I’ve always been pretty critical upon seeing myself as a mother. I’m fully aware of my weakness, mistakes and repeated flaws. And being a buitenlander (foreigner) in the country I’m living now, the worry of being in contrast to what serves as a custom here constantly bugs me.
I often observe and conclude that my way of child bringing is often not similar to the Dutchies. They have this confident, calm and serene aura around them. The adults speak softly to the children, and the children play peacefully while still being obedient to the parents.
Contrary to the Dutchies, I’m a frantic – almost hysterical mom. And my kids? They have proven themselves since their birth days that they do have stronger vocal chords and lungs compared to the Netherlands kids.
I’m not blaming this on my original culture – yes it has been proven that a certain upbringing brought up certain characters; hence the differences between people that come from different parts of the world. But I would say that my problems come mainly from my own personality and shortcomings. It makes no difference how I come up with these problems, I just don’t want the world to look at me strangely just because I have colour and my kids misbehave themselves in public. Or because I don’t look up to their standards.
I tried to improve myself by reading. But my reading of parenting books doesn’t really help. Well it helps me bunch to improve myself, but still many times the progress feels not fast enough. I’m not that ideal mom I’d like to be.
This is not so much an issue when we’re home. My conscience constantly reminds me of my mistakes, but I’m safe behind the wall of my house. Hiding my inability in controlling my children – and controlling myself. But when I’m outside, side to side with what I see as perfect mothers with their perfect children, I can’t help but feel small and wish I would be better than what I am now.
This afternoon we brought the kids out to play basketball. My son acted up and roared out his 100 dB scream – expressing his dissatisfaction with our effort to make him happy. After sitting with him in the car for 10 minutes, listening to his woes and later correcting his thoughts and bringing him out to play again, I brought my daughter to a playground nearby to play.
There came a mother with three children, all in the range of 2 years to 5 years old. She looked tired but she had a nice coat – suiting her on this rainy day. I stole glances and saw her three kids, all looked nice and orderly. I started to compare her to myself – wondering why on earth I left the house on this cold day without a coat, and brought none for my children either. Such an irresponsible mom!
I watched her move around and thought sheepishly, how did she manage to look so composed, having three little children like that? I only have two – and mine are older now, but I looked like a bum compared to her.
I think she saw me or she simply felt it was too hot anyway, so she opened her coat.She was wearing a chic maroon jumpsuit inside. A jumpsuit for a mom with 3 toddlers? I could never figure out how they go to the toilet wearning a one piece. For me, any mom wearing a onesie is considered a deity – only a mom with a great self confidence (about their non-bulging tummy) and self control (to hold their pee) can wear a one piece in public!
A little after that, as all the children were playing peacefully, suddenly I heard her screaming. I looked up from my phone and saw her yelling at her daughter. The little girl took off her sandals – and the mother was upset, worried that she would step on a broken glass or something.
A reasonable cause to be alert, but I simply didn’t expect her to be hysterical about that! I’m not judging her. That reaction would perhaps be mine (when such a thing happens), but really, in my overgeneralized belief, I never expect a caucasian mom to throw out a tantrum about children taking off sandals.
I tried hard not to look at them directly, not wanting to embarass her. And while this mother kept her long speech about why the kid should have listened to her, I was busy thinking about what I should do in a situation like this. Should I offer a helping hand – because behind her cool impression she was clearly an overloaded mom after all. Will I do mom-shaming doing something like that?
Or should I just let it go, letting her scream like this? Minding my own business and letting her do her parenting even when it seemed a little bit scary?
At the end the screaming ended. The child was unharmed. My daughter smiled nervously. I guessed she didn’t know what to do either. And perhaps she remembered me – and later realized that her mom is not the only ‘crazy’ mom.
I didn’t discuss it with my daughter. She understands my language but explaining this accident would need to be done in Dutch. I just told her that it’s time to go and fetch her brother and go to our next destination.
On our way home, I contemplated this. That mother was certainly overwhelmed, hence the emotional reaction. Her battle is so similar to mine – if not worse with more children in hand. The battle to raise our children and protect them, and at the same time correct and redirect them when they take a wrong turn – this battle and so much more is not only mine.
It doesn’t matter what colour a mom has, or whether she’s highly educated or culturally more prepared for this role. It doesn’t matter if she looks more composed and calm, or fashions in a way we would never be able to afford. This battle of motherhood is not ours alone.
I hearted this mother, and I sincerely hope she has some free time for herself in the coming time. I took my daughter’s hand and rushed her to get her brother. We went to find a small pond to play on his remote control boat. But instead we found a play-raft for them to play.
Sitting on the ground (because there wasn’t any bench around), I took the liberty to sit comfortably with my big belly in my big skirt. Pulling out my book and read, having a bad hair day and wearing my husband’s v-neck t-shirt (which is actually his undergarment, whereupon he always complained why I keep wearing his t-shirts and not mine – and I answered that I don’t have a clean one), I embraced my imperfect self in my role as my children’s mom.
Perhaps I would never be a mom wearing a onesie. Perhaps I would still explode in public (or at home) time after time. But now I learn it doesn’t matter anymore because my abnormal life is actually quite normal for everyone. What matters is that I didn’t give up my fight.
I let the children played by themselves in the water. I didn’t try to join them in their fun crossing the small water. I chose to sit beside my husband, enjoying the suddenly hot but cloudy afternoon and claiming my 15 minutes rest before I had to rush to cook again.
I’m not a perfect mom and that is absolutely fine.