Friday, 19 February 2010

A mistress of spin

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.


The Moiderer said...

I love this. You are so right. Everything in life is all around marketing

Ladybird World Mother said...

Absolutely spot on... there is no such thing as an Uber Mummy, unless she has Staff. Oh, for Staff!
Lovely post... enjoyed every word, and rest assured that we are ALL the same, but can make our days seem Uber by just changing a few words around. Thanks for being hugely honest and wonderfully funny. xxx

TheMadHouse said...

I too am a mistress of spin, or a swan as MrMad calls me. I may look all graceful and serence on the surface, but god I am kicking like mad underneath

Teacher Mommy said...

Oh thank God. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to hate you.


Anonymous said...

Many years later my mother has still not got the message that I really enjoyed the taste of burned shortbread. I'm sure your lot'll remember the pleasure of burned banana bread like they'll never remember any of the other stuff.


lastofthemojitos said...

Very funny post! I think you've finally shed light on the 'uber-mammy' phenomenon. I've blogged about it before ( It still baffles me, how these women do it!

nappy valley girl said...

Great post - and so true. From the 'bloody dog' to the sticky goo, it just sounds exactly like one of our days. I would say we had a good day yesterday but when I think about it, there were at least two meltdowns and lots of shouting, Littleboy 1 ran into his brother with his sled and made his lip bleed, Littleboy 2 refused to eat supper and then didn't go to bed. The sad thing is, I am just so used to it now that I think I mentally edit it out!

Sarah said...

Whenever somebody presents things as just a little too perfect my "bullshit" radar starts to bleep.

So I'm with you, a reckon there is more spin and more preoccupation with image than substance.

Damn "Mummy Olympics".

As if the women of the world didn't have enough to deal with from the outside pushing them down and making them feel inadequate and lesser with us turning on ourselves and kicking each other to make sure we stay down.

Lynn said...

Oh, my gosh, this is so true! I see the un-harried women with their fancy strollers and immaculately-kept children, and I have to wonder why the hell my life isn't like that. Then I realize that maybe they and their kids might look angelic, but mine tend to behave in restaurants, and other moms have GOT to be jealous of that.

Anonymous said...

God this is so true! I don't think the Uber Mummy exists and if she does, what a boring life she must lead...there's nothing like your dog breaking & entering into some poor Bosnian woman's living room or your kids redecorating the kitchen with cake mixture to make you feel sooooo alive!

Calif Lorna said...

That is such a good post. I like to partake of a hissed 'I've had enough' as well. It is all about presentation, I was falling for it all at the beginning, it sounded idyllic. Thank you for giving us the full story!

Nicola said...

I love reading your posts - because so many of your days with your boys sound so familiar to mine. So familiar in fact that I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. So I will laugh. Bugger it. Who am I trying to impress anyway? My boys and I had a great day today. Oh who am I was a bloody disaster. The intention was there but the reality - oh so different. I think the highlight of the day was the 4 year old trying to convince me to buy him a toy while we were reading stories in Borders by screaming at the top of his lungs 'I just really hate you mummy! Really. Hate. You.' Did he end up with a toy in the end? Oh, of course he did. Because not only am I not an Uber mummy by any stretch of the imagination I am also a total sap after one apologetic kiss on my ear.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

Replace 'wine' with 'uninterrupted TV or computer time' and that is a spot-on description of any given day in my household. :)

I loved your initial description of household bliss and productivity, though! I really believed it and was thinking, what is this bee-yotch talking about???

London City Mum said...

Yup, that's me as well, except now also with broken wrist to contend with, so double the time required for everything.


Glowstars said...

You are super mummy! I'd have ditched the glass and gone for a bottle!

Clair said...

Yep, to the mummies at the school gate I seem to be some sort of wonder woman...they assume, I allow it...far too much shouting...lots of good/ pen/ don't hit her/ don't put that in your mouth/ what do you mean you need the toilet NOW moments.

Ah well, I quite like to live the fantasy somedays.

Iota said...

It's all about the spin!

Emma said...

When I first starting reading I was feeling quite inadequate however, you are quite correct in the fact that it's all in the telling.....maybe you need to become a Labour MP with the Uber Mummy spin;-)

Susie said...

LOL-I used to be one of those supermums getting a gazillion and one things done, everything spotless.....all at the expense of my sanity.

So I would be perfect for periods of time, then the complete opposite.

I have now tremendously lowered my standards. Realized that I am human and it is okay not to be perfect and get 1/2 of the amount of stuff done.

Do think there are days when hubby and kids wish I would go back to being so much more efficient.

Your writing makes me laugh. Thanks!

Footballers Knees said...

You're right - uber mothers don't exist - but surely it's the attempt at making banana bread, playing in the snow etc which makes you pretty close to being one. Another excellent post - reading your blog is better than therapy, thanks!

Working Mum said...

Ha ha! Such a good post and so true. It's all about spin. But then we go and spoil it all by blogging about what are lives are really like! :)

Josie @Sleep is for the Weak said...

This is why I distrust the shiny, perfect mums.

Because they are liars. ;)

Hurray for the rest of us!!! x

Alice said...

fabulous. hilarious. honest. Enjoy your wine ;-)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

The Moiderer - I've a horrible feeling that it is. We fall for it all the time.

LWM - Oh for staff (she says glancing around at the bombsite that is her house).

MH - very true too.

TM - You could spin it too.

Owen - you are right. The burnt sticky goo didn't taste bad at all!

Mojitos - It's all in the appearence. They don't really. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

NVG - Exactly. My radar of what constitutes a good day requires a lot of editing out. I don't notice it much any more either. Especially the fighting bit.

Sarah - exactly. There'd be a lot less pressure.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Lynn - Yours behave in restaurants? You're right, I'm so jealous. And my kids are NEVER immaculately turned out.

Mummeeeee - sometimes I could do with feeling a little less alive...

CalifLorna - The hiss on arrival of the husband is, I think, a common phenomenon.

Nicola. - Laugh. You have to. x

Amy - like I said. It is all in the spin. We did do all those things, I just left out the bad bits.

LCM - and the lesson is never go ice skating. Have I taught you nothing?

Glowstars - that may well have happpened...

Clair - I'm so far from living the fantasy in reality, I can't even manage to live in it in fantasy. Sigh.

Iota - it is indeed.

Emma - think there might be an available job in May going? We are back in the UK in April after all!

Susie - Welcome to our world. It is more fun here, I promise! Besides, you can always rely on us to look askance at the supermum. x

FK - hope so. maybe I'll be able to put a spin on their memories too, they might believe that the cake was edible at the end of the afternoon!

Working Mum - Curses. My spell is broken. I'd better not actually meet in real life anyone who reads this blog, they'll know the whole grimey truth. Yikes!

Josie - exactly. We know it is all in the appearence. Hooray for the rest of us. Lets band together to know that we are not the only ones! x

Alice - I did. Always do. Every night. x

Kate said...

So glad to see we're all the same. It's all about perceptions, isn't it? You, at least, are organised enough to post regularly on your blog. I am in awe of when you find the time to do that!

Mwa said...

That's a great thing to remember. And I will really really really try.

Babies who brunch said...

LOVE IT! I think the best thing about reading blogs is hearing about what actually goes on. Like that 90 mins between half five and seven. Or that walk home. Otherwise, as I lie there in the middle of the night feeling useless, I obviously seethe with jealousy at the (false) impressions of everyone else's (that should be plural surely but it's pulling me up grammatically?) perfect lives.

Oh, esp love the bit about working. Am supposed to be writing an article but am reading your blog instead.

Catharine Withenay said...

Your days sound so similar to mine.

It is all in the presentation: that is a lesson I must learn - if only to try to present ourselves better to the rest of the world!

What a shame I also believe in honesty...!

ella said...

It's such a relief to know other mums have days like mine!

When I've had a bad day, I like to spin the day's activities to myself and then I can go to bed feeling a bit happier about what we've achieved :)

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Kate - we are all the same really, that's my theory. As for posting regularly, you should see what I ought to be doing instead...

Mwa - me too.

BwB - I'm supposed to be working now too...

CW - Maybe we should all try to stop presenting ourselves better and give each other a break.

ella - exactly. We all have days like these. This isn't even that different to all the other days either!