Underachieving mother

On Friday the primary school invited mums in, not just for assembly but to spend time in the classroom with our kids. As usual I was running a bit late because, in order to take the time off, I had been trying to get ahead plus, appropriately enough, there was a report out on flexible working for teachers which needed covering. We arrived 10 minutes late and I went into only son’s class, feeling a bit of a bad mother. It didn’t seem to matter, though, because we spent the time sitting on the floor making flower pictures. Only son was very excited. After the lesson only son was supposed to take me for cakes, but I also wanted to go into daughter three’s class. We asked if we could both go in. “We have to go to my sister’s class because my mum doesn’t like cake,” announced only son very loudly.

In daughter three’s class the activity was writing an advert selling your mum. The template was about how great mum was at cleaning. It sounded a bit 1950’s. I whispered to daughter three: “Cleaning is not really my best thing. You need to sell me as I actually am.” Daughter three set to work. The boy beside her was writing about how caring his mum was and how she should win an award for caring. I looked over at daughter three’s paper. It started “Tired of your mum always telling you ‘just a second’…” Hmm, well that was realistic at least. It proceeded to advertise the new super-improved mum with volume controls “so you can turn down all the times she says ‘we’re late'” and a button to stop her working”.

Oh dear. I felt a bit rubbish next to the super-caring mum. We went into assembly. Children were proclaiming one by one how much they loved their mums and how kind, etc, they were. An argument the night before with daughter two about what she wanted to do for her birthday which ended with her proclaiming “you are destroying my birthday” simmered in my mind. Fortunately, daughter three and only son were not picked. I wondered how those with slightly less perfect mums, no mums at all or no mums able to take time off to come to the assembly might be feeling. I, for one, felt I was not quite up to scratch. It was not the first time that week.

I had been quoted in a newspaper earlier in the week alongside a photo of me from a couple of years ago. I showed the paper to the kids. Daughter one’s only comment was to the effect that the woman beside me was a multi-millionaire mum of four. “Bit of an underachiever, eh, mum?”, she said. Only son was, however, very excited. He whispered in my ear: “You are my best one in the family. Don’t tell anyone.”

The next day everyone was making birthday cards for daughter two. Only son had made an elaborate card with stick-on extras. Inside he had written: “Happy birthday. You are the best helfy eater in the family.” This is definitely true. Daughter two’s diet consists mainly of pinto beans and lentils. Next to that he had written: “You are the best one in the family.” You what? I have a certain suspicion that only son has said this to every member of the family at some point and is playing us off against each other. Whatever, it’s a strategy that seems to be working. He has everyone at his beck and call. Even daughter three who had been in a bit of grump on Saturday morning until her mermaid outfit arrived.

About an hour later I went upstairs to find her lying in the bath in the costume with a big smile on her face. I went to get my partner. By the time I got back only son was in the bath in the costume involved in some very complex mermaid story. Apparently there is going to be a mermaid film. “Can you help with the storyboard?” asked daughter three as I was busy changing all the bedsheets, something I probably don’t do as often as super-caring mum. “Just a second,” I said.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.

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