Monday 16 March 2015

Fancy dress? No, thank you.

mother diaries, fancy dress, bat man, batman, masks of parenting, parenting masks, putting on a front, parenting, motherhood

I dropped my son off at nursery on Friday morning to discover that the nursery staff were adorned in red noses and brightly coloured outfits. Crap, Red Nose Day, how did I forget that one? See, I wouldn't mind but I already forgot about World Book Day, Christmas Jumper Day and Pyjama Day. I forgot to to collect money in time for his daffodil appeal and I continually forget to fill in his 'activities book' with the things he does at weekends or milestones, like when he actually ate a piece of cucumber for the first time.

Now don't get me wrong, when I became a mother I was all prepared that life would get a little bit more complicated. I accounted for the dirty nappies, the sleepless nights and the tantrums. I even prepared myself for the chaos of children's parties and holidays replaced with water parks instead of sunny beaches. I even prepared to share my chocolate. And then, THEN, some bugger came along and decided that all mothers should be inflicted with a day of fancy dress every month or so, or that they have to prove they're doing a good job by putting it into writing.

I remember my son's first fancy dress day – it was halloween and I inflicted on him a home-made bat costume. He hated it. For the kid who won't even wear clothes with buttons or zips, a bat costume was just that little bit too far. Instead of saying, do you know what, you don't have to dress up in this ridiculous costume, I made him wear it just to prove I was a good mother. And he cried all the way to nursery.

On world book day this year I considered a last minute excuse of a fancy dress costume and instead I decided my son could take in a book. Controversial, I know. He loves books; he's only four and he can read early-readers from cover to cover, but for some reason this doesn't count on world book day. Somehow you are not a good parent by reading poems to your children, buying them books or writing them stories of your own – it only counts if they get dressed up as Piglet.

The problem is that all us mothers do it, we look at the one mother who forgot to dress up her child as a superhero and we wince. We don't really wince because we genuinely think she's a bad mother, but we wince because we know just how that feels. But why should we care? Why is it so bad that she forgot when she's already had to feed and dress her children on practically no sleep? If she manages to take them to school or nursery on time, or if at all, she deserves a medal already.

And it doesn't stop with fancy dress. No, mothers have to bear the brunt of all consequences of having children. You can teach your kids all you want about the importance of doing their homework by themselves, but when push comes to shove you're the one who's going to be on Wikapedia learning about the amazon rainforest at 11pm. You say to your teenager that he needs to start ironing his own shirts, and he doesn't and you do because you care more that people think you iron clothes than you do about your son taking responsibility.

So why am I writing a ranty post about fancy dress, like a bah humbug of a mother? For god's sake woman, I hear you cry, let your kids have a little fun why don't you? Stop being so self obsessed that you forget to buy a pack of face paints the next time you're in Tesco. I hear you. In an ideal world I would imagine joyful evenings making costumes out of toilet rolls with my four year old, blissfully sharing Pritt Stick and getting sequins stuck down the sofa. But, I'll be honest, it rarely happens. (And that's coming from an artist.)

My point is, that a lot of people will try to make you think that you have to do certain things to prove your worth as a mother and I'm here to tell you that it's all a load of rubbish. It is not about putting on a front that you have the perfect family because that only makes everyone else feel that they are failing, let alone puts pressure on you. We are raising human beings, not sheep. So your child forgot to do his homework? Let him take responsibility and learn a good work ethic. So you forgot to dress your child up as Piglet? So what. And in ten years time when I'm ironing shirts, please refer me to this post.

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