I made a lot of presumptions about motherhood before I actually became a mother. Why I did this, I’m not sure. Maybe I presumed it would be easier than it looked. Maybe society had fed me misinformation. Maybe I was just a little deluded in terms of what parenting was all about.
But I think a lot about those motherhood myths as I’m going about my life as a parent these days. Sometimes I nod along in agreement, as some of my preconceptions still hold. But often I giggle quietly to myself, because so many of these parenting myths I held in my mind have been completely busted. And both of these types of myths resurfaced when I read local author Gail Schimmel’s newest book: The Park.
The book opens each of the early chapters with a line on what good mothers do and some of these include:
Good mothers take their children to the park
Good mothers are friendly and make good friends
Good mothers are not judgemental
Good mothers have birthday parties
Good mothers don’t gossip
Now I don’t know about you but I find the park such a mission with kids. First of all you have to pack a bag the same size as if you were going away for a weekend, just in case they get tired, hungry, cold etc. Then there is normally whining involved once they’re there, because they want to climb up the highest slide and jump 5 metres to their death (but why CAN’T I Mommy?!) or fight with another kid about who gets to go on the swing. Then there is the small talk you have to endure with total strangers and suddenly you wonder how you ended up on a rusty merry-go-ground at dusk, falling off and grazing your knee as you spin madly around, all in an attempt to let your child have some “fun” (and be a good mother).
Then there is the friendship part. I’ve written before about finding your tribe when you have kids and that has been a wonderful bonus to becoming a parent. But no one talks about all the times BEFORE that actually happens. The meeting of eyes every morning outside the school gates, and the glimmer of a smile you need to give to other mothers so you don’t appear to be a total bee-atch. The forced small talk about the teacher, or the weather, or some other uninteresting current event. When meanwhile, all you want to do is grab your child swiftly, hug them close and get home as soon as you can, without interacting with too many new people because you already have friends and you really don’t need to make any more.
And then: don’t get me started on the judgemental and gossiping parts. Other mothers are some of the most judgemental gossips I’ve ever met.
Finally we come to birthday parties, another parenting aspect that I simply don’t thrive at. I find them stressful and exhausting. And competitive. It makes me just want to take my family out for a milkshake and a cupcake, give my child a present, tell them how much I adore them and then be done with it all.
Some other motherhood myths I believed before I had kids:
Good mothers don’t let their kids watch TV (oops)
Good mothers don’t bribe their children with sweets (have NEVER done that, obvs)
Good mothers love doing crafts (erm, I outsource the crafts to my husband. I am completely incapable)
Good mothers make all of their own baby food (I did this for my first-born before I discovered Woolies)
Good mothers find motherhood natural and easy (sorry what?!)
I was clearly deluded.
So I loved The Park because it examines many of these aspects of motherhood, but also because it was a very gripping story, filled with suspense, as well as a wonderfully easy read. It’s based in Joburg, and having lived there for quite a while, I could see some of the locations, scenarios and character types that Gail included in her story and it felt wonderfully familiar. But it also felt unsettling, because it felt very close to home.
I’m not going to write a whole review of the story, because that has already been wonderfully done by other bloggers on #TheParkBlogTour. Amy on The Bookish and Melinda on The Book Musings (where you can also win a copy) share their thoughts on The Park. You can also read what Sharon of the Blessed Barrenness had to say about Cross Racial Families via Adoption, another topic central to the story. And then finally, you can hear from Mumina Hoosain as she gives her perspective on reading The Park as a soon-to-be first-time mom.
Besides being very entertaining, The Park made me take a long hard look at who good mothers are, and what they do, and WHY we do these things as mothers. Ultimately, I think that they come in all shapes and sizes and guises. There is no perfect mother, only those who are trying, and who do the very best for their children, depending on whatever life throws their way. The one motherhood myth I agree with fully is that we DO need to try and be less judgemental. If children are safe, and happy and loved, that’s what matters in the end.
You can buy The Park on Takealot for R185.
What motherhood myths did you believe before you had kids? I’d love to hear them.
P.S. I was sent a review copy of The Park by Pan Macmillan in order to write this post.
P.P.S Congrats to Natasha Govender who is the winner of that awesome Paw Patrol Hamper worth R2500!