With the way society works these days, it can sometimes seem as though 'being a mum' just isn't enough to do. We're supposed to be all things to all people, all of the time, and if we aren't . . . well, then we're failing.
To rub salt into the wound most of us know one of those super-mums who always has absolutely everything under control. You know, the ones who run a couple of half marathons for worthy causes each year, whose children are always impeccably well behaved as well as tastefully yet fashionably dressed, achieve top marks in all their classes at school, and are always happy to help the teachers with photocopying. These wonderful women cook healthy meals from scratch every day, grow salad vegetables on their windowsill from seed, and look effortlessly elegant. All the time. They never leave make up on overnight and wake up looking like a Kiss groupie.
These super-mums rarely drive because they'd rather cycle (more environmentally friendly you know), but when she does get into the car you're unsurprised that she can reverse straight into the tightest of spaces with no difficulty, and you just know there there no dried up apple cores tucked inbetween car seats, no half empty pack of wipes left out on the passenger seat that she keeps meaning to put back in the glove box, no wrappers from her emergency chocolate stash left around, no pile of scrunched up petrol receipts. The salt that these superwomen rub into that wound is bound to be locally sourced ethically traded gourmet salt crystals, but somehow that doesn't have any impact on how much it stings. The supermum - with whoever and whatever she is, there's a single thing she emphatically isn't, under any circumstances, and that's me.
I am kind of a polar opposite. These are not the balls I juggle. My balls are rough and skuffed from being kicked around on the floor a bit. A little grubby, with perhaps a sticky patch or two of unknown origin. Look at that - some of my balls aren't even round. There's bound to be at least one hiding under the sofa. And possibly another tucked in the bag of carrier bags in the kitchen cupboard.
I have a try to make sure there is either bread, butter and jam combination or cereal, (enough) milk and a clean bowl combo each morning ball. Note to self, entire combo required to be effective - cereal, jam and butter does not a breakfast make.
I have a put on the washing machine before Petal runs out of clean socks ball. Preferably before she is hopping around in the hall asking if she should wear wellies to school so that no one will notice she is wearing one knee length white sock and one grey one with black skulls that she has liberated from Noah's they're-not-pants-they're-boxer-shorts and socks drawer.
Delicate phrasing required here, so bear with me - there's the . . . marital relationship ball/s that require a bit of . . . ahem . . . gentle juggling from time to time, and would probably enjoy getting up into the air a bit more frequently than they currently do. It's there, on that list, but there are only so many hours in the day, you know?
There's a deal with medication and health stuff ball, mostly focused on Smiler's repeat prescription list (all five pages of it), but also covers stock taking - making such there is always paracetamol in the medicine cupboard, as well as plasters and burn spray and arnica and eye wash. In my role as Dr Mummy I'm also responsible for the pulling out of splinters, relocation of Smiler's jaw, checking Eli's paw when he slices it open on a piece of glass, and checking the rest of Smiler's bones, keeping in mind that he walked with two dislocated hips and self propelled his wheelchair entirely competently with both arms when his wrist was broken in two places.
There's a concentrate on listening to Noah reading aloud and do not get distracted by twitter instead ball. I know, I'm horrible. I just don't care what Dr Who is getting up to these days, and (by way of self defence) reading out loud significantly slows Noah's reading speed - that's got to be a bad thing, right?
Then there's the sundry regular household tasks ball, which has an incredibly wide remit, consisting of tasks ranging from clean the toilets, to sort out Petal's sub's for Brownies, to make sure we have tea bags, to put new batteries in the remote. Generally these only get done once they've reached crisis point - when we have actually run out of tea bags (oh the humanity!); or when I've thrown the remote out of the window in temper when I can't get the television to turn on, or off, or over.
There is also a subset of one off balls which get thrown in at fairly sporadic intervals by other people - such as the Lucas your wool is taking over the living room please use it up or find somewhere else for it to live ball; the mummy can you sew up this hole in my school bag because I'm worried my things might fall out ball; and the I haven't seen you for ages let's go window shopping ball.
So, modern motherhood. Sometimes it sucks, trying to do everything, to be everything to everybody, and some balls are much easier to keep in the air than others. Does that mean we should give up, declare ourselves failures and hide under the duvet? Of course not. But the supermums I hear you cry - they do everything, and it is all always perfect! I'll let you into a secret. Some mums are able to keep more balls in the air than others, but every one of those supermums - every single one - has dropped a ball, and felt crappy about it. So yes, sometimes Petal goes to school with odd socks. Does that mean I'm a terrible mother? Of course not. What it does mean is that we should recognise the challenges we face, and anticipate that sometimes we might drop a ball or two, and know that this is not the end of the world as we know it. We need to learn to prioritise those balls that are the most important, and the ones that aren't - well, perhaps we should get in the habit of recognising then as such and placing them down or passing them to someone else. Being a parent is the most important ball we hold, and that deserves to be respected by all the people in our lives, but most importantly, it needs to be respected by ourselves.
This is my entry into the Mum Network Trusted Blogger Club Autumn Blog Carnival