I was at a riproaring girls€™ night recently, the kind of evening when you can€™t stop laughing or talking, stay up far too late, and wake up with a hangover that takes days to shake off. The girls (and yes, I know we can€™t really call ourselves €˜girls€™ any longer) are all friends who go way back, some of us to the days when we weren€™t even legally allowed hangovers. The rest date to an era when, no matter what we€™d been up to, we€™d be good to go after the holy trinity of Alkaseltzer/carbohydrates/ pint of full fat coke. We€™re now all mothers, so lack of sleep is caused by something quite different – and huge nights out as rare as an unbroken night’s sleep. And instead of chat focusing on boyfriends, a lot of it is about our children. So far, so any other gathering of girls. But what made last week€™s evening stand out, for me anyway, was a shock announcement by one of the mothers (let€™s call her €˜Charlie€™).
Fuelled up by the cocktail of the night, Charlie looked at another mother (and lifelong friend €“ we€™ll call her €˜Becca€™) and said she couldn€™t let it go another second: €˜Becca should stop thinking that she, Charlie, was a bad mum because she gave her children fish fingers for tea most nights€™. Becca looked surprised, and not a little hurt, and admitted that she€™d always felt rather useless compared to Charlie, whose children ate masses of fruit, and seemed to prefer reading to watching TV. On top of which, Becca promised she€™d never noticed the fish fingers.
It turned out that Becca created homemade fish fingers by blitzing stale bread in the foodprocessor to make breadcrumbs. A stray remark on how easy this was had made Charlie feel criticised. Becca admitted feeling a bit smug about her home-cooked food, but confessed to all kinds of other things that made her feel a bad mother, namely plonking the children in front of ‘the Cbeebies nanny’, and (bit more bizarre, this one), not wiping their noses often enough.
Soon we were all chipping in with our tales of smug motherhood. One of the girls was chuffed to bits that their household was television-free. Another felt saintly about having only ever given her children organic vegetables and milk. I personally felt a tad too virtuous about never having shop-bought biscuits in the house (and apparently, this made some of the mothers present feel I clearly had way too much time on my hands if I could make flapjacks all day). On it went, until we moved on to ways we felt less than brilliant, the secret and useless parenting skills that mean we were awful, terrible, world€™s worst mothers. And once we realised that we weren’t the only ones to let the boys’ hair go unbrushed for days at a time, had all sent them to school or nursery knowing they had a temperature, but we had an important meeting/gym appointment, and felt permanently on the verge of losing it when they refused to put their shoes on, we didn’t feel such bad parents after all.
We’re all a mix of good and bad, patient in some ways, fired up in others. And no-one is perfect. What came out of the evening was all of us going home thinking that maybe we weren’t doing such a bad job after all.
So here it is, the smug mum amnesty. Fess up and tell us your best parental skill. And don€™t ever give yourself a hard time, because it’s unlikely that anyone else has even noticed.
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