Reading over some of the posts I’ve written, it stood out to me that something that features in a lot of them is guilt. Guilt about work mostly, and missing a lot of time with them, guilt about how I deal with meltdowns, guilt about doing it all wrong. When those waves of guilt appear at random times, it’s easy to go along with them, to compare yourself to others, and to convince yourself that you could really be doing it all so much better.
However, the other thing it made me realise is about how I have developed this habit of only tending to focus on the things I feel I’m doing wrong. For example, when tempers are frayed, and we all end up shouting. Or when the best way to get through the day is to let them watch too much telly or feed them something too convenient for their dinner. On those days, I feel like I’m failing – all I’ll remember are the things I did that I think are ‘wrong’. Or I’ll think over a scene in my head and wish I had handled it ‘correctly’ – usually I give out to myself with ‘Why did I let myself end up shouting??’ Why is that? (Well, it’s mainly because they are mini psychopathic walking mysteries of course, that’s why!!)
But I mean specifically, why do I constantly only focus on the worst bits of how I handle the tough parts?
It’s the same thing we do to ourselves when we tend to remember the negative things about ourselves, and not the good. How often have you received a compliment, only to doubt it, or dismiss it as someone just being nice, but if you hear something critical about yourself, you immediately take it to heart and assume it must not be wrong? The bad things must be true but the good things must be mistaken, or just someone being polite.
There’s a BBC podcast I love listening to, Desert Island Discs (highly recommend you give it a listen, it’s great!). Each episode, the guest will usually speak about their parents, and what type of parents they were, and what type of childhood they had, and usually one of the songs will relate to their childhood in some way. Ever since I started listening, I can’t help but wonder sometimes about how, when they’re all grown up, Rian and Alex will assess their childhood, and how we parented them? How will they describe me as their mother, and the type of mother I am or was to them?
The ultimate career review. In comes the default pessimistic view and I picture them saying, ‘Well she had one or two good moments but she did shout a lot’ ….! This is what I imagine.
It’s not that I think I’m a bad mother as such, more that I default into thinking that I’m doing a lot of it wrong. Not because the boys misbehave a lot – in actual fact (bias alert) they’re usually brilliantly behaved. Apart from the developmental, normal behaviour like tantrums etc, they really are fantastic. So why can I not give myself – and their Dad of course – the credit for this?
So, like the self-imposed guilt, it needs to stop. I’ve decided to just not do that to myself anymore when it comes to my own self-assessment of how I do parenting. There’ll be tantrums and meltdowns, I’ve accepted that, but there’s also so many perfect moments in between. When they say Please or Thank You without being prompted. When they come over and hug my neck and say ‘I love you Mama’ (or ‘uv-vooo’ if you’re Alex!). When Rian sees a weed with a flower and picks it to give it to me saying ‘Mam I got a flower for you!’, delighted with himself. When Alex toddles over to give me a pudgy little fist pump, or if he lifts up his cup and says ‘CHEEERSH!’ at the dinner table, and we all have to Cheers him with our drinks. ‘Cheers’ was his first word! All lovely traits to have taught them, yes?
The cuteness with them both is everywhere. The noise and energy is always there, but it’s just peppered in between the laughs and the giggles and the excitement. When they hug eachother, or sing songs together, and they dance around the kitchen. When they show kindness. We showed them that.
Maybe, just maybe, as a mother I’m not doing too shabby after all.
The guilt, I’m sure, will never go away, but when it hits me again out of nowhere, I’m going to try and make myself focus on all the things I know I’m doing right.