Monday, 16 February 2015

Lesson 47: Mums - Let's Enforce a Ban On Bullshit

Dear fellow mums*,

I'm writing to you with a plea. A request, if you like. 

It's not a huge ask. In fact, I shouldn't really have to ask at all. My request is so simple it demands only one thing from you all:

Your honesty.

You see, I'm getting a bit tired of witnessing what I like to call the Bullshit Olympics. I used to dabble in the sport myself. For a brief spell after the birth of Boy One you could say I was playing semi-professionally. And then, as I began to realise I wasn't doing myself (or anybody else) any favours, I jacked it in. Goodbye bullshit, hello honesty. And incidentally, hello The Unmumsy Mum blog. Hello to the truth about parenting. Warts and all. Shits and giggles (mainly shits). 

It's likely you have been taking part for some time without realising - it's remarkably easy to do so. The Bullshit Games go something like this:

Somebody asks you a question about your children, your mental state, your life. How are you? How has your week been? How are you finding it all? 

And you reply with something slightly at odds with what is in your head. In many instances this will be an airbrushed version of the truth. Typical mum responses include 'Yeah it's great!' 'We're all a bit tired but otherwise all good' and 'not bad thanks!  Bit of a juggling act with two but hey! You?

Some mums take the game to another level entirely. They never moan. Or sigh. Or yawn. And every response is accompanied by the Happy Mummy Face (a gleeful smile, shoulders-shrugged-with-delight, slightly secretive demeanour which says 'I'm so fucking happy with my life right now.')

LIARS.

I'm calling you out. And do you want to know why I'm calling you out? It's not because I am bitter and twisted at the absence of my own Happy Mummy Face and/or have nothing better to do at 9pm on a Monday (though Man Utd are playing, and I am bored, but that is not why I am writing this). 

I'm calling time on this charade because I have now had one hundred messages from mums reading this blog thanking me for 'making them feel better' or 'making them feel normal' where otherwise they have been feeling a bit shit. And do you know why they have been feeling a bit shit? Because, my fellow child-producers, they have found themselves standing at Bumps and Babies on a Thursday morning externally nodding and smiling in agreement to the happy clappy stories of parenthood whilst internally screaming 'I'm so bloody miserable today.' Because they have had no sleep, no shower, no adult conversation in four days and because their children have pushed them to a pretty dark place. 

That Thursday morning, the day you nodded and smiled and clapped along whilst Winding The Fucking Bobbin Up, there was a mum stood amongst you struggling not to cry. She didn't much like her children that day. She didn't much want to be a parent that day. She needed you to make her feel better. You made her feel worse. And then she shuffled home and messaged me to say 'thank god it's not just me, I've been so upset this week.

The fact that I've turned into bloody Dear Deirdre for parents (quite by accident) is pretty insane. What's more insane is the tendency of these mums to believe that everybody else is coping. Everybody else is loving it. Everybody else is a better parent because they are making the most of every special sodding second. 

This is bullshit people.

And worse still it creates a knock-on effect. Like Bullshit Dominoes. You stand in the playgroup domino line exaggerating your joy at the week you've just had. In turn, this encourages the mum to your right to do the same. Smiley smiley pissing smiley. Some of you probably have had a fantastic week. High fives. Some of you probably haven't. It's fine to admit as much, you know. Has anybody ever told you that?

So what do I propose? Well, as promised, my plea is really quite straightforward. 

When somebody asks you how you are, or how your morning has been, or whether you are enjoying motherhood, you tell them the truth. You tell them what you would say if you were talking to yourself. Not the socially acceptable sugar-coated version. 

I don't expect the levels of honesty present in this blog ("fuck me, it's horrendous isn't it?!") though for the record I did once come out with that at Breastfeeding Club *stares awkwardly at feet*. I mean we could all try a more balanced response. The good bits and the not-so-good bits:

'How's my week been you say? Well, the baby is sleeping better. Hooray! And we had a fantastic family trip to the beach *insert Happy Mummy Face attempt*....HOWEVER, the toddler has been a total arse all weekend and I got so fed up with their combined whinging on Tuesday I locked myself in the toilet and had a little cry. You?'

Wouldn't that be refreshing?

Go on, be the one to break the cycle. Cut the crap. Lessen the sugar coating. Try adding a pinch of real thoughts to the conversation. I bet you any money (and one hundred messages) that you are not alone. 

The Unmumsy Mum
[*Dads welcome here too, it's just in my humble opinion you are less bullshitty anyway.]





45 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more. I'm lucky enough to have found three amazing friends who had their first babies the same time I did. We've always been completely and swearily honest with each other, and it's kept us sane... Motherhood ain't no place for sissies, and we should be supporting each other instead of pretending everything is marvellous all the time... Your blog is fabulous, thank you x

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    1. Thanks Trish - your friends sound fab! X

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  2. In my experience the only place where this sugar coating really goes on is on social media. At the local playgroup etc people often vent about how crap things are, they've had no sleep etc.

    But facebook and the like are awful for people trying to portray their perfect life, perfect family and they are a perfect mum.

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    1. Thanks Laura - yes Facebook is the worst! Funnily enough I blogged specifically about the sugar coating of social media recently (http://theunmumsymum.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/lesson-35-sugar-coating-of-social-media.html) but many of the messages I've received also describe similar experiences at baby groups - they must go to less honest groups than you do, which is a shame.

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    2. Oh I'll have a look at that. This is the first time I've read your blog! I keep saying I am gonna go off Fb because I am finding the sugar coaters so annoying but can't seem to do it! Thanks for replying.

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  3. I had my first child with my other 2 sisters and now we all have 2 year olds! There was 3 of us all pregnant together! Honesty really does help to make you feel better even if its something small to get you through!

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    1. How funny that you all had babies at the same time! And lucky, from the honesty perspective! Thanks for reading :-)

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  4. My second pregnancy and 2 nd child experience has been so much better as this time around my best friend was pregnant at same time and then had her gorgeous little boy 6 weeks before my 2nd girl was born. I do not know what I would do with out her most days she gets me through shitty day and I help her through her shitty days. Some days it's just a text other days it's a . cuppa but without her I would b rocking in a corner! !!!
    Love my lynie! !!!! Xxx
    P's my fella not half bad but there's some things only mummies get!!!

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    1. Your best friend sounds like a gem! We all need friends like her (and you) xx

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    2. She's amazing :-) xx

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  5. You are funny! Great writing! I think that the bullshit olympics happen in all walks of life, not just in parenting. As we get older though, we learn that there is nothing gained in pretending your life is perfect. People are far more drawn to you when you are honest and vulnerable than when you are parading around with a fake smile on your face pretending everything is rosy. As time passes it gets easier to surround yourself with those who are being real. I'm not sure where all this baby bullshit is going on, I find that usually people are quick to share all the shite parts of their parenting experience. Quite a lot. Which is fine, and good, because we've all gotta spill. But sometimes it's ok to love it a bit too. (Or a lot.) And to know that despite the sick and poo and tantrums and mess, it'll all be over before we know it. I love my days with my kids and I have been slammed for it, but I go on loving it anyway. Loads. Mainly because I have a lotta REAL mamas around me, who help me forget the crap, and enjoy the good. Without them it wouldn't be half as much fun. X x x PS: Who is this person who hasn't had adult conversation for four days?! I want her round at mine in the next ten minutes for cake and chat. X

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    1. Antonio your comment made me smile! I agree with you on all counts, and have been lucky to find some very honest friends (both with and without kids) who keep me sane. But I have had a lot of messages from mums who for whatever reason are quite isolated and the baby groups they go to are quite heavy on the bullshit which makes life even harder. Honesty from people they've just met would make the difference between a good day and a 'I'm not coping but everybody else is' day. Thanks for reading :-) xx

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  6. This is interesting reading, especially the social media bit. I have noticed myself that, as parenting finally starts to get easier, my Facebook 'gloaty' posts of a happy child and sepia toned portraits of us all have actually eased up, when you would expect them to increase. Have I unwittingly been taking part in this charade? Am I now enjoying my time with Samuel more and forgetting to take as many pictures as a result? Am I hiding away on Facebook less and actually getting down on the floor and playing with him? I don't know.

    But what I do know is that honesty about how difficult being a parent (breastfeeding, bottle feeding, BLW, purees, working mum, SAHM, what-frickin'-ever...) actually is, is so bloody reassuring that when I hear someone talking about their difficulties I want to high five them.

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    1. And then hug them, obvs. I'm not that cruel.

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    2. Haha I think a hug and a high five would be appropriate ;-) thanks for your comment - I think we're all guilty of the social media charade at some point!! X

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  7. I dont have kids but I loathe my step kids on a daily basis does that count?? :(

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    1. Wow... I bet they don't feel that from you.

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  8. my daughter has 10 week old twins born prem . and a two and a half year old toddler she and her husband doing a great job .she has complete strangers stop her in the street and tell her how hard things are and will be, and how they glad it her and not them !!!!!!!!!!! Please people

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    1. My word that is so unhelpful (the comments from strangers!) there is a difference between being honest (in an earnest sense) and being inconsiderate! Sure your daughter will do just fine xx

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    2. That is awful! Some people are so nasty sometimes!
      My mum had my sister and I (twins) when my big sister was 6 and then my little brothers (also twins) when my sister and I were 2. She was a single mum and she did an absolutely amazing job! My siblings are the most caring, loving people I know! Your daughter has totally got this! My family are so close, we would do anything for each other! Our family holidays were always camping in the UK but we had each other and we played together all the time so my mum didn't have to keep up entertained, there are so many positives to your daughters situation 😊

      I know she struggled at times but she had support from family and friends, which your daughter clearly has from you, she'll do wonderfully xxx

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  9. I love this so much! I've pinched your 'Bullshit Olympics' for a piece I wrote on my blog today (obviously credited to you!) So perfectly put! xx

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    1. Thanks Becky! Make sure you send me the link I'd like to read it x

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  10. The one playgroup I go to some of the mums regularly break down. I'm not great with tears so can be a bit awkward. I know what you mean about facebook but then no one wants to see a picture of the time my daughter managed to shit through (actually through) a chair.

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    1. Hahaha Kev you always have the best stories! And that playgroup you go to sounds fab - I've been to some like that, and others that are like the Stepford Mums...luck of the draw I guess x

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  11. Here here! After my first baby I asked another new mum how she was doing to which she replied 'fine. You?' I said 'bloody awful' and she nearly hugged me. It made me start writing a blog of my own based on my diary entries that I'd kept hidden from those early days. Like you I get private messages thanking me for being honest (I'm like, write publicly lady! People need to see this!!). Anyway, thanks for your brilliant posts and blog, I love it. x

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I would have hugged you too :-)

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  12. So true!! I have up a long time ago, never been good at hiding my true feelings!

    Though one that gets my goat EVERY time even when not talking to me just in my vicinity is the mum gloat. I've lost count at how many 4 month olds could talk... genius. I was too busy applauding my son for holding his head up at that point oh and sleeping longer than 30 minutes.

    Said toddler is a pretty good talker now so not talking at 4 months hasn't harmed hiM. Same toddler I'm right now pretending is not wearing his dinner bowl on his head surrounded by smushed strawberries. Can't win them all....

    Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

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    1. Haha Laura! That made me chuckle. I've met a couple whose babies were out of nappies and walking by 10 months ;-)

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    2. The walking early thing mine both bloody did and it is no picnic, before they do the walking thing you put them somewhere they mostly stay there they start walking it ends up like a Wheres Wally frigging man hunt in the house then you add in to that the refuse to go in the pushchair thing so a five minute walk to the shops takes an hour. The "late" "normal" "not early" walker owners have the better deal!

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  13. More than just parents lying amongst themselves it's parents lying to non-parents. Before I had kids almost every parent said to me "Oh it's amazing the best thing I've ever done." Which makes me now think they were lying (and possibly with an internal evil laugh), or they really need to have done more with their lives or they were suffering from some sort of present-traumatic stress disorder. The most honest reply came from my cousin, who admittedly had the misfortune of getting pregnant one month after giving birth to her first child... with twins. She said that she absolutely loved her kids and would not wish her life to be any different, however if she had known before what it would be like she'd have never had her kids. The truth is a paradox.

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    1. Sometimes I think expectant parents don't want to hear anything other than the good bits - I told a friend of mine that the first 6 weeks were pretty horrendous and she thought I must have had a difficult baby! I've never said 'it' the best thing I've ever done' but I think one day I might...I hope I do!! Thanks for reading :-)

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  14. That's just your truth Neil. I have a one and two year old and I miss my sleep and wild trips but I adore them and love being a mother. I am lucky enough to have friends who moan about sleepless nights and illnesses too but we are all besotted with our children.

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    1. I'm lucky enough to have some honest friends too; makes such a difference to my wellbeing! And yes, means whilst we moan we enjoy the good bits too xx

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  15. THANK YOU. What you wrote there is what I have been saying to all my mum friends, particularly since having my second child. From day one of him turning up, I got really bitter and angry that none of the other mums around me shared just how hard it can be, because I was having a *shit* time! Loved, loved, loved this post. You rock!

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  16. It's such a relief reading this! I regularly post facebook status updates like 'Anyone want a 6 month old baby, comes with all mod cons. Pain in the ass. Doesn't sleep.Guaranteed to make you go insane. No returns accepted'... and I get 'dont wish this time away, it will go so fast',... and I just want to say...'Really? Will it? Can you tell me just how quickly that will be, cos right now it feels like time has stopped. For good.' I feel judged by my other mum friends because I'm being honest about how I am feeling, rather than gushing about how amazing motherhood is and how perfect my little bundle of joy it. (She might be gorgeous but she IS a pain in the ass!).

    So thank you! For saying that its ok to vent and for making it ok to say that life is shit sometimes when you have a baby without following it up with 'maybe you need to see your GP about anti-depressants'... like it's not normal to sometimes hate your new life and want your old, child free, life back....

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  17. I agree with you about the dads. An old mate of mine once said to me "they say having kids is the best thing you can do in life. And now I've got one I can safely say that is absolute bollocks. They're a fucking nightmare."

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  18. Oh thank God I've found this article. Loving my little baby so much but if there is one thing that I'm trying to avoid are bullshit mothers. " ah everything is so perfect, every is so magic...." Magic my arse. Seriously. This ppl post pics on FB to show how perfect they lives are. Well, we know the photo can look brilliant but reality is different.
    Some mothers also think they are too special because they opened their legs up and now have a baby. They are in town pushing their buggies like crazy not respecting other ppl. They probably think childless ppl as not as special. Poor souls!

    Yo
    Sorry no google account

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  19. I LOVE THIS. You are awesome. YES! Please please please can we just say it like it really is somedays? I have- and received the awkward silence also (love your admission in breastfeeding group) and also feel sad when moms then quietly/secretly/shyly thank me later for being so honest... why do women do this to each other? I started my website because I was terrified of having the screaming baby on the airplane - and I didn't want to give up traveling. Has traveling with my child been easy? NOPE. But it has been worth it. So my mission is to help other moms find practical solutions to changing diapers on airplanes, screaming tantrums in airport security (mom and child) and a child refusing to buckle the seat belt. thank you for your honest and lovable blog.

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  20. Brilliant post! Can't wait to tell my friend about your blog! We share the good bits of being a mum...and all the crap!!! It's amazing how good you feel when you both realise you've had a nightmare experience getting toddler up and out to nursery, complete with meltdowns, carrying numerous bags and a scooter they refuse to ride, pulling a screaming toddler along the path!!!! We always end up in fits of laughter after comparing the dramas of the morning!!!! So much better than pretending it's all easy peasy!!! ������

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  21. Wish I had found you sooner. Am nearly crying with relief that I am not alone!

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  22. Sometimes there's just too much crap to lay on someone who asks an innocent question - I have been guilty of 'oversharing'!! - but it's amazing the response you get from most other Mums just by saying "Everything's a bit crap, really" rather than "Fine".

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  23. Nicky the Expat8 August 2015 at 23:52

    You first. Honestly, if you didn't have those badges in your sidebar for awards and networks and whatnot maybe this plea could be taken more seriously.... or maybe if you weren't online at all. I used to participate in the Bullshit Olympics, but I ended my blog, public profiles, and saved my photography for just family and friends. I truly escaped the game... have YOU?

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  24. Loving this blog!! I refuse to lie about my baby sleeping through the night. She's 8 months and still doesn't. My husband was talking to a teammate recently about their similar aged child who apparently sleeps 10-10 every night... After a 20 minute conversation where yer man offered to give my husband the number of a doctor an hour and a half's drive away, who could sort her out; it transpired that indeed his baby does wake for about 5 minutes every night... The same as our little bundle (on a good night). So even the men are delusional!!!

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  25. 1. Because mums at baby group really do not care. They want the sugar coated version let’s face it. Breast feeding, breast feeding, sleeping through the night - oh such a good baby. Yes I breastfed yes it is an amazing bonding experience but get over it – I’m really not fussed who breastfeeds or who bottle feeds. (I do go to baby and me playgroups regularly, not to talk honestly with other mums however, to exhaust my ridiculously social baby) I’m not really interested how often you breast feed little Wentworth or how he sleeps for 12 hours a night, (yes that’s great that he does) but, did you see Saturday Night Takeaway? How funny was get out of me earrr!!
    2. Some genuine people who ask don’t deserve an unload of emotions on them, childless friends I’m talking about. I think if you genuinely did tell all the childless people out there how tired they will be when their bundle of joy arrives… the human race would die out; I mean it simply wouldn’t exist.
    I tend to shy away from two children families just so I can have that rose tinted, four person family bubble dream still to look forward to.
    3. Some mums are genuinely happy every day. Don’t get me wrong my almost one year old doesn’t sleep through the night, she is the most energetic little baby I have ever known and wants me to play with her all the time but she has never driven me to crying in the bathroom or eating snacks, hiding on my own. I sometimes let her roam around the house by herself playing in the recycling box (don’t worry just the paper) while I watch Kardashians but she never makes me sad. Exhausted possibly but never sad. I’m not judging because I will get back to you when we have number two and am possibly more exhausted than I am now and all I can do is cry it out…

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