I am failing


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.





15 thoughts on “I am failing

  1. judithkingston says:

    I can totally relate to this, even though my children are much younger. Reading this I felt like I’d probably be writing the same thing a few years down the line. I am always picking seemingly inconsequential battles with my son, but once I’ve picked them, I need to see them through so he doesn’t start to think screaming and crying will get him what he wants. And once he has done as I asked, I also want to preach to him to make sure he realises what has just happened and that I Was Right. And I frequently just snap and walk off crying. So I don’t know if you’re being too strict or too soft – I guess you’re just being a mum.

    • It’s the walking off crying and seeing the bewilderment on their faces that makes me feel worst of all. But I think it’s perfectly natural. We are human beings (although sometimes I feel like the rock of gibraltar slowly being ground down by the sea).

  2. I’ve certainly done that before (the walking off crying ) and felt that I was a terrible mother as a result. I think you put it very well; it’s very hard to be perfect, and it’s a symptom of our generation that we are caught between wanting to be friends with our kids and wanting them to be well-behaved. I find myself caught in that dilemma all the time.

    • You know I don’t even want to be there friend. I just want to say yes more often but I find that when I say yes and let them have their way, they want more and more. We used to have a book called Marvin Wanted More, in which a sheep (Marvin) wanted more grass and more food until he had eaten up the whole world and then felt sick and alone from it and ultimately baaaarfed up the world again. Weird book. But that’s what I feel my kids are like – Marvin who always want more and the more they get the more they seem to want.

      • Iota says:

        Just had a friend round to play with my daughter. I played board games, made our own pizzas, did fun ice cream and toppings (this was all because the friend hadn’t been able to come to my daughter’s birthday party, so we were sort of re-running the party just the two of them). After she left, Husband and I had dinner, including cheesecake for dessert. We let daughter have a little slice. She went ballistic, because she wasn’t allowed seconds. “But if I’d known you were going to be having cheesecake, then I could have chosen not to have had ice cream. I would have much preferred cheesecake.”

        What was tiring and depressing wasn’t that it was ridiculous of her to be so demanding. It was how predictable the scenario is.

        Sometimes I feel like all children today (including mine) are spoilt brats, and deserve boot camp regimes.

  3. kathy says:

    I want one of those performance tests….what a great idea. I would do it – weekly in this house. I’m the daycare substitution (g’mother, that has given up a year and a half till last one in k’garten)
    Only not so much “How am I doing” , cause the answer would always be – as crazy as yesterday.
    The two g’kids need a check list
    -did you leave your chair before your meal was finished
    -did you chew with your mouth open
    -did you load your dishes into dishwasher
    -did you brush your teeth
    -did you not poke your brother while in the backseat on the way to k’garten and playschool?
    I could go on and on and on…There are days I swear I should just record myself and replay it day after day after day.
    I didn’t think of anything like this with my own three, but it sure would have been helpful instead of all the screaming and yelling that I did with them.
    I could just picture myself walking around with a clip board all day long, a tick here, a tick there….

  4. Suzie says:

    Oh I can SO identify with this!

  5. Potty Mummy says:

    We all lose it with our kids from time to time (or sometimes, more often) and when I do I comfort myself with something my sis said to me years ago; it’s all very well always being calm and loving, but sadly that is not what they will encounter outside all the time outside the home. By losing it with them, their knowing that you still love them in spite of that, and then resolving the situation afterwards, you are showing them that people can come back from arguments / disagreements / throwing their toys out of the playpen and that things will be OK again. Or something…

    • Wise words from your sister Potty. Next time I behave like a banshee, I’ll tell myself I’m just preparing them for their arsehole boss of the future 🙂

      • Iota says:

        I am a good example of this. My parents were big-time conflict avoiders. I didn’t know that people in the real world raised their voices, sulked, made up. I’d only ever encountered passive aggressive responses, or self-blame. When I had a gap year stint as an au pair in France, it was really startling, because the woman I worked for had a big temper, and would shout at me, at her husband, at the kids. It horrified me. I don’t think I was at all well prepared for “real life”.

  6. amyquinton says:

    I read the following blog post yesterday… http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/03/12/to-parents-of-small-children-let-me-be-the-one-who-says-it-out-loud/ … It seems to apply to what you are saying here… it’s a great read…

    I think you have a great balance of strict and relaxed… with kids, if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile, so you must stand by your convictions at times… they will eventually learn, but in the mean time, they will relentlessly push their boundaries.

    I know the feeling about expecting gratitude. We just wrapped up our spring break. I planned fun events and friend get together’s the entire week, then on Friday, absolute melt down from my 10 yo… including the words regarding how mean I am, how I don’t care if he’s happy, etc… etc…. after the week he just had??? I think now, in hindsight, he had too good a time and hadn’t slept well in his excitement, making him irritable and irrational after a week of stimulation… he crashed Friday and his brother and I were the target. Absolute frustration for both of us. Sometimes, I forget, that despite his cleverness, he’s still a child, emotionally, and struggles to get a handle on those emotions… even I struggle to get a handle on my emotions.

    We parents know how you feel… what I find after reading the blog link I mentioned above, is that I am guilty of buying into these ‘perfect parent’ blogs, where the mom does everything perfectly well – organic whole food all the time, creative crafts and play instead of tv… and when I fall short, I berate myself for not being a better mom… In reality, I need to remember that I am not perfect and that it is OK… In fact, I think it is better for my kids to know that I’m not perfect… makes it easier to accept themselves when they make their own mistakes – which they will and do. So, when I lose it while they’re losing it, we talk afterwards and I am not afraid to say “I’m sorry” for yelling, for losing control, too. and after all that, I know my kids think I’m the greatest mom… not because I do everything right… but simply because I love them for who they are… and they know it… and because I try my best as often as I can… and because I’m imperfect, just like them…

  7. bilberryrose says:

    Just read let me be the one to say it out loud….a very real insight into parenting!

  8. […] some poignant and some making me want to resign as a parent because I feel like a big fat failure. My new year resolution of looking fab by forty worked and then was ignored so that by the time […]

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