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.