When you become a parent you look at your own parents in new light. You begin to appreciate them in a completely new way, for the better or perhaps for the worse. There certainly comes a time in life when you realise that your parents aren’t perfect – they are just human beings, with strengths and weaknesses like anybody else. I think it’s probably testament to my wonderful parents that for me they only fell off the pedestal when I had Elle…
I’ve never been particularly close emotionally to my Mum, we don’t have the honest and open relationship that I’ve always longed for. There are certainly things that I can remember wanting to talk to her about as a little girl, right up to being a teenager but never felt like I could. Which in part has probably resulted in my very reserved, private personality. I hate making a fuss, I hate asking for help and I often struggle to tell people how I feel. My Mum works full time as a teacher, her working life has always defined her as a person. She’s always spent every spare minute working, and when she wasn’t working she’d be tidying, cleaning, mending – she finds it very hard to switch off. She’s just always been that way. She went back to work after three months with all four of us. And she hasn’t stopped since.
Since having Elle I just couldn’t fathom how or why she did this. Yes, I went back to work after three months, but I’m really fortunate in that I work part time, I can work flexibly AND we have the most incredible childminder just minutes around the corner. Sitting at your laptop in your PJs is a lot easier than facing a classroom full of teenagers…
I’ve always thought my Mum rushed back to work because she loved her job so much (that’s certainly why I went back to work after three months, losing myself in the pretty world of weddings was very appealing between the baby sick and dirty nappies). My sisters and I have always joked that her own kids come second to her students. But I know now – in perhaps one of the most open statements she has ever made to me – that she was scared. She didn’t really know what to do with a tiny baby, how to look after one. In an instant my Mum became just like one of my new mum friends – like a rabbit trapped in head lights with a huge responsibility suddenly placed in their arms, and I instantly forgave her for what I had assumed was coldness, but was in fact, fear.
This isn’t meant to be a sob story, I had a wonderful childhood, but if I could change one thing, it would be that I had a closer relationship with my Mum. It’s not a dig at mothers who go back to work full time either – I think it’s more than possible to have a wonderful relationship with your kids if you work. But my experience has meant I’ve taken quite a different approach to parenting than my Mum. I want Elle to remember me playing with her – lying on the floor together colouring in. Hiding under the duvet and telling stories. Making sandcastles. Dancing around her bedroom in tutus and fairy wings. I sometimes worry I’m being a little desperate ‘I’m not like a regular Mom, I’m a cool Mom…‘ and then I cringe inside and try to be a little less ‘Play with me! Play with me!‘ It sounds sad, but I just really want her to be my friend and I’m hoping the best way to encourage that is by always being there. Hopefully this will lead to an honest and open relationship for life. I want her to come to me with teenage woes about boys, I want her to be able to tell me she got really drunk last night and kind of regrets it, I want her to know she can always ring me and I’ll be there to help her, whatever the hell is going on.
And do you know what? Actually talking to my Mum about being a Mum has really helped our relationship. Last week I was really stressed. My laptop wasn’t working. The house was filthy. Some of the bigger picture things going on in our lives were coming to a head and I felt all at sea. Who was the first person I called? Yep, my Mum. And she made me feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. (And she managed to fix my laptop?! Over the phone! Honestly, Mums are superhuman. That pedestal is firmly back in place). And it made me realise that I’m still her baby really, we can still have the close relationship I’d like.
What’s your relationship like with your parents? Are you close? Is there anything you can remember your Mum doing that really made you feel as if you could tell her anything? I’d love to hear about it.
Image by Carrie Lavers Photography