Here is a universal truth – no matter how good my eyesight is, I can’t see what another person sees. According to psychologists, one of the fundamental stages in theory of mind is to recognise that different people think different things. And that other people want different things. (My youngest child isn’t there yet, he still assumes I want to talk Minecraft strategies by the hour.)
Theory of mind is broken up into smaller parts – One of the truths that is part of normal child development, is that other people look at things differently to me. How could they look the same? They don’t have my height; they don’t have my perspective, my temperament or my background. They can’t view life through my lenses.
When I look in the mirror I have to be honest, there is often a pretty hostile force that looks back at me. It’s my opinion of myself that looks back- I am a failure, I am not beautiful, or I am a terrible mother since I didn’t throw a six ring circus for my child’s fifth birthday like Gwendolyn down the road did. I know I’m not alone; many of us struggle with how we view ourselves.
When I come to a school concert with other parents, I look at the other mums, perhaps worrying about what I wear, about my appearance. I wonder if my children would rather the pretty mum down the row from me, the one who isn’t wearing old jeans and the shirt that has seen better days. I wonder if they would prefer the mother who doesn’t work at a car parts shop, or the one who runs with her children in the cross country. Trust me; no one wants to see me do that….
There are times I wish I could be a different kind of mother. More together, more glamorous, more- I don’t know, everything I’m not. I need to say, this is a hard topic for me to write about, since I’m not feeling particularly successful or beautiful right now.
In the lead up to Mother’s Day 2016, all I have been able to see are my flaws. But if I step away from the self-examination mirror for a short time and look at these little people I helped to create, I don’t see them cataloguing my deficiencies. No, they write gorgeous notes that tell me they love me. Zach and Nattie tell me I am beautiful when I put on my eyeshadow, and my eldest tells me he prefers it when I dress like mum- they all like me better in my ‘normal’ clothes.
The baffling thing is that they really don’t want another mother. It was me they saw when they opened their eyes for the first time. It was my voice they listened to, me who kissed them and rocked them to sleep when they were small. Me who cried when I took them to school for the first time, me who held them when they were sick through the night.
In the playgroup I attended there were mothers of all kinds. Glamourous, successful, those who knew the stages of child development and planned activities that enhanced fine motor skills. Mums who could ‘throw together’ Frozen birthday cakes.
And it was a big lesson to learn: if my children got hurt or scared, they would sift through the people they came across to find me. Now while any of those mothers would have soothed my children, they didn’t want anyone else- only me. It’s me who sees myself negatively. I do my children a disservice when I assume they would trade me up if they could. They wouldn’t: I am a part of them, as they are of me.
While our children are small, sometimes we forget that our children love us unconditionally, as we do them. They can fight us, and get cross, but when they hear the word ‘mum’- there’s only one person they think of. Comparison really has no place in us- we are tailor-made for our children, and we are the ones blessed to be raising them. As I am working on doing, let’s not allow comparison and negative thoughts about ourselves rob us of the joy of mothering – the small people in our lives only want us.
In the words of my three children and the mother’s day cards of previous years:
“Yor butifull mum.
Have a happee day.
You cook nice fud.
And I love you except when you yell at us for dropping things.”
Oh well… no one’s a perfect mum, right?