kids

The motherhood speech that set the bar to impossible.

There’s something Hilary Clinton needs to you know.

It isn’t that she is the most qualified person on the planet to be the next President of the United States. It’s not that she was instrumental in the operation to find Osama Bin Laden. It’s not even that she is the only presidential candidate to have a Grammy (Google it, people).

No. What Hilary wants you to know is that she is a really, really good mother.

Step up, Chelsea Clinton.

“Every single memory of my mom is that regardless of what was going on in her life, she was always there for me,” Ms Clinton the younger told a packed crowd at the Democratic Convention last week. “Every soccer game, every softball game, every dance recital, every piano recital… Countless Saturdays making up stories about the shapes we saw in the clouds…”

Really? She made time for EVERY soccer game, Chelsea? Damn straight. And that’s not all…

“Whenever my mom was away for work – which thankfully wasn’t very often – she left notes for me for every day she was gone,” Chelsea, now a mother of two young kids herself, went on. “All stacked very neatly together in a special drawer, they’d all have dates on the front so that I would know which notes to open on each day.

“I treasured each and every one. They were another reminder that I was always in her thoughts and in her heart.”

That’s beautiful. It really is. That’s the kind of parent many of us aspire to be, or wish we had. One who never misses a milestone, who goes above and beyond to make our children feel special, and who is simultaneously conquering the universe.

Stand back and watch, ladies, as Super Mum swings back into action.

Clearly, the Clintons missed a memo. Because we all know now that Super Mum – an ubiquitous cultural presence in the noughties – never really existed. She’s like the Loch Ness Monster, in heels.

Yes, Super Mum still makes fleeting appearances on Instagram, dropping home-made protein balls to the school picnic on her way to a Women Of Influence seminar, squeezing in a pilates power class and a board meeting, all while firing off instructive emails from her iPhone in her role as Class Parent.

But outside of social media, Super Mum has gone into retirement, replaced by “Good Enough Mum”, “Hot Mess Mum”, “Outsourcing Mum” and “F*ck It, It’s all Too Hard Mum.”

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Hillary and Chelsea Clinton
Hilary and Chelsea Clinton (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

In the real world, women have rebelled against the ridiculously high standards demanded to be a "good mother", given the notion of 'work-life balance' the finger and have fallen into a swoon over the notion of letting it all go to hell, a la Bad Moms.

It's very clear why this part of Chelsea's speech had to exist. It comforts the people who worry that an ambitious woman doesn't love her children. 'Don't worry, she's not a robot,' it whispers in their worried, male ears. But what that kind of rhetoric also does is reset the bar. To impossible.

This weekend, I saw an old friend of mine at a wedding. I hadn't seen her for years, since we'd worked together at a major publishing house. I know she has two primary-school aged children. I know she has a husband who has a busy, demanding job. I asked her how it was all going, and she told me she had moved to working part-time for a small, local paper.

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"Put it this way," my friend replied. "I now know the names of my sons' school friends. I know their parents. I am on top of the homework and I get to do some stuff at school. My house is calmer."

That sounds great, I say.

"Yes," says my friend. "But now I am the rep who walks into the local chip shop, asking them to advertise. I used to manage big teams and deal with international clients on million-dollar contracts. That part's hard."

That part is hard. For many, many of us, there's a choice to be made between being the parent who's "at every soccer game" and being the mum who's running for president, figuratively speaking.

That is the reality for a lot of working parents: Comparing the incomparable - time spent at work with time spent at home. Weighing up which of the million demands on our time will take precedence today. Realising that you can't possibly be at every netball game, or at every networking drinks. Stepping up, stepping down, sidestepping and falling over. That's what most of us are doing.

Of course, Hilary Clinton is now 68. Her daughter is 36 and no longer requires mum to be cheering at the sidelines of every life event. The years Chelsea was referring to were the ones when Hilary had much less demanding jobs. Like being the first female partner at a prestigious law firm, being the Chair of the Legal Services Corporation body and then, as First Lady of the USA, trying to overhaul America's health care system from the ground up. You know, little part-time gigs.

If she managed to excel in those roles while never missing a piano concert and stashing a week of hand-written notes in Chelsea's night drawer before a state visit to China, that is incredible.

kim kardashian feminist

Hilary with another mum who's never missed a ballet class - Kim Kardashian. 

Because many of us with (I'm guessing) less demanding jobs, often miss the netty game, lose the homework book and never seem to have time to lie around looking at clouds. I'm pretty certain we're not failing.

And many of us who stepped back from the big job to do the hard part and be at the school gates sometimes? They're certainly not failing either.

It's beautiful that Chelsea Clinton wanted to stand up and vouch for her mum. It's tremendous to know that she spent her young life never doubting that her parents adored her.

But it's depressing that the speech had to be made. That the gold-standard, presidential-worthy mother is the one who somehow managed to be everything to everyone at once.

It's time Super Mum hung up her cape, admitted that sometimes she's at a meeting instead of reading the bedtime book, and took her place among all those other revered parents who have achieved great things in public life.

You know, the powerful men who never pretend that they can be in three places at once.

Apparently, that's good enough for them. And they aren't a patch on Hilary.

Which family moments have you decided you would never miss?

You can listen to the whole episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here:

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