“I’ve had the day from hell!” Melbourne mum, Monique Geaney was debriefing after a horror day that included a very scary car accident. Monique’s car was a right-off but thankfully nobody was injured and her toddler was in child care, rather than strapped into the kiddy seat where she would have borne the brunt of the crash. Shaken, Monique had called a friend to come and help her. They picked up Monique’s two year old and went for a coffee. But instead of calming Monique’s shattered nerves, the day spiralled totally out of control when her two year old ran behind the counter of the coffee shop and split her head on a milk crate. With blood everywhere, there was now a dash to hospital and a flood of emotions for Monique, from guilt (if only…) and self blame to ‘why me?’
A ‘bad day’ doesn’t have to be defined by extreme drama such as a trip to emergency or a cancelled holiday. Any day that spirals out of control – whatever that means to an individual mum – can see mothers beating up on themselves and questioning their competence. This week, I have seen a spate of new mums who have been trying desperately to follow a particularly rigid baby care manual and, when the very strict routine has gone pear shaped, it seems the entire day (and the mummy) has fallen apart as these women ask, ‘what am I doing wrong?’
Amanda Cox. Aka “Mad cow’ is the owner of website Real Mums where mothers are encouraged to be honest about their ‘mumming’ as they support one another. Amanda believes that bad days are created by ‘shoulds’. She says, “pressure can be internal (due to our own expectations) or external (feeling influenced by others’ expectations), but we need to banish the pressure to perform.” As the mum of two littlies and a baby, Amanda understands bad mummy days, first hand. The week of this interview she had her own dramas which ranged from an ultrasound that showed some complications with her pregnancy (but, thankfully turned out fine), then as she was waving her husband off for a holiday with the two older children (and gleefully expecting a few days of child-free mummy relaxation time), it turned out that the trip had to be delayed because one child’s passport had expired.
Although this was an extreme week for Amanda, she is also familiar with the ‘average bad mummy day’. She says, “a bad day can start with the simplest thing – a spilt drink or a child insisting on the blue shorts when these are in the washing so you have suggested the yellow ones – and the bad day can perpetuate from there. When I get that ‘this day is heading downhill and its going down hill fast’ feeling, I have learned to take the pressure off myself and accept it. I don’t put myself in a situation where any more bad things can happen. The day stops right here if it’s a right off and we do something different – we might sit on the bed and read stories or I might have a bowl of ice-cream with the kids.
Amanda, who advises trying to see the funny side (which, of course, is unlikely to be apparent at the time) also organises an annual ‘Mums Night Out’ through her site where a ‘Real Mum of the Year’ is crowned. Last year’s winner was a mother of two young boys and a husband, all of whom allowed her to walk around for 3 hours with yesterday’s undies hanging out the back of her jeans!