I often see motivational mum memes declaring “Don’t worry about being the perfect mum, there’s no such thing, just be the best mum you can be!”
It’s great! It’s because there’s no such thing as the perfect mum, and sometimes we are all just too tired or too busy to give our all, and we need to forgive ourselves for that.
But what about those days when we aren’t too tired or too busy to give our all… we just choose not to. Then what?
Last night I had more sleep than normal. She only had one wake up and, whilst it was a long one, he went to her and I got to stay in bed., and she didn’t get up to start the day until half past seven. This meant I woke up far more rested and contented than I have in some time.
When we went downstairs I had the energy and the time to make her porridge. I had the energy and the time to engage in some pre-playgroup crafting. I had the energy and the time to wash up the dishes from the night before. I had the energy and the time to sort the laundry.
What did I do?
I gave her a bowl of cereal, turned on the TV, made a cup of coffee and sat on the sofa watching reruns of Peter Rabbit that I saved on the planner.
I had the energy and the time to do some seriously good mumming. I chose not to.
There are days when I give her some serious hardcore awesome mum attention. We hack open the art supplies, we have a bubble bath together, we go for a walk. I get her engaged in helping with cleaning and tidying by turning it into fun games and she helps me prepare a healthy, delicious and nutritious dinner.
There are days when I am so tired that I throw a block of cheese and an unsliced carrot at her, and let her have the run of the house like a feral spider monkey and just feel grateful we both survive past lunch.
There are other days when I have the time and energy for the hardcore mumming. But, instead, I do something else. I leave her on her own playing with her crayons whilst I hide in the kitchen with a cup of coffee. I play on my phone instead of engaging with her about what the lion and the camel in her toy zoo are worryingly doing to one another. I write my book, I write my blog, I update my website and I research literary agents instead of reading her a book by an already published and successful children’s author.
In short, sometimes I am selfish.
I often see cries from wonderfully dedicated mothers, or from women who are tragically unable to have children, that if you aren’t going to give parenting your all, why bother having children in the first place? My daughter didn’t ask to be born. My daughter didn’t choose me as a parent. My daughter wants and deserves input to the highest standard I am able to give her but I, sometimes, opt out.
The thing is, when I became a mum I didn’t stop being me. Being a mum is just one facet of my life. “Mummy” isn’t my entire personality. I choose not to give all of myself to my daughter because, if I did, there would be nothing of me left for myself and I am not willing to give up my life at the age of 30.
For all these reasons I am also not the best girlfriend I could be. I am not the best friend I could be. I am not the best anything I could be because I am determined to be the best “me” I can be, and that means sometimes I need to focus on just being me.
I used to feel so guilty about it. If she was shouting “MUMMY LOOK AT MY AMAZING PICNIC” or “MUMMY I DREW A DINOSAUR” or “MUMMY I WANT TO BRUSH YOUR HAIR AND MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A PONY” and I was hiding behind my laptop swearing under my breath that I just dont’ give a crap, a part of me would hate myself. She deserves better. She deserves enthusiasm and excitement and dedication. And not just because I happen to be awake enough and not ill. She deserves it because she is a child who is funny and smart and loving and kind and did not choose to be raised by me.
But, unfortunately perhaps for Miss Rose, I remind myself that she gets it a lot. I happily sit on the floor making “yummy” noises over the shoe I’ve been handed to eat. I let her scrag my hair around whilst I try and pretend it doesn’t hurt like mad and tell her it’s the best hair style I’ve ever been given. I smear glitter, glue, paint and beads around on canvasses, cards and ornaments and laugh with her as we both have to climb into the tub to wash the debris off ourselves. Miss Rose gets some serious kick ass mothering. But not all the time. And that is okay.
Be the best mum you can be most of the time. Partly because they deserve it, and partly because you do. It’s nice to go to bed at the end of the day and look back and think “Hey, I rocked at this mothering thing today.” It really does. However, it also feels nice to take some time and address the person you have to live with all day, every day, for the rest of your life. And that’s yourself and she needs love too. She needs attention, she needs recognition, and she needs a goddamned break.
I’m not always the best mum I can be. And that is just fine.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!