How to survive motherhood when you are a human

human-2This morning I was the victim of an assault.

In a totally unprovoked attack my two-year-old whacked me in the face with her sippy cup.

And then she laughed.

So I called her an arsehole and necked a bottle of gin.


I did get hit in the face by my toddler but I did not follow it up with swearing and hard liquor.

But admittedly, neither did I calmly explain to her the error of her ways and encourage her to talk about why she hit mummy.

What actually happened was something like this:


To which my toddler replied, “How about with your cup?’

And I responded with, ‘NO! It is naughty to hit people with any cup. Or any thing. Or hit people at all. NOW JUST LEAVE MUMMY ALONE!’ And then I threw the Tommee Tippee across the room before storming out of the room and bursting into tears.

I am not proud of myself. I know that she was frustrated or ‘testing boundaries’ and all that stuff it says the parenting books. I know having a ‘mumtrum’ is probably not the response the experts would advise.

But I was sleep-deprived and stressed. I had endured three toddler tantrums, cleaned up two puddles of wee and my coffee had gone cold again. I had been trying to finish some work and pay the electricity bill while wrangling two young children. The house was a mess, I needed to get in the shower, make a doctor’s appointment and the kids would not leave me the hell alone for five minutes. I was at the end of my tether – so I snapped.

When we give birth we do not suddenly gain the ability NOT to get annoyed by a surprise smack in the chops.

We may be parents but we are still human and humans do not like being hit in the face. FACT.

“Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.” 
― Matt HaigThe Humans

Having children is amazing but it can also be exhausting as we often find ourselves with too many balls to juggle. So isn’t it inevitable that once in a while, we will lose it?

But instead of swearing AT our beloved offspring when they scream in our faces for using the WRONG bowl or pull our hair, we sometimes need to swear about them. Be it on social media, over a drink with your partner, in a text to a friend or by writing it about it in a blog!

We need to hear that our kids are not the only arseholes. We want to know that we are not the only ones who lose our rag occasionally. We want to be reassured that we are normal. We need to laugh instead of cry.

So we let off steam, we moan, we swear, we laugh and it gets us through the bad days.

Over the past few years there has been a backlash against the reluctance to admit that motherhood is NOT one big fluffy bubble of joy.

The idea of Perfect Mum, sold to us by big brand advertisers, parenting books and glossy magazines is finally being challenged. The conspiracy of silence is broken. Mums are speaking up and sharing their experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly.

The parenting online community, once dominated by Yummy Mummies, baby experts and arts and craft ideas – is becoming increasingly populated by brutally honest blogs, humorous websites and forums that delve into darker side of motherhood.

At last the cracks are beginning to show in Perfect Mum’s smiling face.

While you can still read about the pretty parts of parenthood, finally there is diversity. We are now getting the full picture rather than a filtered version of family life and us Human Mums could not be happier.

Perfect Mum was killing our confidence, our maternal instincts and damaging our mental health.

When I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, shortly after I had my first baby it was Perfect Mum who made me feel ashamed and hide it from family and friends.

But Human Mum is good for Postnatally Depressed Mum. Perfect Mum had been undermining her at every turn and making her feel like a failure.

Human Mum also makes life easier for New Mum. She no longer feels bad for not ‘cherishing every moment’ or for not getting dressed until tea time.

Human Mum is a welcome comrade to Sleep-Deprived Mum on Google at 4am, feeling low because she feels too tired to be perfect and puts a smile back on the face of Juggling Too Many Balls Mum who beats herself up for occasionally fantasising about running away to a desert island.

Every now and then Perfect Mum makes a re-appearance. She points a judgey, manicured finger at Human Mum and tries to convince her she is Terrible Mum.

That she is BAD for tweeting that her toddler is an arsehole or cruel for writing that her baby is a dick or joking that her kids are ‘driving her to drink’.

Perfect Mum

Perfect Mum needs to chill the hell out.

Human Mum is not terrible. She is exhausted but she is getting up, getting dressed and getting on with it, in the only way she knows how.

She often gets it wrong but she sometimes gets it right. She makes mistakes but she always says sorry. She is happy, sad, annoyed, grateful, elated, stressed, joyful, overwhelmed, tired but she is not perfect. She is human.

But here’s the thing Perfect Mum, you can’t take us down. The truth is out there now. So either pull up a sticky chair and join us for a glass of wine – or leave us the hell alone.

Join me and other Human mums and dads on Facebook or Twitter for a moan any time. For more information on Postnatal Illness visit PANDAS or get in touch with your local Home-Start.

 My book Sleep is for the Weak: How to survive when your baby won’t go the fzZk to sleep.  Available from book shops or on Amazon now!! 

21 thoughts on “How to survive motherhood when you are a human

  1. I like it: “Human Mum is not terrible. She is exhausted but she is getting up, getting dressed and getting on with it, in the only way she knows how.

    She often gets it wrong but she sometimes gets it right. She makes mistakes but she always says sorry. She is happy, sad, annoyed, grateful, elated, stressed, joyful, overwhelmed, tired but she is not perfect. She is human.”

    There’s also a very good idea that sharing your frustration with your mate, friends, other moms relieves the pressure and helps you get up and get on with it, again, again and AGAIN.
    Just recently I realized I became a “whiner”, I complain, complain and complain and cherish those who have been in it too and have no problem listening.

    Feeling helpless and pressed is considered such a shame. You OUGHT to be tough and “do something” instead of whining. Well, who told you you don’t do anything? LET’S FACE IT: mom’s life doesn’t have too many circumstances you can “resolve”, “improve once and for all” or “step aside”, “not assume someone else’s responsibility”.

    A whiner or achiever, all day you clean up after your kids and husband, metaphorically, too. Whatever is left undone, is yours. Making the guilty party “clean up” sometimes takes even more energy than “cleaning up” yourself. Yes, it’s worth it in long-run prospect, but sometimes you don’t have the energy for anything, you’ve been promising yourself a break for hours – and here it comes, more work. You don’t belong to yourself. I NEVER EXPERIENCED THIS AT PROPER WORK, I could work for 12 hours and feel happy and involved. I feel the same about intellectual work now, it’s my rest these days.

    And even if these days I have a lot of free time, being a stay-at-home mom means sometimes I have to deal with really nasty pressure and can’t exit, I HAVE TO GIVE MY FULL ATTENTION to sth I don’t want to way too often. I’m used to hearing it’s egoistic to think like that, but why is everybody else entitle to take care of his/her boundaries and not take up anything s/he doesn’t want to do (culture of consent) – and moms can’t (the younger the kids, the more areas where you can’t “be yourself” and “take care of yourself”). I tried to go to group therapy with this despair but was called a whiner and irresponsible for being unable to take care of my life. C’MON! It’s just not safe sharing such things with strangers. And some husbands.

    You are lucky if you have someone to support you who never puts you down for being “bad”, who actually sees that you are exhausted and NOT EVIL or UNDERPERFORMING.

    7 years ago when I had my first baby, all Internet resources in Russian were about how to make your baby absolutely psychologically healthy, happy and content. I was never able to please my baby and I started to hate those articles and their judging authors.Then there was a wave of those who said: take care of yourself first, don’t stretch yourself, your baby will not die if you don’t answer to her every need immediately. Now there’s this new wave of “shadow motherhood” that entitles us to have human feelings and be realistic about where we are and if it’s really that harmful not to be sweet with your baby all the time no matter what.

    You can’t be perfect. I didn’t mean to be, I just wanted to be good enough and, more importantly, not to hurt my baby with my temper, be a poised, wise adult, I wanted to enjoy it, I wanted to feel close and not to destroy this feeling by my shortcomings. I couldn’t. Burnout was always near. They say it’s codependence. But isn’t it the essence of motherhood? You can’t follow Fritz Perls’ lines when your child depends on you so much.

    So, yes, we mothers need to protect our boundaries and be responsible for our rest, etc., but let’s acknowledge this: we can’t do it 100% from the start, we start with 5% maybe when the newborn is fussy and there’s no one caring around to help. We can hope to come to 80% of being “on your own”, “within our boundaries” and not responsible for what happens to our kids by their adolescence.
    But to hear you are 100% free and you are a whiner if you don’t cope when you have a newborn, it’s cruel.

    Let’s face it: being a mom means being needy. It’s not meant to be solely your responsibility. To “perform” well you need to depend on others. Please don’t blame yourself for your shortcomings if you are on your own. Your sole responsibility here is to CONTINUE looking for support, not give up and stall depleted of energy when you hurt yourself or your children for too long.

    Some women become very sick to be relieved of their overwhelming “responsibility” of being a perfect mother without any support network (without the possibility to pause, withdraw, delegate your load for some time). Don’t wait to become sick. Acknowledge your limitations.

    It’s considered shameful to be dependent, whiny and needy, you are supposed to be grown-up, independent, deal with it. It’s good that there are so many voices able to share that there’s a realm where it’s inhuman and potentially DANGEROUS to be on your own and efficient. Emotional world is different from business world. Different standards here. Most of us had to find it out and find some peace with it still believing we OUGHT to be efficient in caring.

    Someone has to watch your back when you dedicate your 24/7 to someone so fragile and in need of constant care, you cannot be autonomous. If you have to, don’t nag at yourself for being harsh and unresponsive sometimes: you’re saving the last titbits of your resources before you shutdown.

  2. I’m most definitely a human mum, not a perfect mum and I am completely in the sleep deprived mum camp.
    However… I really disagree with the bit in this post (and in other social media posts) about calling a child an arsehole, or a dick or similar word. To me it sounds really disrespectful and given that I would prefer them not to call somebody else one of those names, I wouldn’t choose to use it for them.
    I don’t feel that this whole issue is about being perfect or not, its about being respectful towards your children. I can write about how difficult my day was or how much I struggled with my toddler, but I don’t need to call him a horrible name to exemplify that.

  3. Just need to show love for this again but in a formal capacity! I can appreciate why lots of people just choose to show the glossy side of family life in blogs, I guess it is similar to folks not putting up miserable, rough photos on Facebook! It is just such a shame there has been a recent turn against people taking a different path from that.
    I love and appreciate the bones of my little boy, but it would be crazy to think that means I find every day with him easy or am never fazed by a tantrum, illness or physical attack. I think it is great that there are all kinds of blogs out there documenting things the way they want to, and for me, that’s telling the truth. Be it funny or fluffy, it’s always real and that isn’t a bad thing, even if it’s different.
    So (another) great post from you Emily-Jane – keep ’em coming and keep it real!
    PS – Thank you so much for the clicky mention!

    • Thanks so much. I have nothing against the fluffy stuff actually. There are some great cheery blogs around thank god! I am just glad there is a mixture out there now. It is far healthier for new parents!

  4. What a great post! I’m going to tell my mummy to read it straight away. I have the habit of smacking my daddy in the chops too! x We’re a human family. x

    • Thank you. Yell, curse and drink are my middle names… I hereby nominate you as Human president. I am thinking bring a bottle committee meetings?

  5. Wait … you’re not supposed to swear at your kids? Oh.

    Kidding! I know that. For real though, I do need to watch my mouth at home, because I SWEAR I heard the 2-year-old say, “Goddamnit!” the other day.

    I guess I’ll just go back to just swearing at my boss. He at least thinks it’s funny.

  6. I. LOVE. THIS. I love this so much. Girl, you hit the nail on the head. This is my favourite thing you’ve ever written!!! Sharing, sharing, sharing.

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