This parenting is a funny old thing. I'm consistently in awe (or rather more accurately slightly scared) of those uber Mummys who have everything under control. You know them, they have whisked up a freshly baked cake, done the ironing and not shouted at their children once that day. The sort of Mummy I'll never be. Well, I can do a cake but the ironing and not shouting thing is well beyond me.
I have however, come to a huge realisation which I feel is going to significantly affect the way I feel about the uber Mummy. Finally, I have realised that it is all about the presentation.
Let me give you an example of a day spent in the Brits household last week to illustrate what I mean.
Up at 7, I took the boys to nursery before settling down to a few hours work at home. Around about 12, I walked over to nursery to pick them up and chatted to the Bosnian Mummys at the nursery gates as the boys played in the playground. On our walk back home we made the most of the snow with snowballs and decided we would make a snow man later. After lunch we had a bit of 'quiet time' as Adam practiced some writing and Luke did some drawing and I prepared a marinade for their supper. Time then to take the dog for a walk in the park. We were out for about 90 minutes or so, the boys returning red cheeked and worn out from all the running about. Decided that we should bake some banana bread together before the boys sloped off to play pirates in the playroom as I cooked dinner. Dave came back from work just as they were finishing supper and he took them upstairs for a bit of a play, father son time type thing, a bath and they finished off the day all clean, tidy, watching a bit of TV in their pyjamas, sipping their milk. Quick story and they were all tucked up and fast asleep.
That's quite an uber Mummy sort of day isn't it? Everything is there: exercise and outdoor time, quiet time, individual play, some form of creativity, play with other children in the morning, cooking from scratch, good bedtime routine. All peaches and cream then in the Brit household.
But although we did indeed do all of the things above, the reality of the day was far more like this
Luke got up at 5.30am. I got into bed with him to try and keep him in bed until 7. It was a long 90 minutes, during which I was regularly battered over the head with a toy car and had to remove his fingers from my nose on more than one occasion. Once everyone was up, the battle to get everyone dressed for nursery commenced. Adam is supposed to be dressing himself now. He was more interested in running around like a looney trying to irritate his brother. First episode of shouting from me. Finally get them out of the door and towards nursery. Phew.
Come home and attempt to work. Faff around, read some blogs, realise that I've wasted the entire morning and have achieved nothing. My own fault, but irritating none the less, feel cross with myself. Walk over to nursery to pick them up, muttering positive mantras about how I will not shout today and be a better mother and generally less grumpy. Let the boys play for a bit in the little playground the nursery has. Within five minutes chaos has erupted, the boys are snatching each other's toys, trying to hit each other and crying. I attempt to withdraw gracefully, but they do not cooperate about putting on fleeces, coats, hats, boots and the other paraphernalia required to go outside in a Bosnian winter. Finally get out of the nursery, feel that my positive mantras have bitten the dust after a mere 5 minutes.
The walk home is slow, agonisingly, mind bendingly slow. Every pile of snow must be examined. Snowballs are thrown. Faces are hit. Tears are shed. Refusal to hold Mummys hand as we near the big road that must be crossed. They start getting silly, run around screaming. Second shouting episode from me. Tempers are lost and not just mine either.
Finally get the boys back home. Feed them lunch. Get them to sit quietly at the table as I try to make the marinade for dinner. Luke insists on using felt tip pens as missiles. Is really pleased when he remembers if he fires them at the wall when they don't have a cap on, they leave a mark. I stop that activity sharpish and he continues dumping all the pens onto the ground. Adam in the meantime is doing his writing nicely, right up until the point that Luke starts scribbling on his book. General fight. I stick them out of the kitchen, tell them to read a book or something, and finish up as fast as I can.
Head to the park having had yet another battle getting them ready to go out. We appear to be on a go slow by the boys. It takes us about 45 minutes to walk less than 100m. More snowballs thrown, more faces hit, more tears shed. The dog, bored senseless by the snail pace of the group takes off. Is last seen heading to the boundary of the park. I grab the boys and drag them along as we go to try and find her. Surely that isn't her? Breaking into someones house? Oh it is. Leave the boys with instructions to 'STAY THERE', and go and haul her out, apologising with everything I have to the old woman who is rightfully pretty cross at having a great big damp retriever piling into her front room. The boys are LOVING this. They start shouting 'bloody dog', obviously just learnt from me. I thank my lucky stars I was relatively refined with my language, it could have been a lot worse.
I drag everyone home. Am fed up. There are more snowballs, more tears. Everyone cold and wet and pretty miserable. Decide baking is the way forward. Get everything ready, the boys are fighting over who is going to play with Thomas. Leave them to it, rationalise this is all part of them learning how to negotiate. Eventually they come in. We pour out the ingredients. A wooden spoon is waved, a large amount of sticky mess hits the wall. As I pour the ingredients I realise that it doesn't look quite right. Realise too late that one of my little angels has switched the weighing thing from grams to lbs. What I weigh out to be 100g is actually 1.00 lbs which is not the same at all. This has been switched halfway through the process. I have no idea what is right and what isn't. Decide to lob a bit more of what I thought looked a little less than usual in. Stick the goo into the oven.
Too late, I remember that I need the oven to make their dinner. Look at my marinade. Stick it in the fridge for another day. Look in the fridge to see what else we have. Result, I can cobble together another dinner, but it is not one that Adam, a fussy eater to say the least, will eat without a fight. Wonder if I'm up for the fight. Decide that he doesn't have a choice we haven't got anything else to eat. I cook the dinner, they play (pretty nicely, bless them). Dinner is served. Anticipated fight begins and goes on for a while. I forget to take the banana bread out. The sticky goo is now burnt sticky goo. They have it for pudding anyway.
Just as they are finishing, Dave comes home. We all shout 'DADDY!' with relief. I hiss at him that I've had enough, he has to take them up for a bath RIGHT NOW. He gives me a look that says 'but they are being such angels'. I scowl, stick my hackles up and start growling. Besides, I still have to clean up the sticky goo mess.
Do the washing up in peace and quiet and listen to Radio 4. Feel a lot less stressed. Sounds like they are all having a wonderful time upstairs. Head up to join in stories. Realise that a tornado has hit. Every single bed has been stripped and the sheets are draped all over the cupboards. The question 'what are you doing???!!!' was met with a simple 'we're making camps'. I growl a bit more about the sense of doing this right before bedtime and remake all the beds. Then, at last, after what seems like the longest afternoon on earth, they are in bed and entering the land of nod.
Downstairs for a large glass of wine. And possibly another large glass of wine. And a reflection that this uber Mummy thing is probably all in the way that you present the activities. Spin it right and I too could look competent. So now, when I'm confronted with someone talking about all the amazing things that they do with their children all day everyday, I remember that from the outside, my days could look like that too. More importantly, I've realised that their days are probably very like mine in reality. Somehow that makes me feel a lot better.