Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I mum enough? I dare you to judge me.

So much judgement in the air at the moment.  Aimed squarely at the jaws of parents.  Mothers in particular.  Breastfeeding or not?  How long is too long?  Smacking, not smacking?  Body image for children.  Schooling private or state?  Early learning or not?  Stay at home or working mum?  The list of things we can judge other mums on seems to be endless.  Will it ever end?

My boys are 20 and 18 and I couldn't be happier.  I don't think I could stand the criticism if they were little right now.  I would not stack up and I am almost certain I wouldn't be mum enough in the eyes of many.

I was not and am not a perfect parent.  I didn't give it my best shot at all times.  Sometimes life was too hard and I was too focussed on myself.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered cooking dinner and I gave my kids weetbix.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered getting them ready for school so we all had doona days.  Sometimes they wore dirty socks to school.  Sometimes I wrote notes to say they didn't do their homework because of a family emergency - I was just too tired.   When I left my husband it was hard work.  I only had them 50% of the time I totally underestimated how difficult that would be.  To even begin to explain the difficulties of this will take a whole other blog post.

I was judged for leaving a seemingly perfectly good marriage for my own selfish reasons.  Do I regret that?  No way.  Did it alter the course of my children's lives?  Absolutely.  For the better?  I hope so, but I can never be sure.   Does this make me less of a mum?  Not in my eyes, but I'm sure in the eyes of the judgers it does.

I breast fed both my boys.  They both stopped at 6 months.  Does this make me a good mum or a bad mum?  They both went straight to cows milk at 6 months.  I hear the purists screaming now.  My boys are okay.  They always have been.  Their stomachs are healthy.  If they didn't wean themselves at 6 months I may have fed them for as long as they wanted.  I don't know this.  It didn't happen to me.  Whether I breastfeed for 1 day, 1 month, 3 years or 5 years, does it really matter?  Does it make us bad mothers because we do what suits us, our children and our lives?

My youngest had a dummy until he was 3.  People looked and judged.  I didn't care.  Okay I did care, but I shouldn't have.  His dummy was his security, something he needed.  Something I needed to ensure he settled at night.  Could I have done it differently?  Maybe.  But I didn't.  Doesn't make me a bad mother.

My children didn't have regular 6 monthly dental appointments.  They only went 3 times during their growing up years.  I have a dentist phobia.  Friends and family are horrified when I tell them this.  As you are reading this you are probably horrified too.  I took my kids when they were quite young and they were never going to need braces.  I took them again when they became teenagers, their teeth were all good.  I took them again in their later teens.  The older one needed some fillings and the younger one didn't.  The older one doesn't clean his teeth.  He doesn't like toothpaste.  I don't make him clean his teeth.  He is 20.  This is his problem.  He always had a toothbrush and toothpaste to use. The fact he doesn't has nothing to do with whether I am mum enough.

My boys were not academic.  They are both extremely smart.  They could be anything they want.  For the most part they have just chosen to cruise along, not really trying too hard.   I never pushed them to be anything different.  Should I have?  Would it have made me a better mother?  Maybe, but when you only have your children 50% of the time it is very difficult to keep up any form of consistency.  They will hit their straps at some point.  They see their parents and step parents work hard.  They understand working hard and the rewards it brings.  I'm seeing my youngest start to hit his straps now, despite the fact he dropped out of school in grade 11.  In fact he just walked in from work at 7.30 pm and said "I'm psyched.  I'm loving work.  I'm excited."  He's not a doctor, he's not an engineer, he's a salesman and I couldn't be prouder.  Does this make me mum enough?

Throughout all of this, over the past 20 years, the hard times, the good times and all the times in between, we all loved each other and everyone had a soft place to land.

My boys have both been in trouble.  They have messed up.  They have made some big mistakes. I have despaired for their futures.  There were times I worried they were actually going to survive the teenage years.  They have, and so have I.

The point I am making is there is so much I could be judged poorly on as a mother.  I am not even close to the "perfect model mother".  I don't care about this.  My boys are healthy, loving, good people.  They know how to love.  They know what is right and what is wrong.  They know how to be compassionate and they have empathy for others. 

A month ago I asked my youngest if he liked his childhood.  He said "mum I had the best childhood ever. I miss it so much now that I'm an adult."    That right there is all the judgement I need.

So many parents out there don't have perfect lives - in fact most of us don't.  Our circumstances are not always conducive to playing happy families.  There are a million different variables.  How about we all stop judging each other and start accepting that this parenting gig is tough.   When we meet in mother's groups instead of boasting about how good little Jemima is and how she can count to ten before she can say daddy, why not ask the mum who looks tired and sad if she's okay?  Maybe tell her about something that you are finding difficult so she doesn't feel like she is failing and alone. .

As mums we are all doing the same thing, we all have the same fears, the same concerns and most of all we want the same outcome for our children.  We want them to grow up to be happy.  

It's time to start playing nice and stop judging.


Photobucket

55 comments:

  1. Well said, Annie.

    I am not a mother, and I can tell you what, the amount of judging and comparing and whatnot that goes on does NOTHING to entice me into motherhood.

    I think there are certain things that as a parent (of both sexes!) you are responsible for: making sure your children are fed, clothed, housed, educated, disciplined and most of all, loved.

    The way you do these things - well that's really your own business.

    Yes, some people are bad parents, when they don't tick those boxes.

    But as for things like bottle versus breast feeding, frankly people can go and get f**ked.

    Excuse my language. My mother would wash my mouth out. (Actually no, she'd probably say exactly the same thing!!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you and your mum! Being a new mum now is so much harder I reckon. It needs to change.

      Delete
  2. Great post Annie!!

    Granted, I'm not a mum (yet) but have seen time after time the judgements mothers have to deal with in raising their children.

    For instance, I had bad reflux as a child, whenever I fed I'd throw up (mum took me to the doctors as soon as this started) but took a bit to get sorted, the judgment my mother got for "taking such a sick child out in public"...I wasn't sick per say, it was reflux! If mum kept me home, there would have been a period she wouldn't have left the house!!! But my issues passed and thankfully so did that piece of judgement placed on my mum.

    Oh, Annie, I have a dentist phobia too! I go on occasion but thankfully the teeth are fine...nothing wrong...but there's no way I could show up to the dentist every 6 months!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad your mum still took you out. One of mine had reflux too. xx

      Delete
  3. Annie, this could be the best parenting post I have ever read. I love you.
    Our kids don't care how perfect we are or if we are doing things 'the right way'. All they want is to be loved, needed and to feel safe.
    Beautiful Annie, just beautiful xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Your comment made me tear up. You summed up what I was trying to say in two sentences. xxxx

      Delete
    2. I think, as well, that their childhood is perfect because it's theirs. Does that make sense?
      Danielle

      Delete
  4. What a fantastic post, Annie. Parenting is not a competitive sport, and mums do it hard enough as it is without being constantly judged. My own kids are now 23 (son) & 21 (daughter). I went back to work when my son was 9 months & my daughter was 7 months, not because I particularly wanted to but because I had to earn money. I raised them on my own (100% care) from when my son was 4 & my daughter was 22 months. It was bloody hard. Sometimes I gave them pizza for dinner coz I was too tired to cook. I was a complete failure at getting them to eat a healthy school lunch. Most days they had hot milo or cold milo for brekky (it has milk & vitamins!). More than once I stuffed up because I was tired and stressed & it all became too hard, but they both say they had a great childhood. We had fun together, lots of fun. They knew I was always there for them. I was far from perfect but I did the best I could despite (almost constantly) feeling judged as 'one of those single mothers'. My kids turned out great & both are doing well. I reckon I did ok.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You did brilliantly. That's exactly how I felt. We did what we could, and we always loved.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have raised my son on my own from birth - he is only 10 but I take great comfort in knowing that others have survived through until their 20's unscathed by the myriad of weetbix dinners, dirty clothes and more that can come with single mums, working full time (I returned to work when my son was 3 months old)and simply being too tired some days to deal with all the crap. My son is loved and he knows it. To me, that's THE most important thing.

      Delete
  5. doona day today, how did you know? Mumma needed a sleep in …

    i seriously believe kids rise to their own level, as long as we keep them alive long enough to figure out what that level is … as long as we don't try to make them live the life we think we should have/could have. the problem with telling people how to parent is it will be decades before we work out if it 'worked', and by then the 'experts' will be singing a different song.

    xt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Tracey. Love that you had a doona day today. They were my favourite xx

      Delete
  6. Great post.Thankyou as when you said your son said he had the best childhood you made me feel better.As I am going through rough times with my teen girl I have much self doubt and plenty of judgement placed upon me.But you made me remember my girl said something similar..she wished she didnt have to grow up as she loved being a child and being able to snuggle on my lap etc.So I must not have done such a bad job after all if she can look back on her childhood with a happy heart and a smile on her face.Yes we need to stop judging ourselves and eachother.We are all doing the best we can with what we have.Bring on the support of one another xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Deb. Your girl will be ok. Going through the teenage years are so hard for them. You are a good mum. Just be there. xxxx

      Delete
  7. Inspiring & honest, thank you. As a mum of two young children I needed to hear this tonight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad my post helped. I think we need more honesty & less judgement. xx

      Delete
  8. I'm a little unsure as to the reasoning behind this state of affairs. Was it publications wanting to sell? Barely-holding-it-together mothers keeping up appearances by taking the focus off themselves? Parenting being the newest 'artform'? I really don't know but I know I don't like it and agree with you Annie.

    More laws appear taking our responsibility out of our hands too. Yesterday (Mother's Day) my 12.5 yo wanted to fill my tank for me. The attendant stopped the pump and yelled out at us that he was underage and it was for his own safety. Despite my supervision. Commonsense must be a disappearing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the world has gone mad Twitchy. It drives me insane. It's almost like we can't teach our kids things until the bureaucrats deem it ok. It's not ok. xx

      Delete
  9. Hi Annie, I just love your writing and how honest you are.

    I have never felt so much judgement since becoming a Mum. I just dont know why people can't support each other. I am sure everyone goes through similar things, so why can't people just relate to one and other.

    I have only been a Mum for 4 short years (feels like a lot longer sometimes) but I have never felt so much judgement even from the time I had my eldest in the hospital having the midwives saying that I had to breastfeed (I did and continued to until 4 months old for both boys).

    I also remember taking him out of swimming lessons mid term because I couldn't stand the looks I would get from Mums in my sons swimming class, because he didn't like when they instructor would make him something he didn't want to do. He would get cranky and lash out at me (he was 18 months at the time). I remember calling my husband from the car in tears after one lesson because all the Mums stared at me as if I had leprosy. I thought to myself surely their kids have lashed out before why can't people just be understanding.

    I wish everyone could just understand and support one and other instead of being so quick to judge.

    At the end of the day I know I am doing the best I can because of the smiles my boys give me and the way my eldest comes up and gives me a hug and says 'I love you Mummy'. Makes me know I am doing the right thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Nicole I hate that mums make other mums cry. It is hard for all of us and those who pretend it isn't are just that - pretending. You are doing the right things and that's all that counts. Loved seeing you pop up on my blog xxx

      Delete
    2. Me too Annie and completely unnecessary, when people could just say I know how you feel instead of judging. It was a quick lesson in how cruel people can be sometimes.

      I have been reading yours posts lately (haven't commented for a while though). Just love how honest and real you are xx

      Delete
  10. I've been - and seem to do so constantly - beating myself up about my parenting, my mothering. Am I caring enough, I'm too hard on them, I should push the homework more, I don't read to them, I should listen to him reading, we shouldn't eat dinner on the lounge, I haven't fed them enough greens, the two youngest have never been to the dentist - at almost 7 and almost 5. And on and on it goes.

    We have no money for things such as fancy clothes or expensive shoes, or going to the movies or out to dinner, or for spontaneous wanted things. We barely have enough for bills, food and petrol.

    I despair so much at everything I am not to these children, everything I should be and all those things I can not buy or provide for them.

    And then I pull my head in and look to them to see how they are travelling. And there they are - happy, confident, funny funny kids with chutzpah and confidence I could only imagine.

    And I let myself relax for just a minute, and allow just a moment of "I must be doing something right".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are doing it right Kim. We all have so much on our plates and we do the best we can. I was the same with money, but at the end of the day kids don't remember the expensive things. A fav memory my boys have are looking for chairs on the side of the road during the council clean ups because we didn't have any chairs. xxx

      Delete
  11. Hello Annie, what a lovely post and very well timed. There's too much int he media about motherhood and pressure just now. In my experience it's more in the media than in the mums. Most mums I know are pretty honest about the... trickiness of it all. I tend to be quite vocal and open and so maybe others respond in kind.

    Oh it's been a bloody struggle. I've been a mum for 15 years and only now feel that I am getting a bit of a grip, and it's because they are all at school now and that's kind of liberated me in a way, liberated me to enjoy motherhood more and maybe even to put more into it and get more out of it.

    I've had good times and I've had lots of ordinary times... and the kids are OK, and darn lucky I say to live in this safe and clean and beautiful country with parents who love them, who are (more or less) sober and sane, in a house that is mostly harmonious. No high expectations, lots of freedom to be themselves...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that down in the coal face mums aren't so mean to each other. This pleases me a lot. I'm glad you are enjoying motherhood more - I know what you mean x

      Delete
  12. I also love your honesty about parenting and echo Seana's view that it is actually the media promoting some war between mothers that in my experience is not the reality. I find other mums are generally supportive and compassionate towards each other. And I could write a similar post listing my many failures - I think most of us are far harder on ourselves than anybody else will ever be.
    Your boys sounds wonderful BTW. And you are clearly a great mum.
    Michelle x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear there is support. You know what - I don't think we have failed or have failures - we just have parenting moments which vary. I like this much better xx

      Delete
  13. I love this post Annie. The amount of judgement (seemingly at every turn) makes me either feel ill for not measuring up, or my blood boil at the unfairness of it all. I am SO SICK of the comparisons, about what is right and wrong, and how I will no doubt never stack up as a perfect parent. As long as we do the best job we know how to, I hope that will be enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And we are all doing and have done the best jobs we know how to. That is all our kids want or need. xxx

      Delete
  14. You sound like a perfectly good mum to me. I personally don't think there's any point to looking back and agonising (stressing) over how you should have done things. at the time you do the best you can, the best way you know how. If the kids turn out okay, that's all that matters. Looking back now, I can see that I was a very casual mother, but back then I didn't know I should or could have been a more involved mum, and my kids are all okay, well adjusted adults, happy, and they are all friends. To me now, that's good enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Provided we don't abuse our children we are all perfectly good mums. We are just right for our kids and that's all that counts xx

      Delete
  15. Lovely post. Yes, you are mum enough. Most are. Sadly, a few aren't, and they need support.
    I never felt judged on my mothering. Not once, not ever. Did I just not get involved in mothering as a competitive sport, or was it not an issue then? I don't know. Maybe it's a media beat-up and not actually how mothers really treat each other? Again, I don't know.
    We also have to be careful about how we use the word 'judging', because sometimes just answering a question with a personal opinion (which last time I checked, was still free in this country) is deemed as judgemental. If someone asks me what I think of a woman breastfeeding a 5 year old in public, I will be honest and say it grosses me out. It's not for me and I would feel uncomfortable if I was with a friend who did it. But I will never say she has no right to do it. Not ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You summed it up beautifully Cate. We don't all have to agree & not everything is for each of us, but we shouldn't say people don't have the right to make their own decisions. I did feel judged - but mostly because I left my husband. Many people didn't get this. The judging was less rampant than it is now - and it could well be media hype as well a mothers feeling a lot more insecure because of all the media hype.

      Delete
  16. Lovely post Annie and you sound like a very real and beautiful mum. I had TC when I was 23, none of my mates had kids & I just did what I thought was the right thing, a lot of it probably wasn't perfect in hindsight, but I was the lone maverick (that sounds cool eh?) so there was very little judgement in my circle because there was no circle, I went with my gut no mums group etc. Today at 37 I look at my mates only now having kids & the amount of pressure put on them by the media, their peers and themselves is overwhelming, I mean I ate seafood and soft cheese, some of them "get in trouble" for having a coffee when breastfeeding! Not sure who is actually policing that though proobably the elusive "they".

    So I'm glad I had TC in the dark ages, before I was aware of the Judy McJudgersons of the outside world. I think that because I parented intuitively, like you if we wanted a day under the doona we had one, if she didn't want to get out of bed to go to Saturday morning acro we didn't go, we have arrived at the teenage years with an understanding of the strengths and limits of each other. I can be honest about not coping with my day, as can she. I hope that this has given us a solid base for the next 10 years, but I will be looking at mothers like you for guidance, knowing that crappy things can and will happen but they will also pass and in the end we can all come out the other side together. xxpt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like you & TC have a great relationship & you will ride through the teenage shitstorm with a good base to fall back on. xxx

      Delete
  17. Loved this post Annie. We all get caught up in the judging game at some time or another, and this post reminds us, that we are above all, human, and all trying our best in the circumstances we are in. I think you are a great mum, along with all those other great mums out there who are just trying to do the best they know how.Hugs to all those mums out there who need a little TLC today.xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes I've definitely judged before - it's always good to get a reminder that it's not ok. Your comment is a lovely sentiment to mums having a tough time x

      Delete
  18. My kids don't do to the dentist much either. Seems they still have all their teeth. Last time we went I was judged by the dentist for it.
    I'll add her to the list of people who have judged my parenting.
    I try hard not to let it have an effect on howI parent. Can't say it always works. but I try.
    It's a hard, hard job being a parent, and as they get older I get less and less confident in my abilities - but they are doing OK. They are happy and loved and protected and that is my job.

    Love this post Annie. Love it.

    xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh wow I thought I was the only delinquent dentist mummy. So nice to know I'm not alone! Don't you worry about the judgers - in my eyes you are the kind of mum I would have wanted. True xxx

      Delete
  19. Another amazing post! Thank you for these words...which are the perfect antidote to judgement & mummy-guilt...for the first time in ages I feel as if it's okay to own my imperfection as a mum. And still be confident that my boys will turn out better than just 'okay' because the best thing I can give them is unconditional love and a soft place to land. Stuff the judge-y people, I'll just get on with doing the best I can :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't feel it Anj. You are a great mum and yes they will turn out ok - because you are a great mum with loads of love for them. xxx

      Delete
  20. Stands and applauds. Many kisses xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just taken a big bow. Thanks love xx

      Delete
  21. great post, Annie! what we mums have to remind ourselves (everyday, if necessary) is that at the end of the day, the most important thing with our children is to see that they are HAPPY and reasonably safe; that's all that matters. Like the saying goes, 'the proof is in the pudding'.

    ReplyDelete
  22. oh yes, there is no perfect mum (or dad), its about commitment and perseverance, something you obviously mastered! And your son has rewarded you with top marks - perfect! Hope I get that one day too... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure I've mastered it, but I'm giving it my best shot. xx

      Delete
  23. Love this! I hope to raise my boys simarly and It's sometimes hard to block out the judgements when they are so young but I'm trying. Just wrote a post about this too - it's important to remind ourselves and other mothers that we ARE enough!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I haven't taken my three year old to the dentist at all, I'm a little scared because he bites. I'm pretty lucky not to have come across half as much judgment as the media likes to believe exists. In saying that I do think there is too much pressure with swimming lessons, gymbaroo, baby einstein DVD's, NAPLAN, etc, etc. It does my head in. Loved this post x

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have a 2 year old boy. I started out with all these amazing intentions of being the 'perfect' mum. It was exhausting. Now, I'm embracing being imperfect and I feel like I can finally breathe.

    Found you through Katrina's blog! x

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oh I HEAR YOU on the teeth thing.

    My girls have AWESOME teeth. Only went to the dentist a handful of times.

    YOU ROCK

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wow, wow, wow - what an awesome post!! It's like reading my own blog about 10-20 years from now - I hope! I hope my 3 boys turn out just like yours. I saw so many similarities :) I'm a teacher and I'm happy for my boys to NOT be top of the class - I just want them to be happy - I know that in the grand scheme of things, the level of their reader in Kindy is NOT going to define them. I think some people think I'm strange because of this. But you obviously wouldn't think I'm that strange :)
    P.s. found you via Katrina's blog!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Girl, you are on FIRE! These same thoughts are swirling in my head. Even if you give the kids every opportunity, they don't bloody do anything with them on their own. Best to leave them to be what they would be anyway and enjoy a more positive relationship. Smarts will always show in the end.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me x

Share this post