#EndMommyWars: My rambling, somewhat disorganised, confession

What is it about being a mum that makes us so judgmental of other mums? I think it’s a lot of things: personal history, upbringing, culture, pride and, most of all, insecurity. We judge others to “defend” our different positions, because heaven forbid we are not the perfect mum and I don’t remember who said there can only be one kind of perfect parent but I just know it to be true.

Ha.

I’m pathologically non-confrontational, so you will never see me roll my eyes at someone else (unless I’m really, really pissed) or argue my position with another mum. No, pretty much all my judging takes place inside my head, which is probably worse because then I’m like some kind of hypocrite or something.

There are a lot of things I don’t believe in “arguing” about, and parenting is definitely one of them. Because people get so violently defensive that it’s really not a conversation; it’s an endurance race and the first person to recognise the futility of it and back off is the loser.

A lot of people can’t agree to disagree. They feel like they really need to convince you of the validity and rightness of their position, and some of them can be so damn persistent about it. One of the most important things I learned studying Arts in university is that people can have different opinions and that’s okay.

Seriously, why can’t people agree to disagree?!

And I end up (silently) judging the other person, not so much for their differing parenting methods or whatever it is, but for their “lack of open-mindedness”.

Which, in case it wasn’t obvious, isn’t any better.

Maybe I’m also judging myself – for backing down, for giving in, for walking away from a fight because I just cannot be bothered. (I’ve been judged by my friends for that too, by the way.)

Also not okay.

So much of it is unconscious and completely arbitrary – I judge other mums based on how they look, my past experiences, what my mood is on the day, the choices that I’ve made and the insecurities that I have, my likes and dislikes, whether the sun is shining or not. Okay not that last one but my point is, (most) mothers can be such temperamental, emotional and insecure beings when it comes to their kids. Did I mention insecure?

The good news is, as you can see from the video, all it takes is awareness and getting to know / understanding the other person to make us realise what we’re doing and how silly we’re being. To borrow a line from High School Musical, we’re all in this together.

Also, here’s the other thing about judging in silence that I’ve realised – it’s always so much better because then I’m always right and there’s no one to tell me otherwise. So who’s not being accepting of other people’s opinions now?

I need to do better

It hit me the other night. While I was reading one of those parenting/mummy blog articles or some such. I can’t find the article now, but it was essentially about how we should treasure each moment with our kids because we never know when it’ll be the last time we… (insert mundane task here). In this particular case, it was washing her daughter’s hair.

That struck a chord. It was probably 9pm. It’s amazing how open and calm and full-of-good-intentions I am when the kid is fast asleep and the house is completely QUIET AND PEACEFUL. If I were half as good a parent when my child is asleep as when she is awake, I’d be kicking motherhood’s ass.

This isn’t a novel concept of course. Neither is it anything I didn’t already know in my head. But in my heart? In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, during moments when I can’t wait to tuck the kid into bed because she’d been whinging since we walked in the door after school? Not so much.

I need to do better.

Again, not a new idea. I’ve been thinking this exact phrase for months now. And the article was a good reminder for someone who regularly expresses her wonder and amazement at how fast time goes. We’re already halfway through the third term of school pretty much, which means it won’t be long before we hit term four, and then school holidays, AND THEN MY DAUGHTER WILL BE IN GRADE 1.

I can’t slow down time, but I can make the effort to be more present. It’s kind of morbid, I know, but imagine if you died tonight. I did. And the only thing I kept thinking was: I want to be there with/for my kid as she grows up. Not: I should have worked more, or done more writing, or watched more TV, or even travelled more.

As a single mum, I cut myself a lot of slack. I don’t push myself to take on too much, I understand what’s important to me right now, but I also think there are times when I could choose not to let the kid watch another hour of cartoons on the iPad. The great thing about parenting a 5yo is that every day is a new day. The kid is quick to forgive when I mess up, but it won’t be like that forever. She’s eager to hang out and loves to chat – sometimes I even get to choose the topic – and I can only hope and pray that this will last.

Telling myself that I need to do better is not me being judgy or comparing myself to other mums. It’s not me saying I want to be the best mum in the world because I’ll be honest and say I’m really not competitive enough to give a shit about that. It’s about me wanting to give this motherhood thing my best shot (and never give up), because that’s what I tell my kid all the time, and what would I be if I didn’t follow my own advice, right?

Knowing that I can’t have it all, and being totally okay with it

The more I read about successful people, the more I realise that you cannot have work/life balance if you want to be extraordinary. You can have work/life balance and be comfortable, content, affluent even, but to be extraordinary? To be vastly more successful than the average worker bee on the street? There just aren’t enough hours in a day. You don’t become super successful by working the same hours as everyone else. And if you’re not willing to put in the extra hours, well, there are plenty of people out there who are.

To become very successful at anything requires dedication and hard work (read: long hours spent on that thing you do, whatever it is). For some people that might mean sacrificing family time, for others it might mean forgoing sleep, exercise and their social life. The bottom line is sacrifices have to be made, which brings me to my other realisation: I cannot have it all.

I once asked Kimora Lee Simmons what she would say to women who want to “have it all”. Her answer was essentially: yes, she appears to “have it all” but she doesn’t sleep much and she doesn’t hang out with her friends a whole lot, because her waking moments are devoted to her kids and her partner and her fashion line and her reality TV show and… In other words, she doesn’t have a lot of time to rest or have fun. Christina Soong of The Hungry Australian put it another way: you can have it all, just not all at once. Which makes sense. Because again, there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

As a writer who works from home, I have what many mums would call an ideal arrangement. I’m able to earn an income while still being a pseudo full-time mum to the 5yo. I do school drop offs and pick ups, shuttling to gymnastics and swimming, and even parent helper duty once a week. I’m available for special events and occasions at school, and I’m also available for special events and occasions with my mostly stay-at-home-mum girlfriends. Do I love it? Absolutely, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But as a former entertainment journo, to say that I’m focused on my career at this point would be a gross exaggeration.

Penelope Trunk, whom I love and frequently link to, recently wrote about giving up her career for her kids. Early this year, I had a conversation with a girlfriend about pursuing a career in media, and we agreed that we just didn’t want it badly enough. I know I’m not willing to sacrifice being here for the kid, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I want to give up sleep, exercise and my vibrant social life that, most days, only takes place between the hours of 9 and 6. That’s 9am and 6pm in case you’re wondering, not the other way around.

I’m immensely grateful for all that I have and for this season in my life, but I am neither successful in my career nor do I have it all. Even better, I don’t care to pretend that I am, I do or I want to be. Like all seasons, this will pass and there will come a time when I might make a different choice or even do something else, but for now, this is totally okay by me. And it’s totally okay to say that.