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The not fun mother.

My five big kids are going away today for four days.

Two to their grandmother’s house

and three to an escape camp for siblings with difficult lives.

Apparently having Ivy for a sister is hard.

When we woke this morning Ivy asked when they would be home

and when I answered

she commented (in a totally seven year old, non thinking way)

‘good, because it’s only  fun when they’re at home.’

Oof.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that didn’t hurt.

I haven’t been that kind of mother,

that kind of person

for a very long time -

if ever.

I have always been the rule maker,

the lesson teacher,

the bad cop to everyone’s good

and I will admit that I gave up trying to be the sole mother of the small pair years ago.

When you have lots of older kids in the house

parenting becomes a group affair.

I don’t ‘play’ with them because there have always been younger, more energetic preferences.

I don’t do any of those things because I have more or less been pushed out of the way.

I make the play dough but I’m not the right company for the modelling of it.

I mix up the colours but I’m not a part of the art group.

I teach but I’m not a member of the class

and

isn’t  it supposed to be like that anyway?

I’m not sure.

When Imogen and Madeline were little

and when Lily was small

I was very hands on.

I taught them everything I knew about the world.

I taught them nursery rhmes

and songs

and how to dress a dolly.

I taught them about art and crafts

and cooking

and anything else I thought would broaden their universe.

When AJ and Mal came into our lives

I taught them too

but when it came to Ivy and Noah

everything I tried to teach them

everything I tried to impart

had already been given away by their siblings.

For a while I fought with them -

these tiny educators

but in the end I figured that having a miriad of tutors was going to be wonderful.

A rich tapestry of thinkings to help the small pair learn about their world

and I guess I became lazy

and complacent

and less of a mother because of it

because, as Ivy so aptly told me,

I’m not fun to be around.

Knowing that hurts a whole lot more than it probably should.

It hurts because I have already been questioning my place in this life.

Some days

and especially lately

I feel as though I am a ghost in my own home;

a shadow of the person I once was.

My personality dulled down so as not to upset the very people who are supposed to love me

just as I am.

My husband is hurting because his mother’s life force is draining from this world

and everything that I think and say seems to pain him more.

Totally understandable, of course.

If I let the teenagers know how I am feeling about something

they believe it to be directed towards them personally (and I know that this is normal as well)

I can’t even tell them that I will miss them this week because that is running a guilt trip on them, apparently

and I am damaging their need to be independant

grounding them

and teaching them to never want to leave home -

and so I have learnt to become quiet(er)

to hold my tongue

to not be myself

but in doing that I’ve lost who I am

or

I’ve buried who I am for the ‘good’ of the family at large.

Even more than when I became a mother first and foremost,

even more than when I  gave up my career to look after my sick baby

so that David could further his.

Making waves and causing conflict has never been big on my list of accomplishments.

I’ve given everything away to be the best parent I can be for my children

the best wife I can be for my partner

but

as is seemingly a mother’s lot,

it is not appreciated in the way it was intended

and those intentions clearly fall short in the expectations of a seven year old child.

 

 

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19 Responses to “The not fun mother.”

  • Kathy:

    You are an amazing writer Tiffany, I would love to be able to express myself as you do. I read all you blog posts, some make me laugh, some make me cry but of all of them this is the one I relate to the most. I really don’t think a mothers lot is ever appreciated in the way it was intended unfortunately. Having been there, done that and come out the other side and am now a grandmother who is fun to be around, I say hang in there mate xx

  • Oh Tiff. I feel for you so much, because on a smaller scale I get this with my youngest. Her two big sisters are more playful than me, apparently – and so is her Dad. It’s still Mum for stories, though. I cling to my crown as the Queen of Reading Time.

    The balance between expressing your own needs and heart, and not imposing pressures on developing minds, is SO hard and I know I have never got it even close to right. I guess we just muddle on as best we can and the tragedy is that someone like you, who is a mistress at putting other people first, gets a little lost on the journey. So many hugs, if you would welcome them.

  • tricia (167 comments.):

    Life has necessitated – and allowed – you to be less of a playmate with the youngest two. I remember the days, at about that age, that my girls thought I wasn’t fun either. Now they tend to choose time with me over time away from home. They have realized that we won’t be together forever and no longer take my presence for granted. Hang in there. Playmate or not, you are a great mom!

  • Meg:

    Tiff, you are the most amazing mum ever, you have no need for Mothers guild… you’ve done SO much for your kids. I only have three kids and the first is the only one I was hands on with! My middle daughter is 7, still cant tie her shoe laces, ride a bike or swim properly. Now that is a slack mum. But you know what, we all do the best we know how. And you are doing SO much for your kids that it is wonderful that you have a village to help you raise the youngest two. It’s special and when they grow up and look back, they will love that and they will know exactly what you’ve done for them. Dont be hard on yourself. Enjoy your week with the youngest two. Maybe start up a new tradition with them, or a new game… but mostly, just enjoy them and dont be hard on yourself. .xxxx

  • Dianne Nunn (24 comments.):

    Tiff, you do sound a bit drained and tired. I think it is great that the big kids are going away for a while – they are growing up. As for the little ones – I think Ivy is just saying how she feels about the others being away – not about you being there. After all you are the constant in her life and in Noah’s. Every member of your family do it tough in different ways. You do have a huge burden to carry but you do a great job and I am sure Ivy would not be as healthy (relatively) as she is without your strength.

    As for you – well mummies do get taken for granted – it means you are doing it well. We are not meant to be play mates we are meant to be parents.

    As a previous writer said – hang in there. Being a grandmother of 4 gorgeous kids and godmother and childminder of 2year old twins I can look back on the hard parenting days with the knowledge that I can play with these youngsters without having to be the “parent”.

    Take care and speak up for yourself when you need to. You have the right to be heard even if it doesn’t suit everyone to hear what you feel.
    Dian xxx

  • Leanne H:

    Awwwww, it’s so easy to get lost in the day to day – and you have more than most on your plate! From what I have seen you have raised, and are raising some fantastic kids there…go easy on yourself – and maybe you’ll be able to have some playtime while the big kids are away! Sending you a smile and a hug!

  • Pixie:

    It’s such a fine line to walk being a mum

    To balance out the discipline,the teaching and everything else that goes with it

    My girls are slipping away too

    I feel for you

    Hugs xxxxxxxxx

  • Kate:

    Hi Tiff, life is so hard, and yours is particularly hard, for many different reasons, not just because you have a sick child. No wonder you feel lost. People with half of what you’ve got on your plate can feel lost so it is small wonder you’re feeling this way. I don’t know much, and as I get older I feel more confused and like I know even less than I did when I was young, but the only thing I know for sure is nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux. You feel this way now but feelings (yours, and your family’s) change all the time. Life has many phases (as your last post about the friends of your youth so clearly illustrated, and moved a lot of people because of its truth). I really sincerely with all my heart hope that you enter a happier phase soon. xxxx

  • BW aka Barbara from Bostoncg:

    Miss the biggies, enjoy the littles and try to get a little rest :–}

  • Melissa Mitchell (42 comments.):

    Darling Tiff. You’ve hardly been a lazy parent. You’ve been a mama and a nurse and a doctor and a psychologist and a guidance counsellor and a teacher and a chef and a driver and confidante and a friend and a rescuer (don’t say it isn’t so). And you’ve been plenty fun. I seem to remember dip dyed hair and photo shoots and fairy and superhero parties and girl talk. I remember you as cheerleader to a young girl who’s teachers told her she’d never have what it took to go into medicine. I’ve seen you take on power and doctors and tight, hard groups of health care professionals.

    You’re the mother I had imagined myself. Fun bits and not-so-fun bits. Devoted. Dedicated. Brave.
    But you’re a woman too. And a daughter and a sister and friend. And rather than letting the group parents get the fun stuff, maybe it’s time they had to recognise some of the not-so-fun stuff you have to do. Some of the running of a household stuff. To give you time to do the good stuff.

    Or maybe they need to miss you because you’ve gone away for a few days to have girl time. Just you and other adults. Maybe Dave and the girls and the boys need to see what would happen if you were absent from their lives for just a few days.

    I get, to an extent though, how isolated you feel. I was feeling very, very like that 6 months ago. And still do at times. For different reasons. Yours are not of your doing. They have been thrust upon you and you are forced to sink or swim, with a dozen on your back. Mine is simply health and anxiety related. But it’s such a lonely feeling. Seeing them as a group. And feeling as though maybe you stand on the outside. Useful for the day-to-day care but superfluous to the fun.

    I don’t know what the answer is.
    As for the missing the big kids and guilting them. I don’t know if it was them or somebody else that threw that at you. Throw it back. Tell them to suck it up. You’re a Mama and you are supposed to miss them. You’re supposed to want them to miss you and need you and want you there. The alternative – a mother who doesn’t care, or worse – no mother at all {even when you’re grown} is too horrible for them to imagine.

  • Lyndel:

    I think you deserve a few days at an escape camp too. Maybe drinks n nibbles at a friends place or some opportunity to recharge your spirit, be kind to yourself.

  • Sue:

    Tiff, Tiff, Tiff …. being a Mum is an a job for unsung heroes. My two are 20 and 24 and right now I feel I’m only good to them if they need something otherwise they’d not even notice if I was around or not. I’m not saying they don’t love me, oh boy, I know they do and they would hate to think I feel kind of used at times. Unfortunately I guess that’s part of life, part of being a Mum, part of being a parent and dare I say it, part of being a woman!

    My youngest moved out last year and it’s been tough, tough for me to learn how to react and talk to her without feeling like I’m being nosy. Now my eldest and his girlfriend are about to build a home together and so, by the end of the year, we’ll have two empty bedrooms. On one hand I’m really looking forward to it but on the other, I’m not. I’m going to miss having afternoon coffee with my son when he gets home, miss the chats my son, hubby and I have over dinner.

    Obviously this is a new phase I’m about to learn about, and here I thought once the kids finished school all the worries are over … pfft!!! What a joke!

    Believe me, Ivy is going to snuggle up to you while the kids are away. Of course, she probably relates mother/daugher time to being away in hospital or being at home sick. I’ll lay bets that she’s going to have a fabulous time just being Ivy & Mummy for a while – doing girly things, and I know you well enough Tiff to know that you’ll do special things together and before we all know it there’s going to be fun photos on here for us to all share and giggle at.

    Don’t fret Tiff, your big babies and little babies all love you to bits and wouldn’t want you to be anything other than what you are right now!

  • Mary:

    Hey, Tiff! I tell my son all the time – how you’re feeling now is completely overwhelming, but hang on, because feelings can change so quickly. I hope you’re feeling happier by now. I also tell my son – not as some magic cure-all, but a quick way to feel better in the now – sing. All the great old songs. Waltzing Matilda, Click go the Shears, and belt out Yellow Submarine too. I GUARANTEE by the time you’ve sung for 15 minutes you’ll feel better. THEN look back at feeling crap and work out what to do about it.

    You gave your older kids wisdom and fun, and you’ve given the younger kids older siblings. They’ll get fun and wisdom from them, but a different kind of wisdom than they get from you. You can’t be everything to everyone, it’s just not possible. The important thing is that you’re a great person. You’re consciously trying to do your best. That really counts for something – but not by kids, give that ten to twenty years. Then they’ll work it out.

    And I have to say, I’m with Melissa on telling them to suck it up – everyone has to deal with inconvenient worries and emotions, the world isn’t going to step round them for any special reason, it’ll roll right over them like it does everybody else. Woops, that was a bit of a downer – the good news is, surviving the world is an achievement and an invigorating experience. You’ve been sounding a bit down lately – sending you heaps of love and energy – may not feel like it now, but things will get better for you. xxx

  • Mum:

    Sadly, this is very commonly a mother’s lot, when the mid-teens feel they can do the mothering thing just as well or better and when they are beginning to test the waters for independence and resent restrictions placed on them.

    Most mothers by the age of forty have pretty much taught their kids all there is to know before they reach those ages where life’s experiences become the teacher. In your case it is a little different, granted, but take heart in the knowledge that all you have been and done for your older kids, is now being reflected in their care & teaching of your little ones. They are not afraid to tell how they are feeling, because you have been open about your feelings, too. Never mind the “guilt” trip angle, either, because I’m here to tell you that when you are away from them, Dave included, they miss you terribly and all that you do. You are so appreciated even though they may not say or show it, all they need to know is when you’re coming home because everything, in your absence, has to be “done” your way. Nothing else will do! :-)

    So even though you are very naturally feeling left out of the total picture, along with ingratitude, lack of appreciation and uselessness, you must know within yourself that you have done the very best in all aspects of parenting and now it’s ok to take a step back, let the oldies have some measure of control (though not all, the tough decisions will still be yours) with the younger ones and take stock of the next stage in your life, where you can start to dedicate some time to self. Continue to let it be known how you are feeling, and that you miss them when they’re away (and always will, wherever life takes them) because that is being honest with them & to yourself. xoxo

  • rachel:

    Couldnt agree more with Kathy, the first comment…. i too get right into your blogs and think yep, i know what she means, or god yes i feel the same!
    Thank you for being so open about all that goes through your mind and soul.. and most of all your heart.
    Dont beat yourself up Tiff, you are a wonderful mother and i have seen you be a wonderful mother and friend to all your children!
    I think every child has a ‘more fun’ person in their lives other than mum n dad, for my kids its pop or uncle james… they are so silly and love to play silly buggers… of course they do, as they can pick n chose when they do it… me i got to try and fit it in every day
    xx

  • Dianne:

    Hi Tiff, you are a wonderful mum no doubt about it. It is sad when your children become more independent and dont seem to need or appreciate you as much, but it has to happen, otherwise they could never leave us and start their own lives. Deep down they know how much you have done for them. Ivy and Noah are very lucky to have such caring siblings but it is obvious how much they love you. Enjoy this special time with your youngest pair. As for having the time to have fun with Ivy, I think you are being too harsh on yourself. Children don’t expect perfection, there is no such thing. Ivy relies and trusts you when she is sick, she will never forget how you have cared and supported her. As for lack of comments, I always read but sometimes everyone else seems to express their thoughts so much better than I could that there feels like nothing I could add.

  • river (193 comments.):

    I think you’re over thinking everything.
    I’m sure Ivy didn’t mean that you’re not fun, just that the home is more fun when everyone is there.
    Remember she is used to a house filled to the rafters with people.

  • Sam:

    “and three to an escape camp for siblings with difficult lives.
    Apparently having Ivy for a sister is hard”

    this bothered me.

    I can’t image how hard it is for them, to have your mum and their little sister away so often, to have plans changed at the last moment, waiting for the next round of sickness which will take mums attention away from them and I bet they worry about ivy too.

    Just because they are not physically sick like Ivy doesn’t mean they are not affected – probably more than you realise.

  • Tiff (107 comments.):

    Sam,
    Wow.
    I really can’t believe that you just wrote that,(actually I probably can, if you’re the same Sam who is always finding the flaws in my personality), when I am the first to acknowledge how hard all of this is on everyone in the family – especially the kids. Sorry I didn’t use the right wording to describe my feelings adequately for you.
    Of course being a public blog, I guess you feel you have the right to judge me and be vocal about it.
    I freely admit to be less than perfect in all of this but you drill it home girl. Do you know me in real life? Do you even care about how all of this has affected me, changed me from the person I once was or do you just like coming here just to make sure I realise just how awful I truly am.

    Thanks for you opinion of my character Sam.