I always wanted to be a mum, a good mum. I imagined happy children giggling while dancing around amongst the beautifully kept flowers in the garden. I would make sure they were kind, caring, generous, polite and well-rounded children. They would eat their five a day, exercise and play outside often. They would watch very little TV and only have sweets once a week. We would go for long walks, ride bikes, bake and do crafts. I would never shout or raise my hand. All issues would be dealt with using words and love. If punishment was required it would come in the form of time out or taking away toys and privileges. I would respect my children and in turn my children would respect me. We would be friends.
Now it seems my fantasy is further beyond far-fetched than I could ever have imagined. I love my children more than I ever knew was possible and I would not change them. However I have come to realise I am not the mum I wanted to be. I often feel like I am failing or not doing a good enough job.
After my first child was born I just felt overwhelmed and panic stricken especially when alone with my son. I loved him dearly but I was so tired and lonely. I needed his dad to support me but he couldn’t be around and that only made things harder. Then I met another man and before my son could even walk he had a little sister. This is probably the point where I really began to fail to be the mum I wanted to be. My daughter was a very difficult baby. She cried all the time and I never seemed to be able to make her happy. I struggled so hard to care for two young children and stay on top of all the household chores. I soon sank into post natal depression.
By the time my son was two I knew things were going wrong. He had been such a placid boy but suddenly he changed. He seemed to be drifting further and further into a world of his own. He seemed to ignore every word I said. He stopped speaking and started grunting and pointing instead. He refused to be kissed and cuddled. At this point I felt that my depression had affected him. I thought he hated me. Now I had a difficult baby and a toddler who was becoming more and more difficult too.
Things got easier as the children got older but it was far from the fairy-tale I had imagined. I was not being the calm and in control mummy that I wanted to be. When my son was playing up I would shout and shout and shout. Time out was useless. He couldn’t sit still for five seconds. I rarely found the time to cook from scratch. Instead they ate fish fingers and beans. I rarely went out with them alone because I knew it would be far more stress than it was worth. I was not keeping the house clean enough. The cobwebs were spreading and the laundry pile growing.
Time moved on and eventually my son started pre-school. I enjoyed the time he was at there. I really needed that break. He continued to get more and more difficult. Soon I was getting told about him getting into trouble at pre-school and then at school the problems continued. I now felt like I was spending so much time dealing with my son that I did not have enough time for my daughter. I was not enjoying being a mum even though I knew I could never be without them.
Eventually my son was diagnosed with ADHD and autism. This came as no surprise to me. It felt good to have an answer but it didn’t make life any easier. I was fighting all the time. Getting my son dressed and to school was a nightmare. I was often crying by the time I reached the school gates. My son now takes medication to control his ADHD symptoms and this has helped him tremendously. He is no longer in trouble at school and his work is much better. I am still struggling though.
I now have a third child who fortunately is a very happy, easy going baby. My son loves her dearly and she seems to have helped heal him in a way. He can still be incredibly difficult though. He lashes out and now he is getting bigger this is more and more of an issue. I have done courses to learn how to best cope with my son. Yet when it comes down to it I just end up shouting and sometimes crying and begging him to stop. Honestly he drives me crazy. He is an amazing boy. He is intelligent, quirky, funny, unique, handsome and totally loveable. He is also incredibly testing for me though.
I want so much to be a better mum to him and my girls but I feel like maybe I just wasn’t blessed with the patience to cope with a special needs child. Maybe I am just too old and set in my ways to change now, but I fear my inability to change may only make him worse. The only thing that makes me feel better is that I tell myself, when my son is older I want him to fit into the real world, not the world where everyone understands autism and ADHD and makes allowances for him. I think this can only be achieved by treating him the same as his sisters wherever possible.
So looking back at my ideals, how many of them have I actually achieved:
Happy children playing together in the beautifully kept garden.
Instead my children run around like headless chickens, usually fighting and arguing. As for the garden, let’s just say I’m better at killing plants than growing them.
Kind, caring, generous, polite children.
I actually think this has been achieved, for the most part at least. They have their moments but they are all nice children. My son sometimes finds it hard to show love, gratitude or even good manners but he does try and that is the most important thing.
Eat their five a day and exercise a lot.
They do eat reasonably well but there are just better things to worry about than how many pieces of fruit or veg they have eaten that day. They never stay still so I guess they get enough exercise even if it’s not from long walks and bike rides.
Sweets once a week.
Epic fail. I use sweets as bribery so I can save my sanity. I know that I am doing the wrong thing but I don’t want a screaming child in the supermarket and they are too old to believe raisins are sweets now.
Never shout or raise my hand.
This is my biggest failure. I am just not a patient person and I do shout a lot when I am really stressed out. I have also been known to raise my hand and say, stop now before I smack your bum. At least I know at that point I need to turn my back and walk away.
Respect my children and my children respect me.
Mostly yes but we all need to listen to each other and respect each other more.
Little time in front of the TV.
Big, big fail. My TV is my favourite baby sitter. If it wasn’t for my TV I would never stay on top of the household chores. When I’m falling behind and I just need my son to be still and quiet and not winding his sisters up, I let him play computer games for a couple of hours, maybe more.
Things have got easier as time has gone on and I am coping better. However I am sad to say I have realised I will never be the mum I want to be. I hope I can learn to accept that. Does anyone else feel like they have not done as well as they would have liked? Does it mean we are failing or is there just too much pressure to be the perfect parent? I don’t think I am a bad mum at all but is that really enough to make me a good mum?