PMT alert! Quick kids, retreat to your bedrooms!
You’re the worst mother in the world,” she yelled, running to her bedroom. “Well, go find another one,” I yelled back, because I’m mature like that.
It had been an awful morning. The cereal was wrong, the rockmelon too hard, the floor too cold. And those were just my complaints.
In that horrible way where one person’s mood dictates the others’, I’d PMTed my family. The dagger-infused hormones may have been coursing through my body, but by 7.03am, I’d infected the lot of them. “Will someone feed the damn cat,” I yelled, because that sort of tone is guaranteed to prompt one to say to the other, “Hey sis, I know you have homework – leave it to me.”
My husband, predicting trouble, had left early. By 8am the rest of us had produced more tears than an episode of The Voice. Hairbrushes had been thrown (me), homework ripped up (me) and chocolate stashes binned (er, me). I’d shrieked, shouted and banned – TV, computers, play dates – prompting the eldest to quip, “Thanks Mum, it’s nice of you to still let us breathe.”
Eventually I packed them off to school, soothed myself with a vat of coffee and let the guilt roll in. “My mum’s face looked like an exploding raspberry this morning,” I imagined the eight-year-old writing (she’s learning similes in class). “She wants me to find another mother.” Then I pictured the eldest in therapy 20 years from now, saying “I suspect my anxiety stems from low-flying hairbrushes and issues with chocolate bars.”
Of all the hallmarks of motherhood, there’s one that reigns supreme: guilt. You may have recreated both the helicopter and the fairy toadstool from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book; or read Spot Goes to the Circus 1292 times; or sat on your teenager’s bed through three terms of angst. Yet you’ll beat yourself up for shouting, losing your temper or leaving someone at the park because, er, you forgot you had three kids.
“I’ll never forget the time you slammed your thumb in the car door and I told you to toughen up,” recalls my own mum. “It was only when the blood poured down your arm that I realised how badly you’d injured it.”
She also recalls my brother and I smashing a full-length mirror. As we screamed amid the shattered glass, she scooped us both up and dumped us in our room, too distraught after moving to a new town to comfort us.
Yet I remember neither incident. Because motherhood isn’t a word, a sentence, a scrap of dialogue. It’s not a catalogue of the times you snapped or slapped. It’s a big, fat book with characters and themes that are sketched across a lifetime and fleshed out by moments both memorable and mundane. If you asked me what made my childhood happy, I wouldn’t hesitate in answering, “My mother’s smile.”
It was raining when I collected my kids from school after PMT morning from hell. The soccer grounds were swimming in knee-deep puddles. “Pop on your wetsuits and grab your boogie boards,” I told them after iced buns (guilt treat). For an hour they puddle-surfed and mud-bathed, returning home for hot baths and Milo.
That evening, as I put my daughter to bed, I noticed she’d written something on her whiteboard. “My mum is the worst mother in the world,” she’d scribbled in red. Except the “worst” had been crossed out and in its place she’d written a big, blue “best”. Underneath was a picture of me. With a smiley face.
Catch Angela Mollard every Sunday at 8.45am on Weekend Today, on the Nine Network.
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