If anyone asks, I’m FINE. That’s Fed-Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. I’m joking, of course. On the contrary, since I had my kids I’ve BLOOMED – that is, I count myself Bloody Lucky that I’m only Occasionally Out of My Depth. Turns out I’m not the only one. The BBC ran a story today about a survey on the UK website Netmums that found that two-thirds of mothers tell lies about how well they’re coping with parenthood. Not to their kids, husbands or psychiatrists – oh no – but to each other. Mothers lie to other mothers at the school gate because they feel under pressure to be perfect.
I’m not surprised. A friend once warned me that playgroups may well be the most competitive environment a woman will ever encounter – but at least it’s good preparation for the sheer merciless mum-on-mum brutality of school.
Indeed, I’ve found that other mothers (*) can be judgemental, catty and supercilious. Did I say judgemental? Yes? Well, I’m going to say it again - other mothers can be so judgemental! No wonder we lie to each other all the time, it’s better than being ostracised from the playgroup because you let your toddler eat Haribo or your car doesn’t have ISOFIX or your bra isn’t certified BPA-free.
So, anyway. Netmums reckons we should all be more open and honest about how mediocre we are at parenting, in order to redress the balance and take the pressure off ourselves. To that end, I’m outing my own lies. Here they are:
1. I never swear in front of my kids. No - and one of the first complete phrases to exit the unsullied rosebud lips of my Curly Girlie was NOT ‘Oh, for Fuck’s Sake’. That didn’t happen. 2. Similarly, I never lose my rag and shout. Occasionally, I briefly mislay the rag and become somewhat shrill in a way that might be misconstrued as shouting. But it’s ok, because all my parenting books tell me that toddlers are only testing the boundaries. That’s why, when I briefly mislay my rag, I say shrill-ly “SO HERE YOU ARE! HERE’S MY BLOODY BOUNDARY! GO ON, GIVE IT ANOTHER POKE, IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH!” 3. My kids don’t watch much TV. Just because it’s lovely, middle-class, vocabulary-building, manners-promoting, multi-culti Peppa Pig - it’s still TV. 4. I don’t play the kids off against each other. ‘What’s that? Don’t want to eat your dinner? Shall I give it to your little brother then? Oh, oh, careful, don’t stuff it all in at once, you’ll choke...’ 5. I don’t own a Gina Ford book. No, I threw the Satanic book out after someone told me it promoted methods used in Romanian orphanages (you see – judgemental)... Oh alright, I threw it out after it fell apart from being endlessly thumbed and caressed.
I could go on. I won’t – not because I’m averse to boring you, but because I have that sinking feeling that I’m the only one who will expose myself and everyone else will continue being ‘perfect’ while I’m ridiculed and pointed at in the street and my children are taken into care. Use the comments section, if you dare.
(* For the sake of balance, many mothers are nice, but that’s missing the point.)