My friend’s way of describing the mums depicted in the Mother’s Day cards which fill the shelves at the moment are ‘Disney Mums’. They are the ones who are ‘The Best Mum in the World’, who are gentle, patient, always there for their children, ever-smiling despite a chronic lack of sleep, generally wearing pastels and permanently in soft-focus. The mums who are a world away from me and just about every other mum I know, but who populate our collective psyche, making us secretly yearn to be like them despite not really existing in real life.
But when you think about it, mums in Disney films are a rare species. They’re pretty much either dead and replaced by a scheming stepmother or estranged from their children by means of a wicked fairy. I sometimes wonder whether this is because the very thing that builds their daughter’s character (and it is almost without exception a daughter, not a son) and the story with it is the need to stand up for themselves and take independent steps into the world without the protection of the loving mother figure*. Maybe the evil stepmother acts as the grit in the oyster shell, forcing the girl to learn to trust her intuition, wits and helpful wild animals.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that absence, cruelty and neglect are positive parenting skills – there are much kinder ways to teach a child independence! Yet maybe it’s an opportunity to look at our own mothers on Mothers Day and start to reframe some of their perceived shortcomings and realise what they taught us through them. Whether it’s by prompting us to question the status quo, inspiring an empowering rebellion or simply being able to see the world beyond our mother’s interpretation of it, it’s often through the chinks in our parents’ armour that we get our first glimpses into independent thought.
Maybe the run up to Mother’s Day is the perfect time to re-examine some of those stories you may have been telling yourself about your relationship with your own mum. Even Disney couldn’t create a perfect mum because they don’t – and can’t – exist. There’s an NLP tenet which states ‘everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available to them at the time’. Assuming your mother was coming from a loving intention, can you embrace the lessons you learned from where you perceive she fell short? Could you have been playing the blame game for too long? JK Rowling, in her wonderful commencement address at Harvard said, “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” Food for thought.
And if you are a mother yourself? Lay off the guilt. You love your children, but it’s ok if sometimes they drive you crazy. Love them and care for them, but be true to yourself. Trying to be that elusive Disney Mum will teach them nothing and leave you lost and exhausted. The school-run shouting won’t be the first thing they remember if it’s punctuated by hugs, favourite dinners and a strong role model who isn’t a martyr. And they might even learn to get themselves ready on time. You’re doing just fine.
Next time you feel the spectre of the Disney Mum making you feel disappointed in your own mother or guilty about the way that you parent your children, remember that she doesn’t exist. Re-evaluate your expectations against real role models instead, and steer clear of the Hallmark cards…
Need some help with this? Let’s talk.
* Too bad that they generally only take a couple of steps before they fall into the arms of a handsome prince, but that’s another train of thought…