Comparing ourselves to other parents is a risky business. I waver between criticism of them eg. “Other parents let their kids stay up too late” – or inferred criticism of myself eg. “Other parents spend more time reading with their kids than we do.” Either way, it sucks.
Still, with Mother’s Day on the horizon, I will be affirmed in my role as Mum for one day, at least. The one day where having five children really pays off! Although to share the day with my daughter’s eleventh birthday is rather unfortunate, in my opinion.
Anyway, what is possibly even worse than comparing myself to other parents (and being compared to them by my kids is up there, too), is assuming that all parents think as we do. When I was called into school last Friday with a group of parents to discuss an incident of fighting, I was amazed when one man assertively informed the teacher that he was sure that all parents would join him in saying that they teach their children to fight back when hit. I don’t – but neither did I have the courage to stand up and say that…maybe that is precisely why he believes his position to be universally held.
I fell into the trap of assuming too much recently. I have been going into school to work with the children on a fund raising project for toilets in a school in Malawi. We are currently making dangles to hang from handbags, keyrings etc to sell in school for Mother’s Day. The children have responded enthusiastically and some parents have expressed their appreciation at this opportunity for their children to learn about giving. However, whilst waiting for our daughters at ballet last week, one mum admitted that she doesn’t agree with fund raising. She makes her money and feels justified in spending it all on herself, thank you very much. I was taken aback, not only because someone would feel that way, but because she had no sense of embarrassment at holding this view.
It makes you wonder what kids learn at home about ethical issues like aid, fair trade, climate change and pollution. Although the press and politicians would have us believe that these issues are high profile, I wonder how many ordinary families on our estate really buy into them. Yes, Comic Relief raised a record amount this year, but how many people enter into the fun just because they don’t want to be left out? How many people put up with the clips about Africa and good causes in the UK just so they can enjoy the comedy sketches in between?
I wish I knew what the answer was. I often wonder whether what I am doing in my small corner is making any difference. But what’s the alternative? To give up, live for the moment, ditch the ethical conscience? Where’s the hope in that? Surely, the more our ethical choices are woven into our daily lives, the more they will be noticed, considered and who knows, even adopted.
So roll on Mother’s Day and my chance to feel appreciated and pampered, grateful for the opportunity to be a Mum (no pressure, then, family!) and the huge responsibility of influencing my children’s lives for the better.
Image via Flickr