What do my children think of me?

With mother’s day now behind us, I sit reflecting on an important question – what do my children think of me as their mother? If we had to rank ourselves on scales from 1 to 10 in terms of how “good” we are as mothers the score would differ every day, as would the criteria by which we judge. What makes a good mother? Is it someone who always has a clean house, dinner on the table six o’clock sharp and perfect hair and make-up? Or is it someone who spends all day building lego castles or baking play dough cakes? While that question is far too difficult to answer, one thing we do know is that our children don’t care what we look like, or what our house looks like or what time they eat dinner – as long as we are there for them when they most need us. We can certainly try to put some guidelines around what classifies as a “good” mother, but what I want to know is, what if we reversed the equation and looked at ourselves through our children’s eyes?  I’ve recently asked myself this question – what do my children think of me as a mother? My oldest is 2-and-a-half, so is therefore capable of brutal honesty and incapable of applying normal social filters, as I’m sure many of you would have had your own experience with!

On Sunday (Mother’s Day), I asked my toddler a simple question which I already knew the answer to. I said, “so tomorrow is Monday, and what do we do on Monday?” She answered “Listen to mummy”.  Now I know the answer to that question is actually that we go to swimming, like we do every Monday morning, and that is the answer I usually get, so I was a little surprised (and amused) by her response. So I said, with a little chuckle, “yes that’s right, and what else do we do on Monday?” Her next answer was “Get out of the way”. As much as I tried, I couldn’t contain my laughter this time. Again quite an accurate response but a little off topic. Now these answers are undoubtedly a direct reflection on the fact that we’d just spent 3 nights without my husband – he was off enjoying some hard earned relaxation (aka fishing) time. However they did give me an important insight into my toddlers mind , including  the messages I’d clearly been sending her the last few days. Did I really nag that much? I thought we’d had a great few days- we had multiple playdates, shopping trips, tea parties and we even did some gardening – all with only a minimal number of tantrums. I was now starting to realise that parents and children see things quite differently.  

You can always rely on kids of a certain age to give you an honest answer to simple questions. I was clear I’d spent the last 3 days behaving more like drill sergeant Mum instead of fun mum, and like a good little soldier she was ready with her “sir yes sir!” when I asked for it. I think, just maybe, I may have overdone my nagging efforts.

I know these answers are pretty innocent and I’m trying not to take them too personally, but with Mother’s Day upon us, I found myself asking an interesting question – what would my children say about me as their mother? What do they remember most? Do they see me as someone who is always cooking and cleaning, or someone who is always happy to play with them whenever they ask for it? The truth is I am neither – I feel like I do a little bit of everything. Does that make me a jack of all trades and master of none? I’m sure I am not alone when I say I constantly feel like I don’t quite measure up on the yardstick that is motherhood – there’s always washing in the machine or ready to be folded up, or I frequently hear myself saying “not right now” in answer to the request to have the 12th tea party today. Sometimes, life just gets in the way and I feel like my attentions are eternally divided.

However, my opinion of myself isn’t the one I’m interested in right now. What do my children think of me? We know that kids can be brutally honest, but thankfully, they are also very forgiving. Children don’t hold grudges like adults do, for which I am immeasurably grateful. We all lead such frenetic lifestyles and some days we find ourselves stretched further than we’d think was humanly possible, all the while trying our hardest to give our kids what they need. And in truth, what they need is a little bit of everything. My kids need me to play with them, but they also need me to feed them, and clean for them, and cuddle them, and read to them, take them to swimming lessons, and do Jemima’s hair again, and pick up their toys, and find that sticker we gave them 9 days ago that they dropped in the driveway, and let’s face it – be 17 places at once.

So for now I will have to be satisfied with calling myself a jack of all trades – I am a wife, a mother, a cleaner, a chef, a friend, a teacher, chief sticker-finder, a multitasking extraordinaire  and domestic goddess. And while some days, I feel like I may not measure up on the immeasurable scale of motherhood, I hope and pray that everyday my children see me as the kind of mother I try to be – always there for them when they need me most, wherever and however that might be. That is more than enough for me.

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