Today, as we ran towards the school gates just as they started to close, I realised I’d forgotten my children’s lunch boxes.
After dropping my kids off, I had to drive back home and get their food. Yes, I’d driven to school, because the kids were fighting and refusing to get ready and I didn’t have the energy to walk a mile in the rain with the three of them, and back again.
When I got back to school with said lunch boxes, I did the walk of shame to the office and handed them over.
I joked with the school secretary that at least my children were on time today… yesterday they were properly late, partly because the traffic was super crazy due to roadworks and heavy rain, partly because we couldn’t find my son’s book bag and partly because my daughter was crying because the sunflower we were supposed to be growing for her homework had died.
And then, instead of going to soft play with my toddler as planned, I was so frazzled and exhausted I went to the coffee shop opposite school and bought a huge mug of hot chocolate for me and toast – on white bread, not even brown, the shame! – with jam – yes jam!– for my toddler. At 9.35am in the morning! Oh, the horror.
One of the other mums from school was already in the coffee shop, tightly clutching a flat white in one hand and her baby in the other. Despite being one of the most placid people I know, she’d shouted at her son that morning because he’d refused to put on his school shoes. She told me she’d tried so hard to be patient but they were running late, he wouldn’t do as he was asked, she was trying to deal with the baby, and something in her just snapped.
Oh, and that’s not all. When we got home, I put my toddler in front of the telly so I could get the laundry on. And my kids were pretty much last to be picked up from school today because my toddler was having a tantrum about not being able to take the entire contents of his toy box in the car to pick up his brother and sister.
My boys fought constantly in the car on the way home and then my kids had fish fingers and oven chips for tea tonight because I couldn’t muster up the energy to cook.
I uttered FFS under my breath a lot today.
When my husband got home from work, I left him to it and went and hid in another room and checked Facebook.
Yep, this is my life. For all the family day trips I write about on my blog, for all the posts about crying about my kids starting school because I miss them so much, for all the wonderful, wonderful things about parenthood, like a lot of bloggers, I’ve never shied away from the realities of parenting either.
And so dear Anna May Mangen of The Daily Mail, having read your vile editorial today, I think you’d probably class me as a “slummy mummy”.
Granted, I’m nowhere near as high profile as the mummy bloggers you have picked on in your article, and you’re just as likely to find a healthy vegan recipe or a review of a country walk on my blog, but I often write about how hard I find parenting.
I’ve found a real sisterhood in blogging. We are a tight and supportive community and a lot of us don’t take kindly to this kind of attack; this kind of clickbate bullying designed to rile the readers.
I’ve written about how hard I find parenting. I’ve written that sometimes I need time off from my kids. I’ve written about how hard I find keeping on top of the housework. I’ve even posted a photo of my living room, with every single toy all over the floor, on my Facebook page.
I don’t do this to, in the words of the article, compete “in a battle” to prove why I am “the most slapdash mother”. I do it to present an honest view of parenting.
Because like all of the mums attacked in your article, I know parenthood is the most amazing privilege. I know how lucky I am to have three wonderful little people in my life. I’ve written many heartfelt posts about how much I love them. But, but, but. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to find it hard at times either.
Motherhood can be incredibly lonely and isolating. Lots of us doing it without the “village” we’re always told is essential to raising a child. Lots of mums are doing it full-time without any support. Lots of mums are doing it while working, some part time, some full time, some in the evenings when their kids are in bed, happy to give up their own free time for a few years so they can spend as much time as they can with their kids. Lots of us can go days at a time without a significant conversation with another grown up other than our partners; and lots of mums are doing this on their own and don’t even get that. Lots of mums are up at night with hungry/teething/unsettled babies and toddlers, so tired we can barely see. But we put on the biggest smile we can and make it through the day.
Lots of us write about this stuff on our blogs because the traditional parenting media offers practical and handy advice on motherhood and reviews of products…. but nothing on the intense ups and downs or the all-encompassing tiredness or the loneliness or the mummy guilt that underlies all the decisions we make.
I don’t think I’m “above such drudgery” by writing about the challenges. I do it to let other mums know they are not the only ones who find it tough at times.
I’m not “revolted by the reality of changing nappies”. I wouldn’t have become a mum if I was. But actually, changing a poonami that leaves you and your baby needing new clothes and a shower when you are out and about isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. It happens to the best of us; and if we don’t joke about it, we might just cry.
I didn’t write about our nit infestation to “burnish my bad mother credentials”; I did it to let other mums know they are not the only ones dealing with the pesky blighters and there’s no shame in catching headlice. You haven’t done anything wrong.
I feel incredibly privileged to have an audience reading my blog and I write these honest posts to let other mums know what they are feeling is normal; it’s not a reflection of their parenting. They are allowed to find it challenging. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids. I write this stuff because not everyone has a mum or a mother-in-law or an aunt or a sister to tell them these things are part and parcel of life and there’s no shame in it. I do it because I have had several friends experience post-natal depression where they feel like they are the only ones struggling… but they are not. And the more we talk about it, the more women will feel supported and “normal” and the more likely they are to access help when they need it.
I also do it because I need that validation myself on the days when I feel like I am failing. The people who read my blog make me feel less alone and more confident in my parenting skills too. And reading the likes of Hurrah for Gin, The Unmumsy Mum and Constance Hall keeps me sane during the (many) moments where I doubt myself and my parenting.
Articles like this may be deliberately provocative to get people reading – but they are dangerous for already vulnerable mums, making them feel even worse about things they don’t need to feel bad about at all.
I’m a small-by-comparison blogger but even I get messages from mums all the time thanking me for writing about the difficult elements. Telling me they thought they were the only one feeling this way. As I said, a lot of us don’t have the “village” to guide us in parenthood. Motherhood can be really lonely if you don’t have mummy friends or family to support you.
But in our online communities we have found our 21st century equivalent of the village. Women who feel as we do. Women who love their kids so much it hurts… but who also recognise that it can be exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally, at times. Women who can laugh with us and cry with us. Women who are realistic. Women who might parent differently to us but whose decisions we support regardless.
Women who would rather be a scummy, slummy mummy than a sanctimonious, unsupportive and judgemental one.