Relationship Matters

Don’t Try To Outdo Your Mother – Trust Me You Will NEVER Win!

Have you ever been in a conversation with your mother about your experiences of motherhood and how tough you found it at times before she stopped you in your tracks to remind you of how much tougher it was ‘in her day’? Yes, sound familiar? Exactly how far do you get before she stops you? For me, I generally don’t get past the hospital when I went in to give birth before she interjects. And something that I have come to learn from having these conversations with my mother is that I will NEVER win. She will always trump my experience. Whatever hardship I feel I have endured, you can be sure she has endured harder – ten times harder!

 This all happened recently when I met my mum and two sisters for coffee one Saturday afternoon. My younger sister is currently five months pregnant with her first baby so naturally the excitement is growing and the baby talk was plentiful around the table. And with that of course came the joking and jibing like “Ha ha ha, your life is over soon”, and “Enjoy the sleep now because it will be a very long time before you have a proper night’s sleep again” and “Get out now and enjoy yourself because when junior arrives your social life will disappear, hee hee hee”…

But after the joking subsided and we all stopped giggling uncontrollably at my little sis, I turned to her and assured her that really there was nothing to worry about because as hard as the first few months will be, especially with your first baby when you haven’t got a clue, we will all be there for her whenever she needs it.

This led me to then reflect on how hard I found it initially with my first daughter, even in the hospital after she was born. The absolute exhaustion, the failed attempts at trying to breast feed her, the crying and weeping when I couldn’t make it work, bringing her home and feeling completely terrified at times because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. But at this point (and this has happened before), my mother turned to me with a look of surprise and confusion on her face and said “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never had any of those problems when you were babies”.

 I took a long deep breath because I knew how this was going to go. The same way it always goes. She then proceeded to inform us that we were all great babies who rarely gave her a sleepless night. According to her we all just lay in our cot each night and slept straight through. “I don’t understand all this talk about babies not sleeping and mothers not getting any sleep, there was none of that in my day”, she said as she waved her hands dismissively. And lo, here it comes, her killer phrase that makes my blood pressure rise and my eye twitch – “In my day we just got on with it”.

I can’t tell you how deflated I feel every time I hear her utter those words. It makes me feel about two inches tall. Suddenly every problem or difficulty I experienced as a mother has been reduced to nothing, and in the space of about two minutes. Yes, when she chooses to my mum is the queen of downsizing.

I did my very best to hold it together as I calmly said back to her “Mum, that can’t be true, we couldn’t have been good for you ALL of the time. There must be a lot of things that you just forget”. She doesn’t like it when I say this so straight away she sat up in her chair and declared indignantly “I do not forget, I remember everything as if it was yesterday”.

She then proceeded to inform us that not only does she remember everything clearly but also “Back in my day there was none of this fancy equipment that all of you have today. Oh no, there were no such things as sterilisers or monitors. For that matter we didn’t even have a washing machine”, with a sharp nod of her head. And she wasn’t finished – “We didn’t have disposable nappies either. We used cloth nappies so every morning I got up and I washed all of the nappies by hand in a basin and then hung them out to dry. That’s right”, she nodded. And then just to give one final blow she repeats it again, “But I didn’t mind. I just got on with it”.

The whole time she is talking I feel as if I am continuously shrinking until by the time she is finished I am about 10in tall in my seat. A tiny little figure sitting in front of her, completely inferior and dwarfed by her martyrdom. Don’t get me wrong I completely acknowledge that my mum had a lot less of everything when we were babies. She was also much younger than me having children and she had much less money to survive on. Plus I know she had little help from my dad whereas my husband today is fantastic and plays an active role in raising our two ducklings.  

But what I don’t like is being made to feel that although I have a lot more than she had that my struggles are any less significant than hers. Even with more money and equipment I still struggled with the foundations of motherhood, hugely at times and I would like to be able to speak about this every now and then without constantly being made to feel like I am simply whinging for no good reason.

However I have yet to ‘win’ a discussion with her – not that it’s about winning as such, it’s more about being acknowledged. I mean, surely everyone is entitled to their feelings right? But with my mum it’s a constant struggle. I have thought about this so many times that I have now vowed to myself to never ever do this to my own daughters. I just hope I stick to my word……

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

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27 Comments

  • Josie

    I suspect she may have rose tinted her memories somewhat no matter what she claims! While we may have lots of modern conveniences these days to make life easier. there are lots of challenges that we face as parents now that our mum’s would have no idea how to deal with. X

    • admin

      Oh it is a tricky one isn’t it? I just have to keep taking deep breaths and tell myself to keep quiet. I don’t want to argue but it is frustrating at times!

  • Millennial Mom

    OH. BOY. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, and am very fortunate that she sympathize with me, as I just had my first baby.

    I think she’s more surprised at how many options they have today, that they didn’t have back then. I’m also breastfeeding and my mother didn’t. I had a natural delivery and she had a c-section.

    I think she’s willing to hear of my experiences, and although she does give her two cents, it is always out of love.

    Now my mother-in-law on the other hand, is a completely different story.

  • Mackenzie Glanville

    I feel like you are writing about my life, I hate complaining about my mum because she is so loving, but no matter what I say about parenthood she always one ups me, it was always harder for her but she got on with it, she had to do it with 4 of us! And I only have 3! It drives me and my sister crazy! I am so in love with this post I just tried to add it to #BlogCrush and it was already there, so please know you would have been my Blog Crush except you can’t add a link that is already linked up! But thank you so much for being part of #ABloggingGoodTime and linking up with us this week! Again I love this post!

    • admin

      Thank you Mac I am touched! And I am so glad you can relate. I was slightly reluctant to write this one because like you I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my mum because she has a lot of great aspects but this one drives me crazy. I had to get it out! Only yesterday I mentioned to her how my 2 year old daughter is really starting to act out and she quickly told me that all this ‘terrible two’ stuff is complete nonsense. I had to take deep breaths and force myself not to start an argument with her!

  • chickenruby

    I also have a mother who views the world through rose tinted glasses, I’ve learnt to keep my mouth shut on certain subjects and just go and put the kettle on when she she starts #blogcrush

    • admin

      Absolutely, I do the same thing. Though you will probably find me muttering under my breath the entire time!

  • Helen Copson

    I really hope your mum has read this post! I’m 100% sure they had it harder than us, but there are different challenges these days. And there’s no way ALL babies slept all night back in the day. Babies don’t do that! I hope you don’t have to have these conversations too often – it must be so soul-destroying. #ItsOK

    • admin

      I try not to go there too often with her but every now and then the subject will come up, it’s just inevitable at times. You have to learn to take deep deep breaths!!

  • Daydreams of a Mum

    Oh i can understand how frusrating this must be . I remember when I had three under three a big double buggy and a baby strapped to me in a sling and an old lady on the bus looked at this exhausted woman who hadn’t slept in 3 years and said ” oooo you young un’s have it so easy these days getting on a bus with your buggy” I was astonished !! We are lucky to have access to modern devices but goodness me the pain of childbirth , the exhaustion of pregnancy and lack of sleep and hormone cocktails we’re served I don’t think they’ve invented a solution to them yet??? #blogcrush

  • Nicole - Tales from Mamaville

    I guess some things were tougher in their days (no disposable nappies, no electronics, no washing machine and the like), but a lot of things were easier too. It was a simpler time; childhood was innocent. There was no peer pressure, no insane competition to succeed, no talks of ‘stranger danger’. Choices were fewer. Motherhood is hard, whichever generation we come from. Thanks for linking up with #itsok.

  • Emma

    Luckily I’ve not had to suffer this too much from my mum, but I’ve now outdone her having had a bigger brood ha ha. She has always said though that there are more things to worry about now, we have access to too much knowledge. I had something picked up on my 20 week scan with my second pregnancy and worried myself sick for the remaining half, it made me ill. Yet, on delivery everything was absolutely fine. sometimes ignorance is bliss. #itsok

    • admin

      It probably is. We do have a lot of knowledge now and it is super-fast, it might be nice to try and slow things down a bit every now and then.

  • Annette, 3 Little Buttons

    Nooooooo…. I really feel for you because there is nothing more frustrating than this. Especially when it comes to motherhood. I’m pretty sure things were mega tough back in the day… and perhaps getting on with it had to be the normal. But times are different now and pressures and what-not have changed quite a bit. Thanks for joining us for the #dreamteam xx

    • admin

      Absolutely, times are very different now aren’t they? We have to try and be patient with our mums, even if it is hard at times!

  • Sam

    Ha I know some people like this. I think their is always going to be pros and cons but thank God for the tumble dryer 😉 X #ablogginggoodtime

  • Carly Crawford

    Oh no. That’s not fair of her. I know she’s your mum, but at the end of the day, it’s NOT a competition to see who had it harder. Surviving motherhood is the goal because it is damn hard.
    Hugs lovely – you’re a great mom. #itsok

  • Noleen Miller

    Times were different then to what it is now. But that doesn’t mean parenting is easier now than what is was then. We all struggle. Hoping that you and your mom can find some common ground and have a fruitful discussion about how this makes you feel. Speak to her about it – perhaps she is not even aware that you are feeling this way #dreamteam

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