Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes shares the fibs she tells at coffee groups to make her seem like a better parent than she really is.
Being a parent is hard. Sometimes we lie to make it feel like it’s easier. It’s not a mean-spirited lie. It’s a fib to help us cope. There are no performance reviews in parenting and it all often feels like a competition. Of course we know it’s really not – but there are so many competiparents about and can be hard not to fall into the trap. Especially when you feel like you’re coming in last.
So of course there will be times when you say something that stretches the truth just a smidge.
I no longer go to coffee groups. I found them to be a bit too much of a challenge. It wasn’t necessarily the other mothers, it was the pressure I put on myself. They – those clean and calm other mothers – seemed to have it all, and have it all together. I felt a bit like I was in need of being performance managed out of this, the best job there is.
I know now, having been a mum for four years, that nobody really has it all together.
But in those days, well, with a new baby I felt like I was being judged no matter what I did. I wanted it to seem like I wasn’t falling apart and I didn’t want anyone to know. So sometimes I said things that needed a translation. A dictionary of Coffee Mum to Real Mum phrases. And they went something like this:
Oh yes, we have a very strong bond.
Translation: He won’t let me out of my sight including at night so I get no fucking sleep.
It’s a very, very strong bond.
Translation: He likes to watch me poop. And I let him.
Translation: He got stuck half-way under the fridge once and I had to use butter to get him out again. Please assure me that’s normal.
He’s a talker.
Translation: Can you hear me over the sound of his relentless screaming?
He’s very independent.
Translation: Just this morning he told me I’m not his best friend, will never be his best friend, and never have ever ever been his best friend.
He’s a problem solver.
Translation: He moved a chair to cover the hole he put in the wall because he head butted it just to see what would happen if he head-butted a wall.
He’s very advanced.
Translation: He farted once and it gave him such a fright he cried for an hour and your child is already saying Hello in three different languages so I need to say something OK.
Translation: He watches 12 hours of Peppa Pig a day so he has a British accent.
He keeps me on my toes!
Translation: I haven’t slept in four years and sometimes I talk to my wine.
I agree – breastfeeding is really wonderful isn’t it?
Translation: I have mastitis and this is literally the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life and if you say breastfeeding is easy one more time I will punch you square in the face.
I know, so much judgement, I never judge other mums.
Translation: You literally just said you don’t work because you don’t want anybody else to raise your kids. You literally just said that. Also your top is ugly. I know it’s designer but it’s ugly.
My husband and I are closer than ever since we had kids.
Translation: The other night we fought for two hours about who ate the last Trumpet. HOW COULD HE EAT IT WHEN IT WAS MINE.
Yeah I don’t drink much these days either.
Translation: I haven’t had a drink yet and it’s 10am so sure.
I miss my kids when they’re at kindy too!
I do not.
Yeah they’re going to stay at their nanna’s tonight and I’m going to miss them so much!
I am not.
Mine sleeps through the night too.
If through the night you mean never.
Oh I know, screen time is terrible.
I have had sexual fantasies about Fireman Sam.
I am grateful! I am literally cherishing moments so hard I am in agony.
Can we be real? Please. Read my mind.
After playing this game for a few months I met a woman who answered differently. She set up the “I’m loving this, every single second, every minute, aren’t you?” trap and I agreed that yes, I was loving it, every single second, every minute, of course. Then she burst into tears. We walked outside the shitty Plunket rooms and looked at the grass that hadn’t been mowed in months.
It’s so hard, she said.
It is, I said.
She never stops crying, she said.
I feel like I can’t give either of them enough time. They want me so much, I said.
This isn’t what I thought it would be, she said.
Same, I said. I thought two would be easier than this.
I can’t cope with one she said.
But you are! I said. Look at you! You’re dressed and out of the house. You’re here.
She smiled. I smiled. We hugged. We sat on the concrete. Two new friends. We had broken the barrier. Thrown the dictionary away. We were two mums really talking now.
We met again the next day. And again and again. Cold coffee and warm homes. Talking and talking and talking until suddenly it was hours later. We decided we needed to make a promise to always tell the truth. We talked to more mums and when stopped ourselves from falling into fibs.
If we’re judged, we’re judged. If we’re seen as bad mums, then so be it. We have each other, and we have others and suddenly we have a community. In the truth is the beauty of parenting. It’s hard. It’s wonderful. It’s too good to be true, and too hard to make up.
We don’t need a translator, we need each other.
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