Most weekdays I come back from the school run with a major inferiority complex and the same feelings of envy and irritation. I don’t seem to have mastered motherhood in the same way as a lot of women.
Our average morning:
I try to wake up my 4 year old daughter for ten minutes, who seems almost super-glued to her bed. When she finally decides to prize herself away, there are a long series of complaints to be heard. “Why are you not grandma? I wish you were grandma. I wanted grandma to take me to school! Why do I even have to go to school when Dora’s on TV? This food is yacky. I hate bananas!” Breakfast is a huge battle. I’m lucky if I can get her to take two bites of a biscuit and one sip of milk. Putting her coat on is a bigger task. “I don’t want the buttons doing!” – But it’s cold. “But I’ve got a cardigan on. I’ll have the buttons done… if you let me take the cardigan off!” – You need both – it’s freezing. Whatever. We’ve not got the time for this. Lets put your scarf on instead. “Orange scarves make me look rusty! What about a pink one?” Search for a new scarf begins. “Can I just finish this drawing?” Why are you drawing at ten to 9? More importantly, why are you drawing on the wall?!
We’re 10 minutes late. We rock-up looking like complete hillbillies, because I forgot to brush both mine and her hair, she splashed in 8 puddles on the way, and I seem to have laddered my tights horrendously from the simple art of walking in a straight line.
When you’re late upon arrival at my daughter’s school, you have to walk past the perfect mothers. Perfect from their head to their toes, they congregate in a circle of judgemental bitchiness and act like playground royalty. I like to tell myself that they lead secret less-than-perfect lives behind close doors (pornstars, addicts etc), but I know I’m kidding myself. They stay an extra ten minutes after dropping their kids off. I don’t know whether they do this to talk to each other about a load of boring bollocks; (I’ve eavesdropped before – it’s all “we’re getting an extension built so Hugo has more room for educational activities” or “we can’t wait to go skiing this year – it’s going to be such epic fun and miles apart from those tacky mainstream holiday packages”), or whether it’s just a voyeuristic lets watch all the useless late parents and their scruffy kids arrive thing, but the looks. The looks I get. Jesus.
We are worlds apart. Their children are rarely in trouble. When I go to pick my daughter up from school, there’s often a teacher who collars me and says “Can I just have a word?” and Miss. Marvellous behind me will think she’s really awesome when she mutters, “Oh dear… Again!”
For show and tell, my daughter usually takes a drawing that doesn’t look like anything other than a scribble, but is special to her. Young Atticus will bring a spaceship he made, which is the size of a small horse, and his mother will make the biggest fuss out of it you’ve ever heard, ensuring that everyone in the queue knows what a wonderfully bright, unique child he is.
Parent forums. Me: “My child’s not grasping this phonics business, to be honest.”
Snooty Mcsnootson: “Well I don’t think my Henrietta actually needs to learn phonics. She can already read Great Expectations. Backwards. In Latin. Is there anything more challenging I can be doing with her?” Sigh.
These mothers are the same mothers that used to piss me off back in the baby days. They are the ones who felt it necessary to mention on every social media outlet that their child was cloth-bummed, breastfed and baby-led weaned, as if it made them better than the women who fed their children formula and used disposable nappies from Aldi.
I find them so irritating, but undeniably, they get so much right. They’re on time. Their kids are well-behaved. They look immaculate… all. the. time. (No bitterness.) They have a social life. Granted, that social life is very limited, because they refuse to associate with anyone who is not one of them, but it’s there. The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time is what am I doing wrong? Should I aspire to be extremely middle-class (to the point it’s almost sickening), in hope that I’ll become more organised and that word again; perfect?
Today, I started to think about the things I do right, and have done right over the last 4 years. Going back to the baby days – a child can’t remember them. They’re not going to turn around at 18 when they’re leaving home and say “Thank you for all you’ve done for me, mum. Thank you for choosing the eco-friendly option of nappy when I was an infant, and thank you for feeding me with your boobs.” They’re more likely to say thank you for the support, love, care, affection that you showed them. These are the things that make you a good parent. And I give my child those things. I might be a bit (a lot) useless at times, and I’m never going to win any mum of the year award, but she’s not short of love, and she never will be.
So tomorrow morning, when we’re most probably late to school again, and some mightier than thou, stuck-up Mary Poppins lookalike gives me the evil eye, or sniggers and nudges her mate, I’ll smile, because I’m not one of them, and I’m quite glad of that, as perfect grants you instant access to their snobby clan.
I am a good mother, regardless of my lack of organisation skills and general untidiness. And finally, I’m happy with good. Good is good.