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.