The Myth of the One Perfect Mother
When I was growing up, I always aspired to be the kind of mother that my mother was to me. She was very gentle, always supportive, and gave me a lot of freedom to make my own choices (and mistakes!). Even though we had some interesting times in my “terrible teens” (ha you thought the twos were bad!!), I still believed that my Mum was everything I wanted to be. I actually didn’t think about the kind of mother she was to my brother or my sister – I just assumed she was exactly the same.
I was reflecting on this the other day with my own four children. I realised that I do not treat them equally. I do not mother them in the same way. It would be impossible to do so.
If I were to attend the same event with all of my children, I would need to be a very different mother to each of them. Sometimes I would need to be very patient and take things slowly, sometimes I would need to be flamboyant and outrageous and run up and down the sidelines just to get a laugh, sometimes I would be raising an eyebrow whilst counting slowly down from 5, sometimes I would have to cuddle a child as they nuzzle nervously into my neck whilst I shield them from the world.
It’s even harder when dealing with all four at once. I might have a child sitting quietly on my lap, whilst at the same time giving an encouraging wink and cheeky smile to one child, and then quickly changing to the Mummy-eye (you know the one I’m talking about) to another who needs to be reminded, “Don’t you even THINK about it!”. And then I’d also be keeping an eye on Number 4 who has wandered off in a show of independence and thinks I can’t see her.
It’s like Mummy-schizophrenia. Sometimes I don’t even know which is the real Mummy anymore!
Some Mummy’s are easier to be than others. You don’t think I want to be the ‘rainbows and unicorns’ Mummy all the time? She is totally the best. She is funny and relaxed, and spontaneous, and she loves rolling around with the kids, and laughing until her sides hurt. But then there is another Mummy who needs to be incredibly firm with the rules – she won’t let a single foot step out of line, and you don’t want to cross her – you have been warned. I don’t like being that Mummy – but sometimes she has to be around for the safety of her children, and for the sanity of the entire household.
The hardest Mummy to be is the one that has to watch her child fight an inner war against anxiety. She has to be patient and calm and soothing, when it feels like not a single person in the whole world understands how much her heart is hurting.
If I tried to mother my children in exactly the same way, I am certain that the result would be crushed spirits, disorderly rebels, and very confused children. To be the best Mum I can be, I need to know my children. I need to understand what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what gives them courage, and what deflates their spirit. And sometimes I get it terribly wrong.
But that’s OK.
Because as much as I mother them all differently, I do provide many things in equal measures – love, honesty and respect.
There never has been, and never will be, a perfect mother. She just does not exist.
But we exist, we are real. We make mistakes, but more often than not we make our children happy by keeping them warm, and safe, and fed, and clothed, and soothed… and LOVED. Which is what counts – no matter which Mummy we have to be in order to get there.
We may not be the perfect mother, but would you really want to be?