As I write this, one of my children is asking if I’ll read them a story. Another is sulking because I snapped at them for not having a shower after I’d asked four times. My dogs are looking plaintively at me because they haven’t been walked today. And we ate takeaway for dinner.
It’s no small irony that I’m writing about the movie Bad Moms 2 while feeling like a Bad Mum. I’ve been feeling that way – borderline despair and absolute overwhelm with a side order of defeated panic – all week.
In fact when I saw a girlfriend on the weekend, I confessed to her I was feeling quite teary at the moment because I was going through one of those phases where I feel a bit shit about the quality of my parenting. Or the quantity. Or the quality and the quantity. Shit. I’m shit.
You see, I have a lot on at the moment. Most mothers do at any given time in our lives. And it’s rare that the only thing on our plate is motherhood. Whether it’s work or health issues or mental health or caring for older parents or siblings or friends or moving house or unemployment or a promotion or pregnancy or miscarriage or infertility or financial trouble….most things in life aren’t predictable or in our control. They come flying at us like frisbees and we desperately have to try and catch them before they whack us in the head.
Whack, whack, whack-whack. Whackity-whack. Ouch.
After the most recent school holidays, I drove into work and dropped the kids off – and exhaled just a little bit. Because I tend to spend large chunks of every school holidays feeling guilty and inadequate. I feel like every other mother is organising nonstop fun activities. Vacations. Excursions to museums and the circus and water parks and nature walks and the movies and bowling and laser tag and the zoo and all the places I never take my kids because I secretly hate them except not secretly. In my defence though, kids have…what….about 14 weeks of holidays per year and adults get four weeks of annual leave and maybe no weeks if you’re self-employed? YOU DO THE MATH ON THAT.
The only thing I struggle with more than school holidays is the guilt I have for not planning school holiday activities. It’s such a pointless emotion, guilt. It sucks the joy out of you while simultaneously leaving you flat and consumed with paralysing self-loathing. And yet.
Honestly, I don’t feel this way that often anymore. I’ve been a mother for 20 years now and I’ve become pretty sanguine, even pragmatic about the kind of mother I am and the bits of mothering that really count.
My eldest is 20 and he’s a lovely man, a feminist who loves me and knows how much I love him despite my failings – which he helpfully laid out in the chapter he wrote for my book. This “here’s one I prepared earlier” living example of how my parenting turned out should give me some confidence to doubt myself a little less and back myself a little more. Sometimes it does.