Motherhood, mistakes and the folly of labels
- Credit: Archant
Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country
SLUMMY, yummy, scrummy, chummy, scummy, crummy… there is a label for every mummy out there.
It’s the school gate phenomenon of recent times – identifying a mother’s parenting style based solely on her appearance.
Last week, a friend of mine revealed she had devised her own list of categories for the mums at the school gates of her daughter’s primary.
Among them were WAGS, those with flashy cars and fake nails; Barbies with caked-on make-up and a fresh blow dry; Scaries boasting fluorescent hair dye and a mosaic of tattoos; Gym Bunnies clad head to toe in lycra; and Bubblewrap Queens whose precious, germ-free brats are cushioned in cotton wool.
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“And don’t forget Supermum,” she said. “She has a brood of six, the boobs and bum of a teenager and a well-paid job.”
“Blimey,” I replied, impressed. “She sounds perfect. So what am I?”
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“Oh you are like me,” she chirped. “You’re mad mum. Your kids wear mismatched socks and your hair is a bit frizzy but you are easy to chat to and you make great cake.”
“I do make a good Victoria Sandwich,” I concede.
She continued: “You are more crummy than yummy, less slummy than chummy, a teeny bit scummy but deliciously scrummy.”
As you can imagine, this analysis was not quite as clear as Supermum’s complexion, but help was at hand.
A few clicks on my iPhone and I found an App devised by Sarah Tucker, author of The Playground Mafia, which sorts you into one of eight mother breeds.
Apparently I am plummy. Outwardly in control but having a meltdown behind the façade. The sort who has two children, feels her brain has shrunk in recent years and has a perpetual scowl on her face.
I would try and defend myself but I fear the permanent crease on my forehead would betray me.
I suppose I should be grateful I am not ommmi, the Feng Shui loving hippy who won’t mix with mums who are not compatible star signs, or indeed chummy, who makes it her business to know the business of every other mother in the playground.
According to Tucker, the chummy mummy is the one to avoid at all cost. She calls all the teachers by their first names, knows the timetable off by heart and seamlessly manages the family schedule of extra curricular activities for her academically successful but emotionally detached children.
There is another label for this type of parent - the Tiger Mum.
This is a designation given to mothers who raise successful children by being strict. By focusing exclusively on their children’s academic perfection, these mothers hope to produce children who are able to achieve better performance in academic excellence, musical mastery and professional success.
The most well-known of these is Chinese Professor Amy Chua who wrote a book arguing that there was far more to parenting than just parenting itself.
The fact that your children are fed, watered, healthy and happy is of little consequence, it seems. What’s important in China, she argues, is your child’s report card.
It’s an expensive business being this type of parent.
The latest stats reveal that the average cost of bringing up a child from birth to 21 has rocketed to an astonishing £222,000.
The overall figure is more than £4,000 up on last year and £82,000 more than a decade ago – and it doesn’t allow for extra-curricular activities.
Throw in piano lessons, £75-per hour tutors, French class, calligraphy, ballet, gymnastics, swimming and Tai Chi, not to mention private school fees and a couple of kids will set you back a cool million.
Professor Chua will tell you it’s worth every penny – that her girls are both grade-A students and brilliant musicians.
But the Tiger approach to motherhood is one that I, personally, don’t have the bank account – nor the inclination and energy - to explore.
I am also going to go out on a limb here and suggest that, whatever label you might give your mummy counterparts, there is absolutely no such thing as a perfect parent.
A recent survey on website BabyCentre found pressure on mothers to be faultless means more than half have been forced to lie about their skills to make them seem better to their peers.
More than 50% said they resorted to fabricating stories about their childrearing experiences rather than admit to others that they don’t always do what is considered to be the right thing.
Come on mummies, surely this suggests that for the sake of motherhood, we should stop judging each other and stick together instead?
As I see it, having children is an exhausting business with relentless challenges, requiring an unbelievable reserve of patience and energy.
Despite our best intentions, we all make mistakes.
And any mother who claims they don’t should fall into a category all of her own - dummy mummy.
Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.