I realised something today. Nothing groundbreaking. Just one of the many reasons why parenting is so DAMN hard. Why it demands every ounce of self-control from you and then more...Because there is an unspoken rule that says that one is “not allowed” to be rude to children. We can neither answer back nor use their childish language nor throw a tantrum when we've had enough. Why? Because we are parents. We are supposed to know better. And yet how ridiculous is that? In exactly which other walks of life would you put up with someone repeatedly telling you that they hated you? Or that they hated whatever dish you had just painstakingly made followed by “I don’t care” when told that they might be acting a little rudely. The answer: NONE! No-one has ever been as rude or as ungrateful to me as my children are. And yet because they are my children, I’m meant to take it all on the chin. Because, as a mother, I’m supposed to have automatically and immediately developed a very thick skin and become such a balanced person that it doesn’t bother me! Well here’s the rub: I haven’t and I’m not. So it all builds up. In fact, I’d like to complain that NO-ONE PREPARED ME FOR THIS! I was not forewarned about the colossal amount of will-power that needs to be summoned up every day, many times a day, in order not to lose it. Neither the private NCT nor the public NHS parenting courses mentioned just what a relentless psychological and emotional onslaught it can be. Friends that had already had children remained silent on the subject. And yet we are all suddenly expected to morph, during birth, into the saintly mother archetype who is always-forgiving, forever-loving, continually-patient, endlessly-fair.
It can be a dark and lonely place when we realise that we do not fit this perfect archetype. Firstly because it can seem like others do (although this is probably a result of our, skewed 'behind-the-scenes' comparison with others’ perfectly-edited 'highlight reel') and secondly because no-one else talks about feeling like this. It is taboo to admit failure: that not only are you not infinitely patient/kind/forgiving and fair but that you are actually sometimes rude to your children, maybe even a bit mean on occasion; that they do quite often bore you; that sometimes you don’t want them anywhere near you; that there is the odd day when you wished you were child-free.
Last week was a particularly bad week for me in terms of falling short of the archetype: I was told that I/my food/my presence/my attitude was hated a few too many times to bear and I committed all of the above crimes. I momentarily felt bad about it. But then I reflected some more and thought but why should I always rise above the challenge? Why should my children be allowed to go on and on and on and on, pushing my buttons, insulting me and what I do without me breaking, just because they are my children? The answer is, they SHOULDN'T! But they will. Because they are children. Because they are human and boisterous and exploring and trying things out. And we, as mothers, will keep having to suck it all up and keep having to try to provide them with a (mostly) positive role model.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t share how hard it is. Sure, there are blogs out there already that slag off being a parent, and there are others that extol the virtues of patient/calm/saintly(?) parenting, but that's not the kind of sharing I mean. Because to me, the former seem to glorify 'bad' parenting at the expense of all those involved and even if some can make for amusing reading, the humour ends up detracting from the pain of the situation which is belittled instead of validated. The latter, on the other hand, seem just a bit too sanctimonious and preachy so reading them always makes me feel like I’ve somehow failed even more.
What I mean is meeting somewhere in the middle. A place in which we can destroy the mother archetype and get over the taboo of not being perfect but without going so far as to make fun of ourselves or our children when we screw up. Let’s meet instead with a shared humility about just how hard it can be and let’s witness each other without judgement. Let's help each other to get through the growing pains of parenting with empathy and encouragement. Not from a pedestal nor from the naughty corner but as equals.
As the picture above shows, life is complicated. Parenting is equally so. But in the end, as overwhelming as it gets, we do love our kids. And they do love us. We’re doing the best we can. And not only is that enough for now, it's to be applauded, because there's a whole lot more mess just round the corner to replace the one you just got through!
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