You know the one. The one where the mum gets food thrown on her white shirt, where the buggy won’t go down and the kid shits as it leaves the house. Where the contents of a cupboard spill out when the mum just needs the tin of milk and where the dad is miming some ridiculous story to a bewildered bairn. With my Monster Major, this advert always made me get a lump in my throat.
It isn’t the calming voice over, likening parenting to a job you’re not suitable for, nor is it the sweet song with the veracious lyrics I’m in the middle, lost in a spin, loving you. It’s that closing line, just as the (beautiful, wrinkle-free) lady sinks back into a bath, eyes closing: ‘And take it from us, you’re doing great.’
SMA claim, in the ad, that they’ve gotten to know mums over the years. And by heck, they must have done. That single line, from an unknown voice, funded by some capitalist giant, makes life okay again. On the days where you’ve cried three times before breakfast is over, when there’s poo, wee AND vomit (the Holy Trinity) on you and the children, when
the shitbag who gets to escape to work your other half phones to say he’s running late, you just need to be told ‘you’re doing great.’ And you know what, even the times when I knew I wasn’t doing a good job – the times when I dreaded Monster Major waking up because I’d have to entertain him, the times when, tears rolling down my face, I forced a spoon into his mouth because he JUST WOULDN’T BLOODY BLOODY EAT, the times when I needed to scream into a pillow – hearing that actually, it’s okay to be a bit of a fuckup at times, because actually, this is bloody hard and actually, the job you are doing, you’re doing perfectly well, was a real comfort and the lift I needed to keep me going.
My Monster family and I have been through a bit of a crappy time this year – a lot of it boiling down to my self-concept and worth in my role as Monster Mummy. Motherhood convinces you you’re doing everything wrong whilst everyone around you does everything right. It blinds you to the amazing things you do daily without noticing. British norms have instilled a culture of playing down, disregarding, or, sadly, arguing against compliments, yet, I’m sure little lifts, such as the SMA advert, could do wonders for the self-esteem mothers hold themselves in.
When considering this post, I initially planned to list something amazing each one of my mummy friends does for their sprog. But, honestly honestly, there are so many, I’d never end. Since my struggles this year, I have made a concerted effort to genuinely tell my friends when I’d noticed something fab they were doing. That sounds really patronising, but I know how far a kind word can go on a dark day. Without seeing it, you parents are driven in giving the best to your kids. You work tirelessly and thanklessly to ensure you do your best. And rarely do you acknowledge that your best is actually doing the job bloody well.
It’s so sad that we don’t pat ourselves on the back more. I once asked a friend, upon watching her delightful little daughter, ‘ Do you and your husband congratulate yourselves on what a good job you’ve done?’ Her reply was ‘Umm, no. But we do congratulate ourselves on how cute she is!’ Whilst cuteness is, too, to be celebrated, I cannot extol more the wholesome, warm, soul-enriching feeling you get from sitting back with someone and saying, ‘Wow. We’ve done that. We’ve made those little people, and damn, we’re doing okay.
Mummies, you cuddle your little ones in the night, even though you are screaming inside with exhaustion, you cook from scratch even though you know they won’t eat anything but Peppa Pig pasta from a tin, you speak calmly and fairly to your toddler, even though they’re being an absolute tool, you let them listen to their music in the car even though this is supposed to be your few minutes of zoning out (actually, take that with a pinch of salt – I do not condone totally zoning out whilst driving), you clean, feed, read to, play with, comfort, teach, discipline, shape and love your children, even though it can be, and very often is, a one-way street. That is an amazing thing, and you, too, are truly amazing.*
*I don’t wish to exclude fathers here. You’re flipping awesome too. You’re just better at knowing it. In fact, many of you are a bit too good at knowing it. That’s when you get too big for your boots and that’s why we need a first aid kit in the house. You’re good, but you and the children are NOT invincible.