Got into a discussion on IHM’s blog about the expectations of Indra Nooyi’s children (yep again, that piece is the gift that keeps giving). The question was “After all, why do we as kids, feel so entitled to our mother’s time, indeed her entire life and personality?”
And my answer was: because they are kids. We can run and we can hide, but we have to face up to the fact that kids will want to be around the people they feel close to and secure with as much as possible, and often those people are their parents, and if the person who had been most involved with them in their young years was their mother, then it will be their mother who they crave.
Kids usually have some special affinity for their parents – I was surprised to realise that even though my kids adore our helpers who have been their primary caregivers, they still go “mummy mummy” and hang on to me. I expect this will become less as they become older, but it may never quite dissipate. I know grown children who are independent in every way and still have expectations of their parents’ time and attention because they love their parents and enjoy their company. It’s that simple.
Does this mean we have to sacrifice our own ambitions to our kids? No. Does this mean we have to be superparents? No. In fact, one of my pet peeves is the immense pressure on parents, especially moms, to do it all. But even if this pressure does not exist, I’d wager, kids would want their parents to be around, the younger they are, the more they will want you. I’d take it as a compliment, even though it can be trying.
I am currently reading Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, which is an awesome book that I might write more on later. She addresses the hyper-expectations of parents today. She says of her mother: “she always felt like a safe place”.
That’s the sum of it, really for me, as a parent. To be the safe place. I don’t think it’s necessary to be there all the time or to sacrifice myself entirely. Quindlen also says: “In my religion, martyrs die.” Quindlen and I were both raised Catholic. And we have the same views on religion. Okay, honestly, I feel like her twin though she’s ages older and more accomplished than me.
But I digress. If you’re the safe place for your kids, you’re doing well.
The thing is, if you’re the safe place or thereabout, the thought won’t enter your mind that your children would think you a bad mother. It takes a lot for a child to formulate that thought. Bad mothering is something grown-ups think and verbalise not children. If a child – even a teenager formulates that thought, or you perceive they are thinking it, it might be time for self-reflection. In Nooyi’s case, the truth might lie somewhere in the middle as it often does, but that is for her and her daughters to decide.
The other thing that came up was this hierarchy of mothering. Should there be one?
So, I am aware of how ‘bad mother’ has become the guilt-switch of our generation. I myself am averse to the term.
But I do rate myself as a mother. And I don’t give myself an A grade. And I’m fine with that.
Why should there be ratings at all, someone asked. A fair enough question. The thing is, I rate myself in all my roles. It’s my way of doing better. Maybe I’ve worked in offices too long. I rate myself as a writer and give myself an A (it took me a while to recognize that I was worthy of an A, but I’m not going to be modest anymore). I rate myself on the attractiveness scale. I haven’t rated myself as a wife recently, but I probably wouldn’t get an A either. I rate myself as a daughter.
Perhaps rate is a harsh word. I think about how I’m doing and I see if I can do better without killing myself. Am I the only one that does this?
So, I think I’m an average mother, and I’m quite happy with that. I think an average mother is a safe harbor, but without the extras like handmade cookies and craft-activities every day. I doubt I’ll be doing cookies, but I would like to do more craft and fun excursions. I’m an average mother because I fall sick often and am tired and probably look at my phone more than I should. But I don’t beat myself up on these things. My kids are okay.
I also don’t feel the need to think that I’m the best at this particular role. I can see others who do better than me. As parents, we’re told to not praise everything our kids do, even when it’s less than marvelous, lest they have an inflated sense of self and get a rude shock when they venture out into the world. (I actually tend to go ‘wow’ around my kids a lot, but nvm)
It seems to me that our generation – or maybe it’s just those of us who were achievers at school – feels the need to be the best at everything, or we feel slighted. This is part of the have-it-all syndrome. We want to tell ourselves we’re the best, at everything. And when it comes to parenting, we’re even more precious. Is it social pressure? Or is it because it’s ultimately what we really truly care about? If the latter, then by all means be a perfectionist in that role. But it’s okay not to want to be.
I’ve embraced being average in several areas and it’s very liberating. I’m happy not being at the forefront of my career. I’m happy being an average mother. I’m happy being a cook with the barest of survival skills. I’m clumsy and I don’t love that, but I’ve learnt to laugh at myself (just the other day, I dropped my helper’s birthday cake while I was bringing it out and V shot me daggers but I apologized to my helper and we all had a good laugh. The cake wasn’t too badly damaged and I still think it’s funny, that splat! sound.) I’ve learnt to forgive myself when I forget something yet again. I’ve accepted my love handles if not totally in love with them. The things I can’t accept, I try to do something about.
But others, try so-so. You might enjoy it.