There is a gulf between the Mother I thought I would be, and the Mother I am. Fortunately there isn’t such a large space between the Mother I am, and Mother I’d like to be.
Before my children arrived, I was going to be perfect. My kids were going to be perfect*. I was going to walk around art galleries with my infant snuggled into their baby carrier, in all their knitted finery and then retire to a cafe for a well deserved coffee. I would sleep all night, and so would my children. They would wear nothing but perfectly matched, stylish handmade outfits. They would return from their adventures to an immaculate house and a home cooked meal. There would even be a fresh batch of brightly coloured play-dough to play with before their bath.
I quickly found this fantasy would take more energy than I imagined. The toys would be locked up for me to dish out when I saw fit. The play-dough would be for special occasions only (i.e. at other people’s houses) and getting dressed every day would be a battle. I know some people manage to make it work like that, but I just can’t. When all is said and done, I’m not even sure I’d want to.
Look closely and you can see chaos about to invade from the edges of the kitchen
My reality is quite different. I’ve let go of the magazine spread fantasy. I’ve admitted to myself that my children are both separate, and different from me. I don’t want my children vicariously living out my abandoned dreams. I’ve chosen to let the children explore for themselves with all the support I can provide. I want them to find their own dreams.
We don’t often walk around art galleries. It’s a matter of distance. My fridge is my gallery and it is always changing. We are currently being treated to our Picasso the Elder’s hands with fingers stage and Mondrian the Younger’s grids with colour. Days are punctuated by a need to draw, as desperate as the desire to breathe. The pencils and paper are always handy. They can be on the table before you can say “but it’s almost dinner time”.
The carefully matched outfits have gone out the window too, aided on their way by food related mishaps and a good dose of “No Mummy”. Dressing children is harder than I thought. On the flipside, hand sewn dresses are very useful. The little pull on smocks are great for covering grubby clothes just before leaving the house.
The home made playdough is probably the only item that survived the leap into reality. My kids have seen enough to know that making playdough means it is time to get the food colouring out and start stirring. You really don’t want to know about the time the elder decided to add the colouring herself (I didn’t even know she could reach it). However, I’m delighted that she knew what it was for. Making playdough is not so much a special occasion, but a necessity. There is always a homemade batch in the fridge.
Yes, there is a difference between the Mother I thought I would be, and the Mother I am. The Mother I want to be is calmer, more patient and relaxed than the one in the fantasies. Right now, that’s the one I’d rather be.
*Like any parent, I believe my children are wonderful. They are just as perfect as you and I – which is to say, not always.