Are You A Bad Mother?

25/07/2017 10:59 | Updated 01 August 2017
Susie Gilmour

'Trust yourself: you know more than you think you do'. Wise words from the opening chapter of the famous Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care. When I was brought up, this was the only book my mother had on 'parenting'; with four children, a fairly non-domesticated husband, a dog, a part-time job, and little money, I suspect she didn't have time to read much else, even were it available. As has become the slogan for her generation, she 'just got on with it.'

Fast forward forty years, and parenting has become a profession. You walk into any bookshop and the shelves of the 'parenting' section are bowing under the weight of books and manuals offering up expert advice on every conceivable aspect of child rearing, and a few inconceivable ones. As undeniably useful as they can be, this proliferation of so-called 'helpful' literature has transformed parenting from an organic instinctual evolving relationship into a set of complex skills - to be learned and mastered. In essence, sending the opposite message to Dr Spock's: don't trust yourself.

Inevitably, by recasting parenting as a skill, it becomes something which you can be less or more 'skilled' at, turning it into a comparative and competitive exercise, with the implied shared goal of perfection. Add to the mix social media, which only serves to perpetuate this myth by providing a stage to showcase everyone's 'best bits' of parenting, and it's little wonder modern mothers may feel they have fallen short of the mark.

Thankfully, as a timely tonic, Hurrah for Gin came along, Katie Kirby's hilarious account of parenting which, together with a whole host of other funny and candid blogs on the subject, succeed in humanising mothers by portraying the real and relatable less-than-perfect truth. Ironically, although we live in a 24-hour interconnected world, motherhood can make one feel quite alone at times. Knowing there are others out there feeling and thinking the way you do, can make all the difference. As Victor Borge said, 'laughter is the shortest distance between two people'.

And this was my aim with Bad Mother: to create a character who was real and flawed. Not a bad mother per se, just someone who feels like a bad mother; constantly trying to get it right - whatever 'right' is - and berating herself for somehow getting it wrong. My hope is that she will resonate with mothers, and that they will come away from watching it feeling a little less inadequate in this world of professionalised parenting, and a little more able to trust that they are doing just fine. As my late father would often say to me in his gentle, reassuringly wise way as I walked out of the door to sit an exam feeling very far from wise: 'You know more than you think you do'.

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