A mother friend of mine is one of those people who cleans the house invisibly. I call it the Shoemaker and the Elves syndrome – everything is done without you noticing and before you look up from your coffee to respond to something she may have asked – dishes, crumbs, clutter, cake – gone!
I could spend hours humming and hawing around the house – a kind of butterfly housekeeper, hopping from one thing to another and from place to place. And of course, there is always a Twitter trend to distract.
What’s this about Eamon Dunphy? Why is JK Rowling trending? Important questions to be answered.
It is clear, I will never be the Shoemaker and the Elves kind of mother. Not even close.
There is still the odd recycle carton on the worktop, still a band of herbs and spices used earlier for a chilli, standing in a circle beside the cooker, not yet put away. There is often a bulging basket of laundry in the utility room, as I prepare the clothes needed for the weekday rather than diligently going through it all. I have clean clothes ready and set for the five weekdays, I can catch up on Friday.
Yet I would gladly read a few stories to the children before bed. I always do the ‘just one more’. Tonight, we made a dinosaur jigsaw together and got side-tracked about which dinosaurs could fly. My son remembered something in his encyclopaedia book of facts and ran up to the top bunk and retrieved it from the stack of untidy books on the shelf.
Forty minutes of more dinosaur facts later and I emerged downstairs to the dishes, school lunches and laundry. Behind schedule and irked.
Why can’t I be an organised mum? What can’t I get on top of things, like housework? The mums on the Cillit Bang and Dettol commercials – usually a blonde woman in stripped blue blouse and white trousers (a marketer’s dream) standing in a gleaming kitchen.
I wondered what kind of a mother I am? It is some external definition or standard.
Do I know what kind of mother I am?
But I know what kind of mother I am not.
Not consistent with discipline. I let me children negotiate probably too much. I am at times a soft touch and they know it. I also make them feel guilty and apologise for being naughty and this works too as they apologise. I make them apologise ad nauseam to teachers and other adults and children in the playground instead of moving on and letting it go.
Not able to discipline the children in public for fear of embarrassment (my embarrassment). I can’t do stylish discipline. You may see me in a supermarket, a hockey or GAA pitch running after my children holding their coats and bags as they bolt for the open space, the climbing frame or the grass, with me running after them probably calling after them.
Not the best at amazing cake sale cakes. I do fantastic ready-mix Betty Crocker mixing though and can be creative with roll-out coloured icing. Nothing from scratch but happy to take the credit for little work. I once added dried cranberries to Rice Krispie buns and was so smug, I briefly considered applying for the Great British Bake Off.
Not a culinary queen, although granted can make a good few go-to dinners. Sometimes I am filled with comparisons for how good my own mother was at making delicious, homemade and creative dinners when we came in from school. Meat pies, bacon and cabbage, gorgeous homemade orange and cheese scones and Hungarian Ghoulish. How exotic it sounded in the 80s! I think I had pasta ONCE in my entire childhood. Seriously.
But if you want the kind of mother who can make a Halloween costume out of a few bits and pieces, gives pretty sound homework strategies, can also help with a school workbook crossword, can think of project ideas for a rainy day (like the time we looked up all about the Venus Fly Trap during the Beast from the East business), is open to whatever interests the children show, I’m your woman.
Not amazing motherly skills when you think about it. I do wish I was that ‘Cillit Bang organised mum’. Or ‘earth mother homemade hummus for lunch mum’. Or ‘music lessons mum’. Or ‘perfect child mum who’s four-year-old can diligently saunter around the supermarket or restaurant, and actually use a fork to twist and turn his pasta like a grown-up’ mum. I have seen some 4-year-olds do this I swear to god. Or composed mum who merely nods to her children and they scuttle back obediently by her side. I am in awe at those mums.
But this is me and I am this mother. Not a Cillit Bang or Dettol paid actress.
I think we should celebrate all kinds of mums and make peace with the one we are.
Be authentic mum. This is the only kind of mum there is. Be yourself mum because every other mum is already taken.