14/09/2011 17:45 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

I Don't Know How She Does It - Or Why Bother?

I don't know how she does it - or why bother? AP

I still remember reading Allison Pearson's novel I Don't Know How She Does It , before I had children of my own. Her chilling insight into the guilt-ridden existence of a modern working mother was almost enough to put me off reproducing for good.

Now a whole new generation of women will be terrified by Sarah Jessica Parker's portrayal of the high stakes juggling performed by working mums in the film based on the book, which is released on Friday.


But what I don't really understand was why Pearson had to make such a meal out of motherhood.


One of the seminal scenes from the book is of Pearson's creation, Kate Reddy, frantically bashing shop bought mince pies around to make them look home made, lest the other school mums look down on her efforts. But honestly, I don't know why she bothers.

Perhaps things have changed since the book's publication in 2002, but there isn't a mother at my school who would feel shame at dumping a box full of shop bought cakes down on the class stall. I think Reddy was perhaps her own worst enemy, as it's only when you have the perception that you have to be perfect that parenting becomes such a grinding chore.

I think what lifted the weight off my shoulders was when I realised that no matter what I did as a parent my children would always find fault. I try my best, but then so did my mum and my sister and I still found plenty to criticise about her parenting skills.

In fact I remember being quite gobsmacked at a friend's wedding when he toasted his parents by saying he couldn't think of a single thing to complain about in his upbringing. It was either the wine talking or he'd had rose tinted specs perched on his nose when he'd written his wedding speech, as I firmly believe that along with death and taxes another immutable truth about life is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent


If your worst sin is shop bought cake or missing bath time because you had to work late then give yourself a pat on the back, rather than descending into maternal meltdown.


What also helps in my parenting journey is the sure knowledge that no one achieves that elusive 'it' alluded to in the title. Everyone is making constant compromises, balancing their children's needs with their own, working out how to earn enough to pay the mortgage while not missing out on too much with the children, or giving up work and missing the money and having an identity away from the home.

We are all in this mess together and no matter how serene the exterior of that mum toting a home made Victoria sponge looks, I'd bet my mortgage that underneath she is paddling just as hard as the harassed mum with the Mr Kipling box to keep everything afloat.

I know this because frequently friends exclaim those same seven words at me. I work and I have four small children, one a set of twins, aged from eight to two. This is enough to make people think I have achieved a miracle should I whip up a batch of fairy cakes for the school fair or arrive at drop off with my hair blow-dried.

What they don't know are the agonies I have passed in the small hours about not spending enough time with the children, about not giving enough of my attention to my career, about quite how the bills will be paid this month. I am just the same as everyone else. In fact by now I don't even try to do it all, because I know there is no point, I would just feel awful when I inevitably failed.

Of course there are bad parents, but those are probably the ones who don't give a monkey's whether they are getting it right or not.


Perhaps it would be useful to remember that if you are worrying about doing it all, you are probably not doing too badly at which point you can crack open the fondant fancies without even having to quell the urge to bash them around to make them look home made.


Do you agree that good enough is just fine?
Have you read the book? Are you going to see the film? Did it ring bells for you?