I read that an Aussie mother had killed her baby daughter and critically injured the twin. The twin was so battered that she has cerebral palsy and is going to be confined to a wheelchair for life. The mother has been granted access to the surviving child and the child’s male sibling. I’m not sure what’s going through the twin’s mind, he’s so damaged, but can you imagine her sibling’s trauma?  What must he be thinking when he was told by the person who’d made the judgement that returning him to his mother was in his best interest? I’m so deathly sick of that term ‘in the interests of the child’ when it’s more than obvious that it’s mostly not the case.

More recently (in the US) Megan Huntsman, who US police said confessed to killing six of her new born babies, will be sentenced April 20. It’s said that she could get five years to life. I will be interested to see if she gets to pay the price for taking the lives of six innocents.

I know what I’m thinking, but it’s not fit for mixed company, so for now I’m doing my best and not quite succeeding to keep to the original intent of this article.  I’m posting it because I wrote it, and if it’s lost its light touch, well, I hope you will understand. It begins with a young mum who thought she was bad at the job because an expert had said so.  She did not realise that experts, are a dime a dozen and she could pick one that agreed most with her view.  

I came across a blogger recently who complained that she could never live up to some expert’s idea of what a perfect mum should be. When they look back on it some day, says the expert, children should remember their mums as relaxed beings who managed to juggle multiple responsibilities with a smile on their dial and not a hair out of place. Was she speaking from personal experience? I’m picturing her model children going to bed when told, (allowing her the requisite eight hours of sleep, which is what keeps her sane and smiling). Her children do their homework without being reminded and they would never question her authority. This expert, let’s call her Smiley, has most likely never met Amy Chua, mother, and author of ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.’

Chua’s father called his daughter ‘garbage’. She in turn recognised the benefit of passing down the tradition. Her daughter sat at the piano trying to get a new tune right. She had to perfect it within 24 hours said Tiger Mum, or else. ‘Stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic’ Tiger Mum told her daughter. She was expected to go through dinner without water or bathroom breaks.  Had they met, I’m sure Ms Chua would have suggested to Smiley that there was more than one way to skin a cat or raise a child.

If I were to interview Smiley, I’d begin by asking her what alternate universe she inhabited and where could I find the yellow brick road. There must be something in the water there that keeps everyone calm despite the daily chaos that is parenting. Smiley and Chua are the two extreme ends of the parenting spectrum and my friend and I are examples of the in between. I’m not a morning person. Don’t go near me till I’ve had my caffeine fix. My husband has learned this and so have my children. My friend has other faults that I won’t go into here, but I remember her being all sweetness and light first thing in the morning. There are many factors that decide how a mother will deal with the behaviour her children and how they will react to her. The main one is temperament. Parenting is a hands on gig, a learning process where both sides need to tango till they get the steps right. Perhaps if Smiley had said something about mums smiling post that first caffeine fix I could have seen her point. Twenty years after giving up the cigs I can still remember the glow of inhaling that first one in the morning. Ahh, it sent the senses reeling and set one up for the day. I will never go back to smoking, but I do miss those days still. What about just one good night’s sleep? But first they would have to find it somewhere in the toddler or teen or in between years. Or when their children have their driver’s license and call them in the middle of the night, asking for a lift home because they have totalled their car.

There are happy women, angry and sad women, introverts, extroverts, hovering and laid back; mothers come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. If mothers weren’t saints beforehand they don’t automatically turn into saints when they become mums. Mums are all too human and shouldn’t be made to feel the pressure of being perfect.

5 thoughts on “Picture Perfect

  1. I think rose coloured glasses, movies and ‘experts on parenting’ have a lot to answer.
    Right from the start, many parents have unrealistic ideals and standards thrust upon them. They are set up for failure and don’t know it.
    Without putting a downer on parents to be and new parents, I’d like to see a little talk, education and reality, passed on to them by parents who know what it’s really like. Perhaps then, they won’t condemn themselves for not being the perfect Mum or Dad. They might also seek help when they need it,
    As for the best interests of the child, I’m with you Mary. Many examples make you totally wonder what’s happening with these decision makers. There has to be more to the story and perhaps the press aren’t helping.
    Another giant topic Mary, that could go for days.

    • I despise experts, Bruce. As I’m fond of saying, no parenting fairy visits you in hospital. New mums and dads all start from scratch and it’s all hands on training. (They should listen to their own parents if they want the lowdown. 🙂 )
      I’m sure that there’s more to the story, but whatever it is, this mum killed once child, damaged another mentally and another physically. (I seem to be repeating myself). You have to wonder what crime a parent has to commit before the child’s best interest is finally considered.

  2. Smiley obviously never had kids! It’s tempting to judge the young killer Mum. I had a 17 month old when I gave birth to twins who were demanding babies, i know how close I came to being her. Exhaustion, frustration and constant demands (crying babies) pushed me close to the brink.

  3. Sweeping generalizations should never be taken too seriously. I think most moms do the best they can in whatever family dynamics they find themselves. That was probably a sweeping generalization….😄

    • You made me reread my piece, gran. I have always believed that the best experts are those with hands on experience – mums. But I don’t think all mums orr dads for that matter are suited for the job. Having said that, I had the best dad and have the best mum in the world. I don’t know all the facts that led to what happened to those children. But the one fact remains. There is one dead child and two damaged ones. Ii can be sorry for the mum but I save my compassion for the children.

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