I’ve turned into the type of mother I once criticised.
Once upon a time I was a smug mother.
When exactly? 2009 to be precise.
Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minster, Tiger Woods was crashing into fire hydrants while his wife enthusiastically belted him with a 9 iron and my days were spent googling things like ‘Names Matt Preston gives his cravats”.
And when I wasn’t doing that I was swanning around our apartment with my first baby: making my own baby food, going to mother’s group and fastidiously filling in my daughter’s baby album with the intensity of Dustin Hoffman in a Rainman audition.
“Oh I have NAILED this motherhood gig,” I frequently said aloud to myself because I was, um, weird. “NAILED. IT.”
And in some ways, I had.
My six-month-old daughter slept often and easily.
Financially, I was able to work for myself from home doing whatever hours I chose.
I had supportive friends. A mother willing to babysit. A husband who loved being a father.
So what I’m saying, people, is that I was nauseatingly smug.
(How smug? On a scale of one to ten -, ten being say Gwyneth “Espanola por favor” Paltrow, I clocked in at 275. I was Miranda-Kerr-combined-with-Andrea-Moss-with-a-dash-of-Carol-Brady type of smug.)
But the worst bit about how I behaved back then was that deep down I judged other mothers. I judged them as foolish for not having their baby in a routine. LIKE ME. I judged them as disorganised for not having a neat and tidy home. LIKE ME. I judged them as irresponsible for not putting their kids to bed at a respectable time. LIKE ME. I judged them for not being able to keep calm and not lose their minds LIKE ME.
This is because I was an idiot with NO FREAKING CLUE ABOUT MOTHERHOOD.
Yes my baby slept but I was lucky to have a healthy baby who just so happened to sleep often and easily. Yes I worked but I was fortunate to be financially stable and to be able to work from home when and how I chose.
Bec and Ava.
Little wonder I found motherhood a breeze when I wasn’t battling PND, I had just one healthy child and I was #blessed to have supportive friends and family I could call on when I needed.
Of course I realise that now but back then, not so much. I was foolish enough to think it was 8 parts me and 2 parts luck. In truth it was the other way around.
I think back to the mother I used to be and I want to send her a “Congratulations, You’re An Awesome Mother!’ card LACED WITH ANTHRAX.
Because five years and three children later and ladies and gentlemen I have turned into the type of mother I once despaired about.
Last night my two-year-old decided for the first time in history that he no longer likes spaghetti bolognese and communicated his displeasure by pegging random meatballs at our dog before tipping the entire contents of his bowl onto the floor and screaming ‘IPAD!” in a tone reminiscent of say, Kim Jong-il in an Apple store.
In my laundry, there is a load of washing that has been in the washing machine for 24 hours.
Meanwhile my 11-month-old has no routine. None. He gets carted around between school picks ups and drop offs and sleeps when he can. Oh and I have homemade his food ONCE in 11 months. ONCE.
Meanwhile despite the fact my daughter didn’t even really know what McDonald’s was until she was four, my two-year-old son has been known to actually fist pump and cheer “Donald’s! Donald’s! Donald’s!” when we randomly drive past the golden arches.
(I’ll just pause for 3 minutes and play Wrecking Ball on Ava’s toy xylophone while you email Noni Hazlehurst to nominate me for the Barnardo’s Mother of Year 2015 …)
At 6.30pm last night I contemplated hiding in our pantry with a bottle of Moscato and a bowl of chocolate-coated blueberries. But I didn’t. Because I feared my three children would stage a coup.
So this post is an apology of sorts to the mothers who came before me.
You don’t have to be Super Mum. You just have to be a Mum.
Back in 2009, I didn’t know how tricky and exhausting and gruelling things can get when you have more than one child.
I didn’t understand that the mere thought of loading three small children into the car to do a kindy drop off can make you want to weep tears of exhaustion.
I didn’t really know (until I later saw a friend go through it) how truly crippling PND can be. Or what a difference it is to have the emotional support of a partner or family around. Or how truly truly lucky you are to have a healthy and ‘easy going’ baby at home.
Some babies are just grumpy or fractious or they have health issues that can take a toll on an entire household.
I didn’t know that strict-to-the-minute routines don’t matter! That – guess what? – a baby who gets schlepped about here and there can still get plenty of sleep and be happy and thriving.
I didn’t know that a two-year-old who is more adept at using an iPad than Bill Gates or a four-year-old who has a Happy Meal once a week is not going to stop the world from turning.
It didn’t dawn on me that different approaches work for different families and that NEWSFLASH – who cares? And mind your own business.
So to the mothers who came before me – who knew all this stuff long before I got it – I apologise.
And to the Judgy McJudgersons who are still out there, I say this (and wish someone had said this to me):
Shut your mother lovin’ cake-hole.
Stay in your own lane. Stick to your own movie. You think everyone else is a terrible parent and that you’re the best? Good for you. Call Oprah. Hold a tickertape parade for your fine self. Start up a “how to be an awesome mother like me” blog and all your friends can pretend to read it while hoping you get salmonella poisoning next time you make your own salmon tartare.
I was once a smug mum. Now I’m just a mum. Not terrific. Not terrible. Just a mum who’s doing her best, one Happy Meal at a time.
Are you guilty of being a smug mum?
This post first appeared on Mamamia.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.