Life

There's nothing ‘bad' about being a mum who can't do it all

Expectations of mothers are high – they should be able to have the perfect house, the perfect hair-do, perfectly applied make-up and perfect children – all while positively flourishing in the perfect job. Can they achieve all this? Leona O'Neill has her doubts

Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell on a shopping spree in Bad Moms
Leona O'Neill

MOTHERS are expected to be calm, cool and collected, have it all together, be presentable, do everything expected of us with ease, please everyone and be happy, all of the time.

Most of the time, we are all of the above. But from time to time all of us, no matter how good we are at this mothering thing, we can fall, we can fail and can get things wrong. It doesn't make us bad mothers.

Last week I got a notice from my son's school. He hadn't brought in a recorder – one of those blasted wind instruments produced in a factory in Hell – for his music class and he got into trouble.

He had told me 10 times he needed one and I promised him 10 times I'd get him one and forgot. He's just started a new school and was keen to make an impression and I messed it up for him.

So after dropping four of them off at three different schools I raced into the town to purchase one before going to work. While in the music shop I got a call from my other son's school to say he had forgotten his asthma inhaler and I needed to get it to him urgently.

I raced home, got the inhaler, raced it to the school to him, raced to the other school and dropped off the blasted recorder. I had to do a live interview on the radio from the car park outside school, skipped lunch, was late for another interview and returned to my car to find a parking ticket, discovered I had left my car keys in a coffee shop and had to run back in torrential rain to get them and was late picking up my daughter.

I arrived looking like the beast from the deep and could only apologise as she said she was the last child there, thought I had forgotten her and that all the other mammies could be on time.

More interviews, more school pick-ups, more deadlines, a parents' meeting, standing in a field in the rain for a football match and the realisation that I had neither sat down or had a cup of tea, never mind a morsel of food that wasn't purchased in a petrol station all day. I have had better days.

My momma told me there'd be days like this. That's because my momma is a realist and told me being a mother is hard, gruelling, thankless work, despite what society might say.

Society is constantly ramming the notion down our throats that mothers have to have perfect children, perfect homes, perfect lives.

That we have to have our own educational excellence, career excellence, excellence in appearance and behaviour. We have to be sensible, we have to be normal and anything below this level of perfection is just not acceptable.

Society peddles the notion that mums can have it all – brilliant career, perfect family, perfect relationships, perfect homes, perfect bank balances, health, beauty, social lives – and should be able to juggle 'it all' perfectly, without cracking under the pressure.

Truth is, we can't, and putting ourselves under the pressure to keep up with these social standards will lead to many of us feeling like failures.

I caught the film Bad Moms at the weekend. I found it hilarious and a breath of fresh air. I thought it a wonderful high five to the various dimensions of mums out there – the working mum trying to juggle everything, the single mum trying to hold it all together, and the stay-at-home mum trying to remain sane as children hang off her every limb – and every mum in between.

Mila Kunis's character going off the rails meant she cursed a few times, drank some wine, slept in one day and didn't help her kids out with their homework. None of this constitutes being a 'bad mom' like the film suggests but I guess a title 'Normal Moms' wouldn't really cut it at the box office.

I thought it showed that being a mum is really, really hard work far beyond the practical cooking, cleaning and caring for these kids.

Mums deal daily not only with the running around caring for these little people who depend on you to be the answer to everything 24/7, but the guilt, the handling teenage angst and anxiety, being a cheerleader when times get tough, being a nurse, teacher, counsellor, bank machine and hugging machine – trying to be all things to everyone and still be yourself.

The moms in the film weren't even that bad. And neither are any of us. You, me, the mum in the park feeling like she can't cope with another temper tantrum, the mum having a cigarette on her front step, the mum crying in her bathroom because she can't cope. We're all kinds of 'normal' and that's perfectly fine.

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