“You are the worst mother ever!” When the best and worst of mothering go hand in hand.

being a good parent

Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m very good at this gig.

I’m pretty sure that thought occurred to me when I was bawling my eyes out like an eight-year-old in the shower fifteen minutes ago because my very own eight-year-old had just said something mean to me. I know. He’s eight. I’m thirty-nine. And I just said he was mean to me. I should be able to suck it up. I should realise that he was tired and emotional, and that maybe I’m tired and emotional. Both are true. But neither make me feel any better right now.

Right now I feel like I suck at this motherhood gig. That no matter how well I think I’m doing, there will always be something I do that makes me feel like an epic failure. Like tonight. Instead of just ignoring the words “You are the worst mother ever,” I cried. In his face. Not restrained crying. Not a stray tear or two that said “pack your bags son, you’re going on a guilt trip.” No. I don’t do things in halves. I sobbed. Messily. Unattractively. I looked at him and I sputtered: “I can’t believe you just said that to me. Is that how you really feel?”

His beautiful face contorted with pain and guilt, his mouth opened and froze in agony at my shocking reaction. He said, “No Mummy, it’s not how I feel, I’m sorry.” His tears of regret splashed hotly and unhappily onto his innocent boy’s chest as he said: “It’s just that you don’t let me do what I want to do lots of the time.” Well. There it is.

All parents, including Zara Phillips, know the guilt that often accompanies being a good parent. Image via getty.

The same mother who: made one of his favourite dinners; bought the rolls he loves for school lunch tomorrow; and watched a movie with him after finding all of the Lego parts he needed (three hours’ worth of work to locate in the Everest high pile of Danish plastic we have amassed over the years). Yep, hello. Me. Worst Mum. EVER. Because I told him I wouldn’t set his alarm for a time I deemed too early the next morning. This worst Mum ever was just thinking that an extra thirty minutes in bed might help his, I don’t know, brain to learn better at school in the morning.

Perhaps this Mum should learn to buck up. I’m sure there’s much, much worse to come. For which I will need a hide thicker than that pile of Lego in our upstairs living room. But it’s all relative, and right now, I’m relatively broken hearted. I did say to him that I think my Mum is the very best Mum in the world, and she never let me do everything I wanted. In fact, she put a lot of restrictions on me. I told him that’s what good parents do. Sometimes we have to be the bad guy because we think it’s what’s good for our child. It means I love him immeasurably. He blinked out some more tears, drew in a deep shaky breath, threw his arms around my neck and said, “Okay Mum, I’m sorry. Don’t be sad. I really do think you’re the best Mum. I really didn’t mean it.”

Post continues after gallery.

Advertisement

I’m pretty sure that’s more than I gave my own Mum after she overheard me calling her a bitch to my best friend on the phone because she wouldn’t let me go to schoolies week in Surfer’s Paradise. She didn’t cry like I did tonight. Not that I saw anyway. She says the walls of the toilet would tell a very different story, but dropping her bundle in front of us is just not Mum’s style. Maybe my style is slightly more open (slash hysterical) which is why I now feel enormously guilty for burdening my son with my hurt. I’ll work on that. But then again, maybe it’s okay for him to know that words, when they artfully find their mark, can hurt more than we ever intended.

My words certainly found their mark with poor Mum back then. She didn’t cry in front of me-not because my words didn’t hurt her terribly-because she’s a much more restrained person than I am, and probably ever will be. She told me she was doing what she thought was right and best for me. So even though our styles are different, perhaps we are more similar mothers than I thought. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bad job. Perhaps when my child hates on me a little, it means I’m doing okay.

being a good parent

Even so, I’d like to say again: I’m sorry Mum. So sorry I said those words. I get it now. Thank you for giving me boundaries. Thank you for saying “No” and meaning it. Thank you for being my Mum, the very best. But thank you also for being the very worst sometimes. I think it was just what I needed.

What's the toughest part of motherhood for you?

FROM OUR NETWORK
JOIN THE CONVERSATION