We all have good mum moments, and bad mum moments, and ugly ones - but the emotional attention we give each of these is often unequal...
So... how are you doing?
I'm doing just about OK over here.
It's been a week of ups and downs, and tonight marks the start of the Easter holidays - which I'm approaching with equal parts delight and dread... Right now, I'm feeling exhausted, and hopeful, and apprehensive.
So how are you really feeling?
If you would like to be heard right now - bad mum day, good mum day, whichever one you're in - feel free to reply to mama-loving mail and let me know how you are.
In the meantime, I wanted to share two of my days with you - these are two social media posts that I shared on subsequent days - the first captured a moment when I felt like an awesome fun mum. And the very next day, I felt like the complete opposite. I'm still getting over that one...
I'm sending these to you today because I want to remind you that you're not alone on the bad days - that it's worth celebrating the good days when they come - and that nothing is ever as simple as it appears in one post on social media. There are no good mums, no bad mums, just mums, doing our best.
THE GOOD MUM DAY:
"Highly recommended: Next time you have bribed your kids with mini eggs to get them away from the TV and get outside instead, and it starts to rain...ignore all rules of appropriate public behaviour (because no one is about anyway - the weather’s miserable...)
...and get everyone to lie down on their backs on the pavement......letting the rain land on your faces while you all giggle and try not to move and the rain gets heavier and you try to decide when it’s safe to get up again and everyone asks is the floor all wet enough yet over and over again...
...and then stand up and whoop in delight at the awesome art you have made (in an impressive homage to Andy Goldsworthy because mum - yes that’s me - loved Leaning Into The Wind so much...)
Then, when you have hidden out of the rain in the bus shelter for a bit, sharing out the mini eggs that fell out of the bag into your pockets when you lay on the floor, still laughing about how much fun that was, you might even be lucky enough to spot the most perfect brightly coloured rainbow and just have to race back onto the prom whooping again to get a proper look at it. Best fun ever."
This was a great day. I had lots of comments on social media saying wow, great, can you be my mum? Which felt almost as awesome as the day itself.
And then came THE BAD MUM DAY:
“You didn’t let me down. You made a mistake...”
“Yesterday I was playing with my kids on the prom, feeling like an awesome mother. Today, not so much.
I’ve been trying to avoid getting distracted by social media this week by shutting down apps, putting blockers on my computer... and staying far away from my phone, which has been great for my writing.
But... it’s a new shift, and clearly I forgot that my busy brain has learnt to rely on my computer for life reminders too.
Because, without a diary reminder popping up, I just kept working... all the way through a special tea party at school that my daughter had been looking forward to ALL week.
With everything blocked, I missed all the messages on Facebook, WhatsApps and texts from mum friends, and even a call from her lovely teacher, reminding me that the tea party was on and my daughter was wondering where I was...
Just before school pick up time, I finally picked up all my messages, and realised what had happened.
My heart dropped into my ankles. I was gutted.
In moments like these, that self critical voice, the one that I’ve worked so hard to reframe, still quickly takes over - “You’re a bad mum. How could you forget that? Everyone else was there. She will have been so disappointed. You messed up.”
I raced into school with a huge sorry, and the teachers let me sit down so she could make me a cup of tea and offer me cucumber sandwiches and cakes, even though everyone else had gone.
And then I came home and cried. And she cried. And we both said how sad we were that it hadn’t worked out like we’d hoped it would. Then, when I apologised for letting her down, she said...
“You didn’t let me down. You made a mistake.”
It gave me hope. That I haven’t passed on those critical voices to her as strongly as I hear them myself. That she’ll be able to say the same words to herself one day - to be sad, but also compassionate towards herself when she messes up. To know that one mistake doesn’t erase all the good days. We’re human not superhuman.
I guess today she learnt some resilience, and that she has good friends to rely on. And she helped me to hear my self compassionate voice. Just when I most needed it."
This second post was a harder post to write.
...The one that admitted my failures, and my shame. But I wrote it anyway. Because I know how important it is to read those stories on social media too.
And because shame thrives in the shadows. When you speak it, you shrink it.
And if you share it with people you trust, your community remind you that you're not alone. They've been there too. Which is what happened to me.
They remind you that you had a good day too, lots of them in fact. Look - there's even evidence on instagram... They share their own stories of bad mum days.
While the bad days get lodged in our hearts, we can't retain the good moments so easily. That's just how our brains work - we're wired to notice threats and problems, to survive. We need our friends, communities - emails like these - to point those good mum days out to us.
You are a good mum. So often, in so many ways that you haven't noticed today. In the fact that you listen, and meet your child's need to be heard, however briefly. In the ways that you can soothe them - sometimes. When you laugh at their jokes. Care about their cares. Really see them. When you take a deep breath and try again. In each compassionate act. In your love through all the hard stuff. In all those moments that you are there.
The bad mum days don't make you a bad mum. It's all the rest of it, all the stuff that we don't stop and notice - that makes you a good mum.
You might not be able to see it every day - but you're always the rainbow.
Pippa and Penny
PS - no Mamas' Everyday Retreat #somum party this month because of the Easter holidays, so make sure you join us on Wednesday 8 May from 8.30pm to 9.30pm UK time instead.
PPS - read on below to find out how you can help us Encourage a Mama - we're sending extra love through the post!
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