You develop many skills when you become a mum, and one of these is giving reassuring advice to mum friends who are having a bad day/week/month.
‘Don’t worry’, you say, ‘it’s completely normal.’
‘Don’t beat yourself up. It’s hard. We all have days like that.’
‘He’s tired, he knows how to push your buttons. You get the worst of it because you’re his mum. He’ll have forgotten all about it by now.’
‘Yes, there are days when I hate it too. It’s perfectly normal to want to hide away in a cupboard for a few hours where no-one can find you.’
It’s easy to have perspective when it applies to someone else. When it’s someone else’s child who just can’t hold it together after school. When it’s someone else’s child who refuses to co-operate in the mornings. When it’s someone else’s child who is a jolly, happy, functioning 4 year old until the second he sees his mummy, and then every last ounce of upset, frustration and exhaustion comes spilling out. When it’s someone else’s child who hurls his tea all over the floor in a fit of rage.
It’s easy to put all of that into perspective when it doesn’t apply to your child. It’s easy to nod and give advice and offer an arm and say, truthfully, that we’ve all been there; we all know what it’s like. That trying your very hardest to raise decent and kind human beings whilst also wanting their childhood to be full of warm and happy memories does sometimes take its toll.
The hardest thing? The very hardest thing of all is taking your own advice. Because when it applies to you, when it’s your child who can’t keep things together, when it’s you who feels like everything is spinning out of control; it is just so much easier to tell yourself that you are not doing a good enough job. That you should have done this and you shouldn’t have done that. To analyse and over-analyse and convince yourself that you could and you should have done things better. To tell yourself that you’re not up to it, that your children deserve better than you’re giving them. To think about how much better things might have turned out if only you’d made a different decision in that split second when all of your children were making competing demands of you.
It’s easy to say ‘don’t beat yourself up’ to someone else.
It’s also very easy to beat yourself up.
And so, as a mum, my resolution for 2017 has to be this: listen to your own advice. Sometimes children are horrible and cruel. Sometimes it is difficult to think straight when you feel like you always have a small person hanging off your cardi. Sometimes, you probably don’t do things in quite the way the parenting manuals suggest. That’s ok.
Make a cuppa, move on; and save your energy for the next challenge. Because you know that won’t be far away.