Which Mum are you?

4kids

Arrive at any school concert and you can start making assumptions, a quick scan of the room will have you picking the stereotypical Mums from the crowd. There’s the heavily involved school Mum, showing people where to sit or helping out behind the scenes. There’s Gym Mum, dressed in lycra, ready to recite her latest half marathon stats. Working Mum arrives just in time, blackberry in one hand, guilt in the other. Stay at home and work from home Mum are comfortably dressed, they have their own guilt, they’re trying not to make eye contact with heavily involved school Mum. As different as they all appear, they all share a common goal, trying to find the balance between happy child and happy mother.

When I grew up, my mother took on several roles. She was working Mum, studying Mum, helping at school Mum and full time house work Mum. Where was my Dad? He was there. We loved him. He was funny, busy at work, and golfing on the weekends. He had a great way of finding the balance, a secret weapon, something many working women of that generation wished they had. A wife.

I can’t remember a time when my mother didn’t work. It wasn’t so much about being fulfilled it was more about paying the mortgage. Even though she’s a qualified Accountant now, I’ve heard the stories of her working in the fruit canning factory, the TAB, the High School office. My parents will talk about the early days when they had nothing, how Mum worked nightshift in a factory she describes as “what I imagine hell to look like”. Her eyes still twinkle when she talks of arriving home with her first pay cheque after a week of nightshift, how she woke up my Dad and threw the money in the air and it landed all around them while they both giggled.

I was incredibly proud of her as a child, I liked that she went to work, and why wouldn’t have I? It didn’t seem to really impact on my life that much.

She was always there, more than others. She coached the netball team, umpired on weekends, cut up the oranges, drove me to piano lessons, was a timekeeper at swimming, bought the ballet shoes, washed the basketball tops, she drove to the Gymnastics competitions. Did I mention she studied? When the man from ABC radio announced she’d received the best results in the region she was hanging up the washing “they said your name, they said your name!” I screamed as I ran outside. I can still see her half way through the washing basket, peg in her mouth “really?” a smile took over her face.

She was superwoman. Or so it appeared.

As a young woman I bragged about my mother, I told friends about how hard she worked, how well she did in her study and how she’d managed to always be there for me throughout it all. I thought if I was ever a Mum, I’d set the same example.

I had no idea.

I had two small children and was pregnant with my third when I started to believe I was never going to get back to the office again. This was mainly because I hadn’t managed to put deodorant on for weeks and could barely string three words together – this was due to a mixture of baby brain, and constant interruptions which usually involved poo and sleep deprivation.

We were living in Libya and I’d been to book group the night before. We’d discussed the story of working mother Kate Reddy in “I don’t know how she does it” by Allison Pearson, it had stirred feelings in me that I didn’t know I had. I was angry. I was angry she found it all so exhausting, that she felt her work life was affecting her children. I started to think of my mother, and decided to give her a call. She’d reassure me, she’d agree that it was rubbish.

As I prattled on to my mother over the phone about how pathetic this woman was and how annoyed I was by her whining, I started up with my usual spiel, “I mean, you worked full time and I never felt like I was missing out”……there was a brief silence and then my mother said something I’d never heard her say before “you may not have felt like you missed out darling, but I did”.

I was speechless.

She continued “it might have been nice to have taken a breath, to have had more time, to enjoy it a little bit more, you’re all gone now and I’m still at work”. I knew what she meant about taking a breath. It was always a rush. Her car would scream in to the driveway as we reloaded and made our way to our next destination. Grocery shopping was done after work, washing was hung at 6 a.m., she stood ironing late on a Sunday night. There were no girls weekends away, no sneaky manicures, no discussions about work/life balance. What was that? I’m not sure if work/life balance had been invented at that stage.

I guess what she was saying was that I was lucky I didn’t have to rush. There was time to take a breath. When I returned to full time work a few years later I understood exactly what she meant.

Arrive at any school concert and you can pick the stereotypical Mums from the crowd. Some get to choose their options, some have no choice, it’s likely they will all doubt and question their decisions at some point in time. As the concert begins you will see a common theme, they will all look for their child, they will all believe their child is the star and more than likely that child will look back and feel exactly the same about them. I definitely felt that way about my Mum. I knew mine was the best.

So which Mum are you? I’m guessing you’re the best one you can be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08600427311498297800 Being Me

    It’s not often I am moved to tears by a post. This has left me very emotional. WOW. Your mother! What a woman. Representative of so many who conduct their lives this way, all in the name of providing everything they can for their children and family. Thank you SO very much for sharing the story of your mother and your upbringing in this light. There are so many shades in here. Sublime writing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    Lovely post Kirst about a gorgeous woman x

    btw: I think I am the perfect mother. Except when I’m being the shit house mother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08647596319711811125 cjtato

    Wow! I loved reading this. It made me cry. No idea which mum I am as I can be found doing all of the above at one point or another but I feel the same in any costume. Just as you write.

    It must have been such a shock to realise your mum felt so differently than you imagined. Actually makes me rethink a little on the views I hold of my own mother.

    Great post!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09345662692259541964 Kymmie

    Oh Kirsty… this post is fabulous! How amazing is your mum? And when I heard her response, my eyes welled up. Your poor mum. She never had time to stop and enjoy you. I’m so glad you have fantastic memories though. And yes, we are all trying to be the best we can be, no matter our situation. LOVE your blog. xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05813953421175387706 Sydney Shop Girl

    Kirsty

    What a great post. Thank you.

    I’m not a mother myself so I can’t answer.

    But, I did remember my own, supermum mother.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14786873352331790807 Joni Llanora

    This is very insightful. My mum raised 3 of us girls all by herself but when I gave birth to her 1st grandchild, she realized she’s missed out a lot & retired right away. Just in time to experience my little sister work though high school. I guess I’m lucky to have time to “enjoy” it all. But of course,we are often nenver content with what we have…

  • Sarah Chambers

    My Mum leaves Australia tomorrow to live and travel for a year … I feel so excited for her but so sorry for myself at the same time … she won’t be here for me or my kids. No matter that when they were born we had chosen to live on the other side of the world, or that even when we came home, the other side of Australia. I will miss her like a part of my own body … not to be able to call her just because I am having a bad day and I know she will listen.
    I guess this means all the more as I am still adjusting to going back to work … after being that involved mum, I am now the … kiss and drop and race off to work mum, the race home, cook tea, do washing, hear readers, sort problems, counsel children, clean house and back to work for an hour Mum.
    I don’t know who I am at the moment … all I do know is that I am just holding it all together, terrified that I will drop one of the precious juggling balls that are in the air …
    Great post Kirsty!! Tears again (the lot of Motherhood for me) xxxxxx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11598198538476571667 Thea

    This is simply the best post I have ever read about being a mum.
    I have a lump in my throat.
    Beautiful…you said it so perfectly.

  • http://www.thesuperwhites.com/ Super Sarah

    What a beautiful post, you write so eloquently about something which seems to divide so many of us Mums. The choices we make are many but we are all the same in that we want the best for our children. Thank you for sharing the story of your Mum. A special insight.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09198159357998731098 Louie

    Ooooo crying now! What a lovely post. I hope your mum reads it! She sounds gorgeous! I bet she misses your lovely little travellers 🙁
    I even cried thinking about all of us mums sitting at the concert ´knowing´ that our child is the star…too funnny!!!But oh so true!
    And I also know my mum was the best in my eyes all trhough school years and I know my mum still is the best mum 😉 hehe
    Thanks for sharing another wonderful thoughtful post Kirsty xx

  • wotisunique

    It’s funny how our perceptions of our mums/ dads/ childhoods are often so… childlike. It wasn’t until I had children that I started to have an inkling of how my mum did it (single mum, worked full time). She didn’t impose her adult worries on us, which was wonderful but it must have been tough. Especially as I found myself telling Mr9 that “life’s not all about having fun you know!” last week. I’m sure that helped.

    Thanks for the great post

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10010049814419812468 Looking for Blue Sky

    We just accept our childhoods at the time don’t we? And many of us never saw our parents complain or get angry (except maybe with us kids!) Your Mum sounds amazing x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07422068499429667636 Posie Patchwork

    Well first up, i refuse to carry any guilt, it’s a useless emotion & only brings you down. Let it go, different children, schools, events, postings, situations require different things from you – currently i’m the work from home mother in the gym gear who helps out at school (art, BBQs, fete, costumes etc). I’m happy & good at it, it’s practise & building slowly which gets you good at it!! Children don’t remember every single detail, if you missed seeing them receive an award at assembly, you can have a life too!! I just had one night away from my children & it was great, had a chance to miss them. I’ve clocked up 3 nights away since i became a mother 12 years ago, there is plenty of time after they’ve grown up. Like everything, each to their own, i live 25km from school so sometimes i just can’t make the midday assembly as things need doing, they understand – being a housewife is a pretty full on job for a large family too. Love Posie

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08680909356053872951 Lynn MacDonald

    That was great post! It’s interesting….my mom went back to get her Masters and teach when I was growing up. She did it for her and I know she loved it. I think she had the best of both worlds but she’s gone now so who knows?

  • http://lifeinapinkfibro.blogspot.com/ Life In A Pink Fibro

    Great post Kris! Which mum I am depends on which day it is. But mostly comfortably dressed and trying to hide.

  • Georgina

    Thanks Kirsty, I really enjoyed this and cried a little too. I can see how quickly my boys are growing up that I am deliberately trying to slow down and make the most of each day at home with them. Who doesn’t love discussing with an almost 3yr old which Thomas character is best and why! We only get one chance and I know I’ll look back and think this time was super. Thanks again, George

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09574721273010056362 Annieb25

    I think you captured the essence of being a mum perfectly. We all try to be the best mum we can.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06277489399865186227 Ames

    I’ve just wiped tears away from my face. No other post about being a mum (that doesn’t involve loss of a child or mother) has made me feel this way.

    Thank you.

  • Nat Peck

    it’s interesting to read others saying they teared up after reading this. I did too – and i’m not a ‘cryer’. I’m just a mum trying really hard to be the best i can be and feeling that i fail dismally at times. but i keep trying.
    I loved this post, thank you

  • http://www.mohanalakshmi.com/ Mohana Rajakumar

    I totally relate to what your mom is saying about having days that are so hairy that I want to fall asleep in the car. It’s true that from the moment you think about getting pregnant, the guilt never stops. Either either not doing enough (vitamins, exercise, diet) or you’re doing too much (drinking, partying, eating). And this is before the child even arrives.

    As a new mom of an 8 month old, I’m so glad that I was able to have a baby when I felt ready. We planned his arrival to the second and while being pregnant was the first time I came up against my human limitations at work, being a mother who works outside the home has been interesting thus far.

    Regarding guilt, I watched the TedTalk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on women in the workforce and it was an immense relief because I felt guilty about not to feeling guilty. Hearing her made me realize I’m going to get past what I’m not doing and celebrate what I am. My husband, bless him, never struggles with the idea of missing out and he spends on average 20 hours a week less time with our son (X months X years = scariness). And so far, so good. Lord knows things will get more complicated as time (and perhaps more children) are added to this mix.

    I don’t think I have the strength for the self sacrifice of my mother who stayed at home with her children and even her grandchildren for some time and is only now working on her undergraduate degree, one course at a time.

    Women are amazing creatures. I knew that before becoming a mother but I appreciate it so much more now.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

  • MsKymOG

    Absolutely amazing post. Like many others, I’m wiping tears from my eyes. Probably because I want to be the Mum your Mum was – capable, strong, loving, nurturing – pretty much EVERYTHING. But right now, I’m mostly tired Mum. Really, really, tired Mum. I just hope I can be the best Mum my kids could wish for.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00121604948534642707 Linda

    I can’t even properly form a comment because this has woken a lot of dormant feelings; feelings that just hover beneath the surface. Like MsKymOG I often just feel tired. Your Mum must have too. I hope she reads your post (Hi – you’re awesome!).

    The further I go along this motherhood trip, the more I understand my own mum.

    Like everyone else, I DO want to be the best mum I can be. But I also want to be me and put myself first sometimes. Selfish perhaps, but there’s self-preservation in it too.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09677312773827236567 Kath Lockett

    I’ve been all the mothers you describe, Kirsty and, like you, had a mother who I can only dream of matching for the love she showed us in her unrelenting energies, interest and encouragement.

    But you’re right; we all do our best. Sometimes fairly well and sometime fairly disastrously. We can only hope that our kids – when they’re parents themselves – will look back at how we did and think that they too had pretty good oldies.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05745117719761568320 sherri

    wow, what a beautiful, observant post. and you nailed it all.

  • http://www.kylieladd.com.au/ Kylie L

    I adored “I don’t know how she does it”- because I saw my own mother in it. My mother went back to school when I was in year 8- finished high school, then studied medicine. I am inordinately proud of her for following her dream, and learned a lot from her about believing in yourself and never giving up…. but it was hard. It was so so hard, on her and on us. She worked like a dog for 9 years straight. I never wanted to be *that* mother (though I understood why my mum was- because she hadn’t had the same opportunities in her life) and that has affected my entire life striving for a work/family balance. I have a pretty good one now, and I have her to thank for that. All victories come at a cost.
    Great blog!! xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08156015996147898156 Glowless @ Where’s My Glow

    I have a massive lump in my throat right now. The type that immediately turns to tears if you speak. Gorgeous post, gorgeous mother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14337476167174497223 Shanda

    Incredible insightful and moving post. A story behind everyone mum!

  • Anonymous

    I walked through the park looking at the young mothers with their toddlers in the sunshine, and I cried because I was forced to miss most of it. Rushing and hurrying to work to make the money to keep us all going – while the person who should have shared this burden sat at home and did and earned nothing. It took me many years to realise how bad it was, so much blackmail around ‘having it all’ blew up in my face. If he had worked and earned in the normal way, we both could have shared the fun bits. But no…. I am crying now. And he has gone from my life, leaving no trace of a role behind. What the hell was he doing all those years? I don’t think I will ever know, but it made me very unhappy and a less good mother than I should and could have been.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06321032725324923736 mamabred

    I think about this SO much! What I loved most about this post is the line about what is similar about us all. Gosh it is hard to keep sight of that with the guilt and the comparing (that goes on inside my head). I am the mum trying my darndest to do things on my own terms, hiding at times, doubting at times, and reminding myself that indeed behind every mum there is a story. And most likely a story like yours about your mum. Almost certainly a story I’d like to hear.

  • http://www.seekingsynergy.wordpress.com/ Nmaha

    When I read that book, the first thing I thought was “I should post about this” only problem was I couldn’t sort through the jumbled thoughts that were running through my head. This post is almost like you heard me thinking 🙂
    I work 12-14 hours a day, however, I almost never miss dropping my little one at school and putting her to bed. The downside is I have no social life at all. To top it all there are a bunch of people who ensure that I know how much I’m neglecting my child, so even if I feel I’m managing well and achieving the happy mom- happy baby balance they manage to male me feel terrible.
    That felt food thankyou. As you must gave guessed I’m the working mom, though I have an iPhone not a bbm. Great post and really interesting detailed comments. Loved it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03108216621628520756 Farmers Wifey

    Ohh I just felt a pang in my heart for your mum..I’ve just gone back to work, only part time! last year, once all of my kids were in school full time.

    I didn’t want to go back while they were at home, so I had 10 glorious years of being a stay at home mummy. Now I am working 18 hours a week and actually loving it..I still take the kids to school, pick them up and have two child free days per week. I’m using my brain again and having adult conversations..I think I have the best of both worlds.

    Saying that, I take my hat off to full time working mums, I admire them greatly….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10283252497465455572 meandmythinkingcap

    You mom is a iron lady. I try to juggle all things and I couldnt juggle anything comfortably without a miss. Mine are only 3 year olds, hopefully I do better job when they go to school for real and not daycare

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03985386359945971991 The KitchenMaid

    Kirsty, this is a fantastic post – am so glad you found my blog because I think I’m going to become very quickly addicted to yours. I’ll come back to trawl your archives when I am not bouncing a toddler on my knee and persuading her not to eat a crayon or draw on the PC screen (I am a slack mother). Have a great day, Lucy.
    PS And congratulations on being the 100th! Am so glad it was you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01547308887736189693 JLD

    Really special post. Thanks for sharing it.

    I have four daughters who are now 26, 24, 22, and 17 and the guilt is just as strong. I’m so conditioned to put them first that I can’t seem to turn it off even now that they are young adults. I still drop everything to be there for them, to spend a few precious moments with them, re-arrange my schedule as much as possible to help them out. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes, but they have all turned out to be wonderful people who call and visit often, so I must not have given them too many reasons to seek therapy.

    All any of us can do is our best. None of us are ever going to be perfect and as much as we think we are making a mess of it, the moms we think have it all together are thinking they are making a mess of it, too. Somewhere out there, someone is looking at you and wishing they were as good of a mom as you are, so take heart. There is no perfect answer or ideal situation, just all of us doing the best we can. And when your kids are grown up and have kids of their own, it’s almost a certainty that at some point, they will say, “I don’t know how my mom did it,” no matter what it is you’re doing.

    Judy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07975237406701796055 K

    This is such a fantastic post about being a Mum and I love that it isn’t about the competition of being a Mum and judging one another but doing the best we can. Thank you

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07784363620122382328 Lindasy Rosenwald

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  • Georgina

    Thanks Kirsty, I really enjoyed this and cried a little too. I can see how quickly my boys are growing up that I am deliberately trying to slow down and make the most of each day at home with them. Who doesn’t love discussing with an almost 3yr old which Thomas character is best and why! We only get one chance and I know I’ll look back and think this time was super. Thanks again, George

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08680909356053872951 Lynn MacDonald

    That was great post! It’s interesting….my mom went back to get her Masters and teach when I was growing up. She did it for her and I know she loved it. I think she had the best of both worlds but she’s gone now so who knows?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08600427311498297800 Being Me

    It’s not often I am moved to tears by a post. This has left me very emotional. WOW. Your mother! What a woman. Representative of so many who conduct their lives this way, all in the name of providing everything they can for their children and family. Thank you SO very much for sharing the story of your mother and your upbringing in this light. There are so many shades in here. Sublime writing.

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