April 10, 2013 by talkaboutyork
When you are employed, you tend to get performance reviews. Someone stern-faced or overly pally will tell you how you’re doing, where you’re being shiny or where you need to pull your socks up. The net result at the end of it is that you move up a pay grade or don’t. You get a promotion or don’t. Worst case, you get fired. And that would suck, but you can always find another job.
But when you’re a mother you don’t have anyone sitting down with you once a year telling you how you’re doing and whether you deserve a promotion. What you get instead is a living, breathing scorecard. And a bad scorecard has really long term consequences.
Does your child eat their five a day?
Does your child have nice manners?
Do they do their homework?
Have they got an enquiring mind and good general knowledge?
Do they have good social skills?
Do they just like to stare at a screen all day?
Like employees, you get all types of children. Some are better socially than others. Some are brighter and have a better work ethic. Some have drive and commitment.
If a child ticks all or at least some of the good boxes, does that mean that you as a parent are doing ok? I know that on paper my children tick the right boxes (well at least some of them). But at the moment, I feel as though I am failing.
Perhaps it’s just that it’s the third week of the holidays and we’re all a little tetchy. But these holidays have felt like a continual battle. I feel war weary. My chain mail is chafing. My armour feels heavy.
Today was actually a very good day. A few minor skirmishes (a punch up before 7am which resulted in a computer ban for the day), a couple of mouthy comments, a bit of whinging at the end of a lovely play date. But in comparison to the rest of the week, it has been pretty stellar.
Unfortunately, my expectations where too high. I, foolishly, having gone out of my way to ensure that they have friends to play with all week and plenty of exciting things to do, had rather hoped that in return they might do as I ask. Just once. Cardinal parenting mistake: I expected gratitude. Gratitude is expressed in adults by doing something nice for the other person. This rule doesn’t translate for children.
My request was that they clean their teeth and put their PJs on before stories. I ask this, not to be pedantic or difficult, but because it always causes a fight and stress, and I’d really rather have those challenges before we get snoozy with stories.
But defiance rang out loud and clear. Flat out refusal to do it, regardless of how nicely or otherwise I asked. So I said no stories until it was done. It’s at times like these I feel as though I am making a rod for my own back. Just go with the flow. Who cares when they clean their teeth. Really? Is it worth it? But it’s the principle of it. Surely as their mother, I am entitled to put in a small request and have them do it after everything that I do for them? I’m not being Victorian in my thinking here am I?
So the upshot was that they eventually did clean their teeth and we were about to settle down to stories but I made cardinal sin number 2. Instead of just letting it go, I attempted to explain why I wanted them to clean their teeth and how I expected them to do as I asked. Having calmly stated my piece, I looked at my son only to find him nose deep in a book. He hadn’t listened to a word. Something in me snapped. It was at that point that I flung his book across the room and burst into tears, leaving the room with them both bewildered and in tears too.
I have failed. I have made so many basic parenting mistakes. Things I really ought to know better by now. I feel that I am failing them both daily. I just feel caught between doing the right thing as a parent and being more relaxed about it all. Neither feels right. I want them to learn and do the right thing. But that turns me into a preachy mum instead of a fun mum. If I am fun mum, they might like me more but the rest of the world might like me less as all manners etc would go out of the window. I just don’t seem able to get the balance right. I feel as though some people will read this and think: you are being too soft. Others will read it and think: you’re being too strict. I constantly think both about myself. It’s maternal schizophrenia.
I want to be a better mum. A happy mum. A not shouty mum. A mum that my children think is fun and lovely and as a result, who they listen to and respect. At the same time I want them to appreciate what they have. Be grateful. Not constantly demand more. To grow up being good people.
Mostly, I want pay increase. Or a very, very large whiskey.