What is a good mother?
Someone who is caring.
Someone who supports their child no matter what.
Someone who teaches, encourages and pushes their child, without being too pushy.
Someone who is fun…and maybe a little bit funny.
Whatever your views on parenting, it is clear these basic attributes are more important than anything else: whether you work or stay at home, whether you can cook or rely on ready made sauces and frozen veg, whether your house is spic and span or organised chaos, or just chaos. It is the love that we remember as we grow up,
This is what I know and what I believe. Still, there is always a little nagging doubt that the other stuff matters too. The boring, technical, practical stuff like cooking properly and keeping a clean house.
That voice, unfortunately, has become a lot louder thanks to some inexplicable revival of old fashioned skills. Suddenly everyone I know is knitting and crocheting and making things for my child while my only effort is to jump on the bus and head down to Mothercare, or just do without. When did everyone get so good at stuff? And why didn’t I?
It can’t be helped by the massive media obsession with homeliness. The Great British Bake Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, Kirstie’s Homemade Home and almost certainly loads of others which I’ve never heard of because I’m just not homey enough. I don’t really get it – I just can’t muster up sympathy for a man crying because his macaroons came out the wrong shape. Also, what is the obsession with home improvement shows? I don’t want to spend my evenings watching someone tell me how to ‘upscale’ my old chairs by painting them white and tying ribbon round them so they look slightly older than they already did, or looking at other people’s houses which are much nicer than mine. Surely the whole reason we plonk ourselves down in from of the telly is because we can’t be arsed doing all that stuff.
I can’t make things. I’ve tried. I have an entire bag of wool and my poor Nana’s knitting needles shoved in a cupboard along with the beginnings of 4 unfinished scarves to prove it. I can sort of cook, in a functional, same dishes every week, everything thrown in one pot sort of way. I hate cleaning, but maybe I could work on it. I should work on it, I have a child and they deserve a decent house and home. Plus, I’m a bit skint and could do with spending a few more days at home and a few less days out at museums drinking overpriced coffee and eating overpriced cake.
So on Saturday I stayed at home all day. I swept, I dusted, I rearranged all the toy storage (not easy when a 2 year is following you round undoing all your good work). Feeling smug, I even decided to tackle the dodgy drainage in the bathroom which has meant I have had to shower every day while an increasingly large puddle gathers round my feet. Nothing a bit of elbow grease followed by a couple of kettles full of hot water can’t handle, surely,
Cut to a few hours later and I’ve got a two year old standing next to me in the kitchen post bath time, long after his bedtime, shouting ‘Shit mummy, oh shit!’ as I desperately try to mop up the water dripping from the ceiling, screeching ‘No. God. Don’t copy that word’. ‘Oh shit mummy’ he continues smiling.
A trip down the road in our pyjamas revealed that our neighbour’s plumber-son had inconsiderately gone on holiday and we were going to have to call an emergency plumber. It was at this point that I realised reading a book about sex trafficking in which innocent people were murdered in their own homes had not been a good idea while my husband was abroad for the weekend. I did not particularly want a stranger stepping through my door at this time of night.
10.30pm. The thankfully non-murderous plumber scrambles around in the floor mumbling ‘ridiculous’ before announcing that someone has tiled across all access to the pipes and we are going to have to smash in half the bathroom just to get to the one pipe I may have destroyed (I haven’t had it confirmed yet so I’m still hoping it’s not my fault and this is all one huge coincidence). He will call in the morning with the cost. Oh, and it can’t be fixed until Tuesday.
Turns out I should have stuck to what I know best. A coffee and cake in a museum isn’t so expensive after all.