My middle child and I had a row about “Yum Yums” yesterday. “Yum Yums” for the unitiated are sugar-covered doughnut-type cakes to die-for from Marks & Spencer. I bought Yum Yums as a snack (before you shout, yes, I am aware of the endless lecturing in the media at the moment about sugar being more dangerous than alcohol, drugs, smoking, skydiving, solo circumnavigating the globe etc) thinking that my son would be pleased. I bought them with him in mind, a sort of bribery to get him to his tennis lesson after school. His response: “I hate Yum Yums, yuk, disgusting”.
So what you may ask? In itself, nothing new, same old “never getting it right” I suppose. Predictably, our interaction degenerated from therein to what can only be described as a right royal dressing-down by child of mother. I could rattle on about lack of respect, a need for firmer boundaries, a lecture on courtesy etc but actually although all of the above is valid what I actually started to think about what something quite different: success and how you measure it.
What has my child’s abject horror at the sight of a harmless Yum Yum got to do with that? Being a parent, particularly a stay-at-home parent, is a job like all other jobs in some ways but a job unlike any other in many ways. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of parenting is the lack of any sort of reassurance that you are doing well, any external acknowledgement of success. In fact, many people regard staying at home with your children as the soft option.
Many days with children can feel like an endless critique, an interminable ‘Yum Yum moment’. Conversations with children can become negotiations of the greatest sensitivity, requiring the skills of the United Nations. However when resolution is reached, there is no-one there to say “hey, you did a good job there” or to high-five you. There is no-one to marvel at your patience and ingenuity. There are no resolution skills courses, no time management courses, no presentation courses to go on in order to further your professionalism. All this and you are dealing, on a minute by minute basis, with little people who often defy all logic and all reason whilst throwing in the odd tantrum or left field comment such as “I want to be in another family not ours” (my daughter’s most recent refrain) to sorely test your people management skills.
It is not surprising then that we often question our parenting skills, wonder whether we are failing. We have no annual appraisal, no slap on the back, certainly no bonus or salary increase. So how do we measure our success? Success lies in all those moments which make the ‘Yum Yum moment’ worthwhile – when your child is happy, laughing, doing well at school and when they tell you that they love you. Those moments far outweigh the ‘Yum Yum moments’, they are precious and to be cherished.
There will not be much external approbation and you will have to put up with the glazed-over look at dinner parties when you say you are a stay-at-home mother. Your successes will not be shouted from the rooftops (although reassuringly your failings will remain largely unnoticed too!) but you will know when you’ve done well and the highs are incomparable with the highs from the average job. It’s worth remembering that actually you are doing the most difficult, most relentless, job of all even if you sometimes doubt your ability to succeed and your hard work goes largely unrecognised. It is OK to punch the air sometimes and go “yeah” – anyway, probably no-one will notice and if they do, so what?