Just last week, in a conversation about Halloween, a lovely friend said to me “You’re such a good Mum!”. My instant reaction was to reply that I really didn’t think I was and that I was too ‘shouty’ to be a good Mum, but it definitely got me thinking about my qualities as a parent and whether or not they are in any way good enough for me to qualify as a ‘good Mum’.
It’s generally not the done thing to accept compliments easily and I often have to remind myself to just say ‘thank you’ when someone compliments me rather than brushing it off or suggesting they must be mad! It’s not very often that anyone comments positively (or negatively for that matter) on your parenting skills (well not to your face anyway!) and it’s definitely lovely to hear but can we take these things seriously when the only people that are really qualified to tell you if you’re a good Mum are the people actually involved – your children.
The life that most of my friends see, the one I portray on social media and in public, although honest and real is really only the best bits. Very few of us share the worst parts of parenthood. I’m not sure I’d have many friends left if I shared the images of me screaming like a banshee at the children when they, for the tenth time of asking, still won’t get out of bed/get dressed/eat their breakfast/stop arguing/get their shoes on etc etc (I could fill this whole post with the reasons why I might be screeching like a fish wife!). Like most of us I probably fixate far too much on the things that make me a bad mother than focus on what makes me a good one. I know I shout a lot – they all tell me I do, I know I have sworn in front of the children (I’m sure it’s not as much as Archie suggests though!), and my anger can sometimes send me a bit mental. I have always struggled with ‘playing’ with the children, it’s just not my bag and I think I can be pretty strict but probably a bit inconsistent!
However, this post wasn’t supposed to be about the bad it was supposed to help me focus on the good – the stuff that other people see that makes me a ‘good Mum’. I thought a good starting point would be to ask the people that count. This is what they had to say:
Phoebe (6 years old)
- Mummy is really nice because she gives me lots of nice toys and does lots of nice things for me.
- Mummy is a good Mummy because she takes me on lovely days out.
- Mummy is a good Mummy because she lets me stay up late sometimes.
Archie (13 years old)
- Mummy is a good Mummy because she loves us and cares for us.
- Mummy is a good Mummy because she would do anything for us.
- Mummy is a good Mummy because she always encourages us to do our best.
Yes, Archie does still call me Mummy (in private anyway!) and I love that he does. I don’t know how much longer it will last but right now it’s fab! It’s interesting how different a child perceives your worth in the 6.5 year age difference. At 6, clearly my daughter appreciates the stuff she gets (can’t imagine where she gets that from!) and at 13 Archie can appreciate more my actual parenting positives.
I think I thought I would be a natural Mum. That I would find it easy and life would be simple and straight forward. I think when the children were babies this was probably the case. I had spent a lot of time looking after my nephew when he was a baby and, after meeting Andrew, very quickly became a step-parent to a 3 year old so I thought I knew it all! I found the baby stage, although not entirely straight forward, pretty easy. I’m not saying I did everything right, but I did it my way and it seemed to work. Having one child was definitely a piece of cake in comparison to having two and I think my parenting skills definitely went down hill once Phoebe came along (sorry Phoebs!). Now having a teenager and a 6 year old going on 16, is a totally different kettle of fish and I have to admit I often find it a struggle.
My own Mum worked throughout most of my childhood and I like to think there are some things that I have inherited from her. She was great at days out, we were always off to theme parks and zoos and whenever friends came round there was always something fun organised. I try to do this with my two whenever we can, especially in the school holidays so they can at least go back to school with a few tales to tell. My Mum was brilliant at spontinaity and I really hope I have continued that tradition as it is one of my favourite parts of my childhood. We’d drive all over the country on the spur of the moment and it was always a great adventure. The best memory I have was one evening just before Christmas, at about 10pm, we decided to drive up to London to see the Christmas lights! We walked along the streets late into the night and it was wonderful.
I feel a huge responsibility as a mother to give my children as many opportunities as possible. I spend my evenings and weekends taking them to various lessons, clubs and groups. As long as we can afford it (with regards time and money) then I arrange for the children to do it. I guess that would go some way to making me a good Mum although sometimes I think I might spread myself a little too thin. I try my best to make special times of year extra special for the children – I think I’m actually quite good at that too! Whether it be birthday parties, Halloween parties, Christmas days out or Easter egg hunts my two have them all and hopefully we’ve made some good memories in the process – things that they might continue with their own children.
I guess at the end of the day, I just want my children to look back on their childhoods with happy memories. Archie and I rarely see eye to eye, and I don’t think that’s just down to him hitting his teenage years, it’s been the case since he was about 9. So it was pretty special that, when I asked him to tell me 3 reasons why he thought I was a good Mum, he didn’t even hesitate. I must say, even though I yell at him a lot, if I had to make a list of the reasons why he is a good son I could also rattle them off very easily!
So, even though this shouty, naggy, slightly sweary, stress-head of a Mum isn’t often the best Mum, it’s pretty great to know that there are times when I am actually quite good at it. Let’s hope, with practice, I continue to improve so by the time the children leave home I’ll be awesome!