“You don’t get gold stars when you’re a parent, but you should.” This is a wise statement of fact made by one of my mum mates recently.
When you’re a parent, you rarely get a pat on the back. The pat on the back and the gold star comes in the form of happy kids. If your kids are happy and harmony reigns then that’s the equivalent of your gold star, your pat on the back, your “Well done you! Good job” appraisal meeting. And we all need this boost from time to time.
But what happens when things aren’t going swimmingly? When the kids aren’t happy or content? When your six year old is the only one crying in the classroom at school drop-off and your toddler is the only one hitting other kids at playgroup?
It can make you feel like a pretty rubbish mum. It can make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong as a parent. Somewhere along the line you’ve messed up, missed an important sign that all other parents know about, skipped a chapter of the magic kids’ manual. No gold star for you. Go and sit in the dunce corner.
On most weeks I reckon I spend at least half the time feeling like a Gold Star Mum and half the time feeling like a Dunce Mum. The problem is, in typical human tradition, I always focus on the dunce moments.
Take this morning, for example. Frog was back to school after a day off with a sickness bug. She was feeling a bit emotional (as she always is after any time at home – read my post about school separation anxiety here) and didn’t want me to leave the classroom. I had my Hand, Foot and Mouth contagious toddler strapped in the buggy outside, wailing inconsolably about being unable to come into the classroom. I was stressed and self-conscious about my two kids making such a fuss. So of course I probably handled both situations really badly, not being patient enough, getting snappy, not taking the time to listen properly. Dunce Mum.
This morning couldn’t have been more different to Monday morning. On Monday Frog skipped into class on her own, kissing goodbye at the school gate and telling me in no uncertain terms not to follow her into the classroom. I walked out of the playground, beaming, pushing my happy toddler in the buggy and saying good morning to everyone I passed with a winning smile. Gold Star Mum.
There are so many days where I wonder where I went wrong as a mum. Why is my kid the class crier? Why isn’t my toddler saying more words? Why can’t my six year old ride a bike without stabilisers yet? Why is my toddler still obsessed with the boob? All these questions and more will inevitably pour out at some point in my week, as I look around me at the other kids who aren’t crying in class, or still obsessed with breastfeeding at the age of two, or speaking in full sentences at 18 months (for example).
Of course the sane, rational part of me knows that I’m not doing anything wrong (well, not all of it anyway). That kids should never be compared and that we all have our difficult days as parents. But this doesn’t stop me doubting myself or the decisions I make on a regular basis. It’s the lack of gold stars, I guess.
The other problem is we don’t always hear about the Dunce Mum moments from others, which can make us feel like everyone else is climbing up that gold star chart while we’re the only ones struggling.
There’s not really much point to this post except to say that if you feel like a Dunce Mum today then pull up a pew. Come and sit in the Dunce Mum corner with me – there’s plenty of room. In fact, forget the Dunce Mum moment for a minute and take a gold star. I’m sure your gold star moments far outweigh the dodgy dunce ones anyway.
Now tell me about those Dunce Mum moments. Have you had any recently? Go on, share the load. I promise I won’t judge you for it.