gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

The Motherhood Gap


I’m really good with other people’s children. They like me. I’m patient, and I make them laugh. Which is why I thought I’d be a really good mother. I’ve never been confident that I’d be a good lawyer, or a good writer but a mother? That one, I thought I had in the bag.
I struggled to make my first baby, and I thought that, if anything, that would make me even better. Grateful, you know?

And then I had children. My struggled for, IVF, R100 000 in fertility treatment, son is now 5. My one month and a glass of wine daughter is now 3. And I am, on a really good day, a completely average mother.

I call it The Motherhood Gap. It’s the gap between the mother that you thought you’d be, and the mother that you are. And I’ve got to tell you – in my case, that gap is enormous.

Dream: I thought that I’d never raise my voice at my children. I’d speak reasonably and in dulcet tones.
Reality: Once, while holding a toy helicopter out of the window of the car I was driving, I screamed so hard about how I was going to drop it if anyone said another word, that I actually pulled a muscle in my side. True story.

Dream: I was never going to smack. It just sets an example of violence. Anyone with two brain cells knows that. (Foreign readers, we are still allowed to smack in SA. Not beat, don’t get all over excited.)
Reality: This is me – “I said (smack) do not (smack) hit your sister (smack).” I know it’s totally wrong. But that’s the gap.

Dream: They were going to eat balanced meals, probably organic. If you just offer children healthy food, they make the right choices, said the books.
Reality: My children eat fish fingers, corn, bread, Bovril, hamburgers, pizza. That. Is. All. If I offer them healthy options they sometimes throw it across the room. I’ve shouted. And smacked (for the throwing, not the not-eating). Clearly I don’t scare them as much as I scare me.

Listen, I could go on all day. I could tell you about how they don’t sleep through the night in their own beds, and how they still have milky bottles, and how they regard night-time dryness with deep suspicion, and how they sometimes growl at me (yes, shut up, I know it’s because I growl at them), and how they fight with each other every single minute, and how I once pushed the 5 year old into the pool to show him what it felt like (he can swim).
All in all, on a good day, I’m average at best.
But you know what? Yesterday, when I was helping them hunt for Christmas Beetles, I asked my son where he would hide if he was a Christmas Beetle. “If I was a Christmas Beetle,” he said. “I’d hide where ever you were, Mom.”

Because being an average Mom, who loves her kids as well as she can, is actually pretty okay.


10 thoughts on “The Motherhood Gap

  1. I am really frightened to become a mother, I have no reason to think I’ll be great at it but I hope to become one in the next 2 years, reading this has made me feel less scared. Thank you

  2. Thanks Gail

    I’m not a mother but I loved your post – thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on motherhood.


    Erica Smythe

    Mobile +27 (0)84 614 2333

    Fax : 086 522 3353


    This email contains information intended solely for the addressee, which is confidential or private in nature. If you are not the intended recipient, you may not peruse, use, disseminate or copy this message or any file attached to this message. Any such unauthorised use, is prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately by e-mail, facsimile or telephone and thereafter delete the original message from your machine.

  3. Hi Gail, I don’t know what happened to the previous comment. Anyway, I can sooo relate to this piece you’ve written because I was convinced that I had the whole motherhood thing figured out! For starters, I wasn’t going to be like my mother, ( don’t get me wrong, I love her to bits) but, I was going to be liberal, open minded and rational. I wouldn’t smack my kids and my daughter would be my best friend. Wrong! I had two boys and when I’m reprimanding them, I sound exactly like my Mum. I think as long as we as mothers are doing our very best to raise these individuals, there is no code or bible to follow, its a job with no job description, with a demanding boss & no leave, if they are healthy, happy and well grounded individuals, we are doing a great job. I enjoyed your article! keep up the great work!
    Regards, Bridget. 🙂

    • Exactly! I used to be very critical about some of my mom’s approaches – now I think the woman was a saint! Unfortunately, she died when my oldest was 6 weeks old so she never got to see me eat humble pie. . . but I bet she knew it was coming!

  4. Pingback: motherhood | michnavs

  5. Hullo Gail
    I happened upon your “Marriage Vows” by chance in a second hand book shop yesterday (saw it reviewed somewhere a while ago and was one of 10000’s I planned to possess so that was cool ) and am now googling madly! Read quite abit this morning before my (m) other- self kicks in and now again, when the real self is allowed to come out, decided to look into you abit more! Also just just started a new blog and in process of publishing my first book so hungry ,hungry for like-minded readers , of which you definitely seem like one! Actually, I felt I could hear my voice in parts of your Marriage Vows which was rather weird.
    And so now I have found your blog (not wild about twitter …yet) and reading more of your stuff …
    See that since MV you are now a parent and so interesting to see how your writing will be influenced by your life with kids.

    Can relate to your article on being an okay mum. This must surely be a well-documented and universal topic…hence my book on the mother/worker struggle.

    Excited to have found you …

    • Thanks for all the feedback – and I hope you enjoy Marriage Vows. I think motherhood has changed my work in that MV was all about marriage (which is where I was at, then) and Whatever Happened To the Cowley Twins? is about parenthood and marriage, as is the book I am now working on. Good luck with the writing and blogging (I will check it out now) and come to Twitter – it’s a great place for writers to chat and meet readers and learn, learn, learn.

    • PS> And now that I have read your blog, I see that one of the reason’s that we might have similar voices is that we are both lawyers. I know, I know, a dreadful thing to have in common, but there it is. . . 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s