11 July 2011

Oh Chris! Mothering is hard work!

There's a forum thread 'Do you ever feel like a doormat to your kids' that has had me thinking about mothering. (And no, that's not our family in the picture. They wouldn't pose for me!).

I know that if I'd known for sure just how hard it would be I'd have thought very, very carefully about having 3 children :)

It's not the physical side of mothering I find hard, although it is hard work. How come it's mum who teaches offspring to hang up towels - the right way, over the towel rail and straightened out so they dry, or that standing in front of the fire is ok, until you bend over. Then we just call you Stripes. And you bear the striped scars to prove it really did happen - you burnt your bottom! And it's always mums who introduce solid food - you know, zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant, broad beans, squash, beetroot - and in doing so instils a love of good, healthy and wholesome food in the aforementioned offspring?

It's mum who gets up during the night when someone is sick. She signs up for canteen duty and helps with classroom reading. Then she takes on Brownies or Scouts or helping in the kitchen at youth group. Mum runs the family taxi service, and is always on call.  And I'm pretty sure that not one of us knew that we were signing on as personal shoppers when we gave birth. But we do it. We shop for our offspring, and clean for them, cook for them and cheer for them.

Yes the physical part of mothering is hard.

But it's the feeling side of this mothering gig that I find hardest. From the moment I looked into AJ's wide open, beautiful brown eyes I was in absolute, no use denying it 'cos it's never going to change love. Ditto Tom and Hannah. I still find it hard to believe that these three amazing young people were made by me. OK and their dad. I guess he did have something to do with it.

So why is it that when I love them to pieces and miss them so much it hurts when they're not here there are times I just want to encourage them to leave home. Loudly. Very loudly.

Sometimes  in the hustle and bustle of this modern life we live we forget that our children are supposed to whinge and whine and buck our authority, especially when they reach their teen years - that's a part of growing up.  That's how they learn about boundaries and actions and reactions and consequences and results and rewards. It's how they learn about compassion and sympathy, about lending a helping hand just because you can. It's how they grow into fantastic adults.

Don't get me wrong, I am the meanest mother on Earth at times (just ask any one of our three). I expect that they all pull their weight in the house; they are a part of our family but they also make the jolly mess/create the work/expense or whatever.  And they most definitely do not get away with teenage tantrums. Ever.

Remember that old saying from high school science:  for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?  That's the thing we need to teach our children,  that there are always consequences.

If they put their washing in the laundry basket they have clean clothes to wear, if they don't then they wear the stinky stuff.

If they clean their rooms then they won't be embarrassed when friends come over - I long ago gave up being embarrassed by the state of the boys' rooms - they are cleaned (not tidied, cleaned) once a week, bedding changed, floor vacuumed, furniture dusted. If they want to live in an untidy mess that is their problem. I just close the door on it now when my friends call in.

If they want me to run them somewhere or put money in their bank account or cook their favourite dinner or do something else that inconveniences me, then they need to do something to help me so that I have the time to do what they would like.

I can say that Wayne and I are blessed with fantastic kids. They don't drink, smoke or do drugs. They don't keep secrets from us, they tells us where they are going and who they are going with, what they'll be doing and when they'll be home. They respect our curfew (and AJ is 20) of 10pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends because they know we don't really go to sleep until they are home (another one of the physically hard parts of mothering) and we have to get up early for work.  They pop their heads through our bedroom door and whisper that they are home. They bring their friends home and we often end up with a house full of young people from 15 - 21 years old all doing different things, that's a fun part of mothering, I just love it.

Our boys are working part-time jobs while they study and they pay board - 30% of their gross income. They are still expected to do their chores (the charts are still blu-tacked to the pantry door). If they were living anywhere else they would be paying rent, plus buying their own food, paying utilities and insurances and doing all the cleaning, gardening and maintenance. Paying board does not mean a chore free ride - I'd be pointing that out quick smart and suggesting an increase in board money if they didn't want to do their chores.

Our kids aren't perfect. I don't want perfect kids, I'm not perfect. How dull would our lives be if we were all perfect? I have plenty of flaws, some of them I've passed on to my kids. I only hope I've been able to pass on the equal and opposite good traits too.

There have been occasions over the last 20 years when I've wondered what my life would be like if we'd remained childless:  sleeping in, holidays when we wanted rather than around school holidays, holidays to places with room service rather than rellies, new clothes (really new from real dress shops), beautiful furniture, that square yellow diamond ring I've wanted for years.....the list goes on.

I know I'd be terribly selfish and insensitive and very, very spoilt so I guess they've been good for me.

Yes, mothering is a hard job. But I'm so glad I chose it. I just have one question - when do I get long service leave?


  1. I dont think long service was acually put in the contract. You know the one, we never signed but its there alright. My son moved out of home about 12months ago and my daughter is in the process of moving. On saturday they were both here by chance, and there were not boyfriend or girlfriend. just us four and I couldnt help it I started to cry. I really, really miss that time of my life.

  2. Bother! That will teach me to read the fine print on non-existent contracts :)

    Angela I miss our kids dreadfully and they're only out of the house for school/uni/going out with friends!

    I would have loved to homeschool but Wayne is absolutely against it so off to school they went. They were fine, I was the mess.

    We are now focussing on the next stage of our lives, planning and plotting so we are prepared when one day we have three empty bedrooms and a full fridge.

  3. Great article!! It made me think of what my Mum's life has been like for the last 30 years, I am the eldest of 4 kids, the youngest now being 22. She would do anything for us, to make sure we were happy, and she has had kids moving out and then moving back in, I don't know what she would do if everyone actually moved out for good!! I have 2 young girls (3.5 and 1.5 yrs old) and I know I have lots of ups and downs to look forward to (not looking forward to the teenage years when I see how moody my 3yr old is already!) Thanks for a great read and something to think about!!

  4. Excellent article Cath. I had only the one daughter but she has two teenagers and works full time as a teacher! I intend passing on your article to her. Thank you for your insight.

  5. How do you stop teenage tantrums? What are the consequences in your family? I think my son stored up his 2 yr old tantrums for the teenage years.

  6. What a beautiful article... I could have written it myself (though not as well but it echoes my own thoughts) I have just forwarded it to my beautiful 18yr old daughter you left home a couple of weeks ago. She may be shocked to discover there are more mothers - just like her own.

  7. LSL! That was my Big question when I started full time paid work. "Where do I get it for all the years I put in as a SAHM?"
    I am finally getting paid LSL and my youngest told me I am his 'Mother of The Year' every year. So sweet. Pat


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