relentless slog of a day of chores, and feeling like it’s just one thing after another? Oh yes. And what about that inner voice that whispers you’re not doing this right, you’re not doing it well enough, the children will become dysfunctional adults incapable of healthy relationships because you shouted about the dancing clothes. Yep, they’ve probably had their own parenting demon on their shoulder. But how many of us admits it, the relentlessness, the slog, the inner voice?
That’s the point about the mummy blogs. And the daddy blogs. Parents everywhere confessing these things, so that we all know, we are not alone. The Daily Mail prints scandalised articles which reprint extracts from blogs, for free, in the name of churnalism, and labels women “slummy mummies” and shames “wine o’clock”; but show me a parent who hasn’t wanted to run out of the front door screaming to the nearest pub at some point, probably just so they could use the loo in peace, and I’ll show you a far better parent than I. Or a liar. Add into the mix trying to have a career, or the effort it takes to maintain a relationship in the quagmire that is parenthood, it’s no wonder that we can feel like we’re not being successful at any of those things.
I met a friend for coffee, and we talked about all this. Why, she asked, does she feel like others are coping and she isn’t? Maybe they’re not, I said. Maybe they’ve been through this too. Maybe they’ve come through it. But I don’t think anyone finds it easy. I know I don’t. She said a message I had sent to her had made her laugh. In it, I had written “Sometimes none of us are our best selves, so don’t beat yourself up.”
For every one of us who is cringing at the dinner they fed their fussy eater, or the number of wine bottles in the recycling, or counting up the hours of screentime they allowed their toddler, there’s someone who is maybe looking at that person thinking “wow, they’ve got their stuff together!” And that is a comfort.
On most days, I’m simply the best I can be on the day. Some days that is better than others and sleep plays a big part in that. However, I am learning to treat myself kindly. Sometimes I think my minis prefer it when I’m a bit more relaxed and not trying to create quality time moments. Sure they love treats and visits, but they also love me, and I’m at my best when I’m cutting myself some slack and not trying to be perfect. Nobody but ourselves expects us to be perfect, nobody but ourselves expects us to be our best selves 24/7. We are the people who hold ourselves to the highest standards. And it’s time we gave ourselves a break, and settled for our “good enough” selves.