Recently I spent the day with a friend who also happens to be another mum. I dislike the term but it’s fair to say that she’s probably my closest “mummy friend”, although I have very few. Her daughter is the same age as Arthur and we go to groups together and met in a toddler park. All of which cements the friendship and legitimises our time spent eating pretend cakes and playing in sandpits, but honestly, we’d be mates without the two tiny, toddling dictators. She’s been through a hell of a lot in her life and she keeps going. She’s hilarious and generous and her daughter is adorable and strong-willed like her mum.
This particular day, after Messy play, Peppa Pig, bus journeys, appointments and countless raisins and rice crackers, both kids fell asleep so we took the opportunity to stop at a cafe and eat real cake and drink hot coffee. And there we met her; Wondermum (TM).
Wondermum owns the cafe, looks incredible and has, she super-casually mentioned, six children. Six. In the inimitable words of Shaz from Bridget Jones, “fuck me”. My sister, who is VERY similar to my mummy friend and has also faced a lot in her life, had four kids and that’s incredible enough but six is unbelievable. Well, yes, actually, as it turned out Wondermum has three kids and three stepchildren. Her mother runs the cafe for her, her rich husband funds her life whilst he works away during the week and she’s only 29, hence looking great. Woooh! Parent goals starting to be slightly more attainable.
What offended both my friend and me though, was that instead of taking compliments from us and laughingly maintaining the camaraderie of exhausted parents (bear in mind we’re in a cafe, we’re looking for lightweight chatter with like-minded people), Wondermum started proselytising about how to parent. There were rules to her serenity and we needed to follow them if we too wanted to achieve true motherhood, any diversion from her way was wrong. Music instead of telly, no swearing, smoking or drinking in front of the child, and my personal niggle – your house should only be super clean if you’re a miserable person with no time for true parenting.
We left the cafe before either of us could stab her with a cake fork or, more likely, before the boy did something unruly or unseemly and the motivational speaking turned to all-out lecturing.
What I keep coming back to, though, is this; yes, she has an incredible life and obviously her way works for her but I would take an afternoon spent covered in felt tip and glitter with my friend or my sister, knowing what I know about them and their lives and how great their kids are turning out, eating the cake bought from Wondermum’s cafe, over a single minute of listening to her soulless, hollow, parent-shaming crap. Truly motivational, inspirational people don’t lecture, they guide, they support. They certainly don’t compare or judge. They make me want to be a better mum to Arthur, whilst reassuring me that I’m already doing well. And that’s what you want to hear. Especially if there’s cake too.