I don’t think I’m a bad mother – but I do wish I was a better parent. I wish I didn’t get so bored, or so angry, so frustrated or impatient.
I wish I didn’t feel so anxious all the time. I wish I was more of a hippy, or more relaxed or something. I wish it wasn’t all so hard.Or I wish I didn’t care about those things. I wish I didn’t give a damn about being a better parent. I wish I could just say, happily, ‘Oh, we all got through to the end of the day alive – that’s all that matters!’
I wish I knew that being ‘good enough’ was fine (whatever that means).
But I can’t. I’m just not like that. And if having children has taught me anything, it’s that you have to be realistic about what you are like if you want to survive.
I thought I would have many children, but it turns out, I think, that I am one of those people who are only going to have two – are only capable of having two. That’s my number, even though I know that people with three or more feel sorry for the ‘only twos’.
But then I also know families where there are four siblings who never speak to each other – who move to opposite corners of the world at the first opportunity – and I know families of only a brother and a sister who speak every day, who are each other’s best friends, who could not imagine there being another sibling.
I started out as a parent thinking that I knew everything about parenthood and I find myself, now – with my youngest child taking his first steps, finding his voice and a connection with the world – knowing for certain that I know nothing.
But I know more about me. I know that, despite being a bit of a square, despite being a reliable person, I do not like responsibility. And I really don’t like the crushing responsibility that comes with parenting small children.
- This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. We’re going to be serialising it over the next few weeks but if you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here.