Whenever my husband and I are fighting and he really wants his words to pack a punch, he tells me I’m being just like my mum. Oooh that really gets under my skin, and he knows it, but I am slowly learning to ignore it as if it were one of the kids saying nah nah nah nah nah nah you’re a poopie head. I guess if I (along with every other mum and to some extent some dads out there too) weren’t so central to this family, as MY mum was, then I wouldn’t come under fire in being compared to the previous matriarch. I, for one, constantly strive to be better, to improve, to be the bigger person and hold my head up high so at the end of the day I can rest easy knowing I have done the very best I could in raising my kids and giving them everything I can to help them to become better people too.
I think we all strive to be better than our parents, but the 2 different worlds are, well, worlds apart. We have modern conveniences like being able to buy more milk at 3 in the morning, and being reachable by phone no matter where we are or what we are doing (my dad sent me a text from the top of Mt Kilimanjaro a couple weeks ago would you believe). These things are supposed to make our lives easier, but with that comes all sorts of complications. The new generation of mums have not only more bills to pay (mobile phones, internet, pet insurance) but also stigmas attached to us if we stay at home, or go back to work, or let our kids have a bottle in bed, or let them run around barefoot. Plus we have less time to spend with our kids as we have more to distract us… thanks technology and facebook! I have had this argument before with my step-mum, who says when she was in my shoes she had a weekly petrol budget of $1 and things were just as hard for her. While I don’t disagree with that, as we are striving to be better in today’s world there are articles and studies and tv commercials all around us telling us we aren’t good enough unless we are doing this and that with our kids. Dance lessons, maths tutoring, to the pool at 5am to train, Jimberoo, not doing this? Well prepare to feel belittled because there are those who do. I’m sure our mums probably felt the sting of insufficiency via their friends or family when they had small children, but I don’t know how it could possibly be as venomous as it is today. And mind you, I’m not the kind of person who stands for that crap (at least on the outside) but I am aware of it, I hear it, I feel it every time I hear such comments as MY kid is reading at level 8, or she just loves playing Mozart at piano lessons, or my kids were all toilet trained by their second birthdays. God I hope comments like this never ever leave my mouth, and to be honest, my mum never says anything like this so I can’t pretend she does, even for poetic licence. But I have heard these comments fly out of mums of previous generations, mums of the current generation, and mums-to-be as well. Nothing worse than a cocky mum-to-be who has everything mapped out for their little genius/prodigy/prima donna. Gotta laugh.
Things are just as hard for us as they were for our mums, but we have so much more judgement placed on us as parents today, so we need to try to be better more than ever, lest we get trolled on twitter. Perhaps because of the harsher judgement we dish out these days, most us believe we are accomplishing this, because we have more parenting books, go to more parent talks, and google at our fingertips to tell us the nutritional value of the muesli bar they are eating. But is there that much difference? I mean, the clothes have always been this dirty, the mealtimes a shambles, the nappies as full (and had to be washed), and the walk to school always as long – although my dad will tell of times he walked miles uphill, through the snow with a hole in one shoe…
Hard as I try to improve on times past, I still find myself blurting out the words just you wait ’til your father gets home or other such threats that rang in my ears throughout my childhood. Sometimes I wish I had a remote control with 10 pre-set lines I use so that I don’t have to waste my breath repeating myself over and over, including:
Watch where you’re going!
Put that down!
Pick that up!
and of course,
LISTEN TO ME!!!!!
I think if my mum had a remote control too, (very ahead of her time having that technology in the 70’s) she would probably would have had the same phrases recorded onto it. Some things never change, mums will always need eyes in the back of their heads. Of course everyone has their own individual strengths, and in trying our hardest to be better than our mums we sometimes overlook the brilliant things they did. Like my mum used to never force us to eat food, never woke us up early in the morning, and never pushed us to do something we didn’t want to (other than homework, and even then she didn’t push hard). She danced with us. Will my kids ignore all the good things I try so hard to do and be? Will they be so hung up becoming a better parent than I that they forget that I let them jump on the bed, sing songs with them all day, often bake cookies with them and sit down religiously to help with their homework? Hopefully they remember more than the times when I sound like a wailing cat shouting at them in the morning to get dressed for school. And I hope even more that I never utter the words “when you have children you will understand”.
My mum has often told me of things she did or didn’t do as a mum because of her mum’s parenting style. She never forced us to eat food we didn’t like because she has awful memories of that. She never pits my sister and I against each other as her mum did, and she tries so hard to not be self-important like Grandma was. A fact we should never forget is that our mothers were trying to better their’s too. I guess that in a world where we define ourselves by what we are not, comparisons are part of our personality’s make-up. And we venture into the life of mum or dad, with our parent’s behaviour in mind because it’s ultimately the first point of reference and therefore the easiest base of comparison.
If each generation strives to do a better job than their mothers before them and it actually happened then wow, what amazing mothers we should now be! Truth is, we are just like them and we may just mess it up in different places to what they did. Some days it feels like everybody is doing a better job than us, our mums, our sisters and our peers, thanks goodness for hormones and guilt to keep us self-loathing and doubting experts. I feel that as much as I have learned in my childhood what NOT to do as a parent, I have also realised that many of the things my mum and dad did took a lot of courage and strength, and I implore you to think in the same way. Yes, I may be softening towards my mum because it seems inevitable that I am becoming a teeny tiny, little bit like her… but I don’t mind so much. Anyone who has raised their kids wholeheartedly, cried for them and felt the pain of learning life’s lessons, and loved them so much it hurts, anyone in this category has my respect, whether they mirror or polarise their mothers before them.