The Dutiful Mother

I have been child rearing for 8.5 years, and sometimes I think I’m a bit of a veteran, having 3 of the blighters and all. But as in anything, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, giant other-mothers, who over the years have given me words or insights that have been key to my evolution as a mother.

The dutiful mother…

I’ve written about her before, elsewhere, and she has stayed with me for the past 8 years. She is the sister of a good friend of G, and I met her at a flat when I had a 3 month old and she had a 4 year old and 5 month old. I was aaahing and oohing over her two, saying how much she must love being a mum etc. She looked at me straight up and said “It’s not about love, first and foremost I am a dutiful mother”. She went on to express to me how of course she loved her kids etc, but that mothering is not always about the roses and hearts and flowers (a place I totally was with my ONE very easy 3-month old) but about being there for the duration, and doing your duty by your kids through thick and thin.

As slightly shocking as her words were at that moment, they have come back to me many times over the years, and as a well seasoned mum of 3 now I totally get it. You love them, you do. But it’s not love that always keeps you going ‘cos sometimes you feel that you don’t like them, and in those times it’s your duty as a mother that keeps you feeding, cleaning, working, hugging, washing and all the other tasks that you have to do.

I’m not saying that duty keeps you from enjoying them, I’m saying that in fact it’s the backbone of good enough parenting, and of this type of long term care that can too often be thankless and relentless.

So, thank you dutiful mother, your words have grounded and comforted me.

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The Dutiful Mother

Bribe and punishment

Bribing your children is wrong, right? It smacks of pushy parents who pay cash for an A, B or C. Or over-anxious parents of younger kids offering sweet rewards for every bit of green stuff. I mean, how are kids gonna value learning if they have to learn “only” to get paid, how a kids going to learn about healthy eating if they feel green stuff is something to get over with so the real fun can start?

Maybe. Let’s get a little deeper. Bribes are wrong, bribes are bad news, lazy measures for lazy parents who can’t control or reason with their kids. The last resort, a bad habit, second-rate parenting.

Maybe.

Picture this. A tired mum picks up two tired kids after school. Gets on train, then the metro, then faces the walk home. All the way there are dangers (tracks, strangers, pickpockets, closing doors). All the way there is crying, bickering, tiredness from their respective long days and lack of parental attention. The journey takes an hour of vigilance. Nerves a frayed on arrival at home, but dinner, baths and homework still need to be completed.

Is there really something wrong with said mum offering a sweet in return for staying close to her on the way home? Is it a bad thing if it allows her some control over them to ensure they still have all their fingers after tackling the half-dozen escalators they have to ride, to make sure they don’t run off into the crowd of commuters, or to help them all get home with the maximum good energy left to face the tasks of the evening ahead?

Picture this. Teens like money, teens like going out, buying new things. Exams are about memorizing stuff, stuff you often don’t use later. Parents know good grades unlock certain “levels” (I.e. the next one). Teens study more knowing they will get to buy stuff, and they get to next level. Win win.

Picture this. Kids eat spinach to get ice cream, kid learns that you eat savory healthy food before dessert, and eventually will do so out of habit, as most adults do.

Maybe.

I’m being devils advocate here. I am the first mum, yes. But I don’t have a teen, and when I do I don’t think I will bribe them (I will just “bribe” them for doing housework), and I have never and probably will never do the spinach-ice cream scenario because I just find something else they will eat before eating yoghurt for pudding which is the standard dessert around here. And I would accept yoghurt as a meal substitute in any case.

I just want to show that bribing can be useful, it can be necessary even, it can be ok. It can be one of the ways you get things done, make an unbearable situation bearable, sweeten the bitter pill. So, as with most things, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water and remember there are many right ways.

Bribe and punishment

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This blog is mainly as a portal through which to express my creativity, thoughts and ideas. It’s mostly about parenting, maybe a specific a style of parenting which I’m coming to recognise as something I could call ‘inclusive’ parenting… I will probably add my own personal musings, recipes, links, ideas or whatever else springs to mind…

And btw, thanks very much to Sarah P, who inspired the name of this blog with her comments.

 

Note: December 2014. A place to evolve. When I started this blog I was a SAHM, most of my posts were about tiredness and parenting. Now, I work and most of my blogs are about tiredness and feminism. Go figure 😉

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