Today I was a great mum

We had one of those days today. No, not THOSE days – the other kind, where everything actually goes really calmly and it’s all lovely, easy and hugely enjoyable. I had to have a little smile to myself, thinking that, if anyone is watching us, I must seem to be a completely in-control mother, looking like I know exactly what I am doing.

Of course, as any parent knows, these days by no means happen all the time. This week I have had another one or two trips that haven’t been quite as successful…

Today I was a great mum...

But back to our brilliant day today, visiting our local zoo. We wandered around, looking at all the different animals, talking about what we could see. ToddlerGirl was excited and interested in everything, asking me lots of questions. Moreover, she LISTENED to me for the whole day. This was a pretty big milestone for us. Normally, one of my biggest challenges with her is the fact that she will leg it away from me at any given opportunity. She is an explorer, she is quick and she thinks it is a really funny game to keep running when Mummy is telling her to stop – or even better, if Mummy is having to dash after her.

I didn’t have to worry about any of this at the zoo, however. She was like a model child. At one point, she was excitedly running in front of me, getting a bit too far ahead. I yelled out: “Stop!” She immediately stopped. I said: “Wait there for Mummy.” She said: “OK, Mummy,” and waited until I had reached her and then walked alongside me, talking about some monkeys that we were coming up to. There were a few people around, giving us what felt like approving smiles. I could almost imagine what they were thinking:

“Look at that lovely little girl, listening to her mother so nicely. What a great job that mum must be doing.”

OK, maybe they were thinking nothing of the sort, but I did have a very proud – and I will admit it – smug mum moment.

Before you want to throw something at me, I should probably also admit that I was very far from being a smug parent yesterday.

I was at the library with ToddlerGirl. We read a few books together and then, with no warning, she decided to scarper, sprinting the entire length of the children’s library and down the corridor into the main library, with me dashing after her yelling: “Stop! Wait for Mummy! Stop now!”. She carried on, giggling away, until I caught up to her. As I marched a wriggling ToddlerGirl back into the children’s library and her pushchair, I was conscious of the people watching us. I could imagine what they were thinking:

“Look at that little girl, she doesn’t pay any attention to her mother. What a terrible job that mum must be doing, she has no control whatsoever.”

This evening, reflecting on what a great day ToddlerGirl and I have had, I remembered how I was feeling yesterday, bashing myself for my shortcomings as a mum after a difficult day.

I had to laugh at myself. Aren’t I exactly the same mother today that I was yesterday? I haven’t radically altered overnight. I gave ToddlerGirl exactly the same directions and boundaries on each outing. So, why have I come home after our zoo trip feeling like a great mum but yesterday I was doubting myself?

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I am completely affected by the way I perceive the people around us are thinking about me. And this is ridiculous. First, I don’t really know what most people are thinking. Yesterday, they may have been smiling sympathetically as I grimly marched her back to our pushchair in the library.

Second, even if they weren’t, they were witnessing a snapshot of our day, a mere glimpse of all our days together. Yes, sometimes ToddlerGirl tantrums, and she does run off far more often than I’d like. But that isn’t the whole story. Catch us on a day like today and it’s a different picture. We are having fun together; she is completely engaged in what we are doing; she is listening and responding to what I am saying to her. A random stranger seeing us on a day like today could very possibly have an entirely different opinion of my mothering skills than somebody else witnessing a more tricky parenting moment.

Realising that brought it home to me that I really shouldn’t be marking myself as a mum based on what the people around us may or may not be thinking. I need to separate out the ‘embarrassment factor’ and concentrate on what does and doesn’t work for us as a family.

The truth is, some days go more smoothly than others and that isn’t a measure of my competence. I’m not a good mum on the days where everything is perfect and a bad mum on the days when it is all tears and tantrums. I am a mum, doing the best job that I know how to, whatever happens.

I just need to keep reminding myself of that – and think of some new strategies to deal with my sprinter daughter!

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