I was in a race against time to get my daughters to bed the other day.
They were throwing out delaying tactics left, right and centre. I wasn’t having any of it.
Bath. Book. Bed. Now.
The fun parent would have indulged them in one more game of hide-and-seek. The fun parent would have let them jump on the bed for another 10 minutes. The fun parent would have let them empty every toy out onto the floor again and start playing.
But I’m not the fun parent. I’m the mean parent. I am mean mummy.
I say no to any more fun. I say it’s time to go to bed, so that mummy can have her own kind of fun. That generally involves pyjamas, a large glass of wine and telly without annoying pigs or self-important pups.
I laid down the law pretty firmly. Spitting out phrases like:
“No, it’s bedtime.”
“I’m going to count to three…”
“Stay in bed now or there’s no treats tomorrow…”
I’m wise to the tricks my three-year-old likes to play on me.
She’ll try anything to stay up late. Claim she needs another wee (when she’s already had five). Ask an awkward question about something incredibly complicated. Complain she’s thirsty, despite having a pint of water by her bedside.
I’m at the point now where I say “nope, bed…” and shoo her firmly back into her room. Because I’m the mean parent.
It’s not that my husband doesn’t discipline them as well. Of course he lays down the law too.
It’s just that he manages to remain so much more chilled out about it all, while I’m tearing my hair out with frustration and making empty threats to free myself from the kids.
It’s like when my youngest was sleeping so ridiculously lightly that a gnat could amble passed our house and she would snap awake immediately.
I was the one who rocked her back to sleep. I was the one facing a night of at least five wake-ups to breastfeed, and then a 4am wake-up call from my eldest daughter.
Therefore anything that could potentially wake her up made me lethal.
“For the love of god don’t wake the baby!”
It’s very easy to be fun when you’re not staring down the barrels of another sleepless night.
Similarly, it’s very easy to be fun when you don’t spend all day, every day with the kids. It tests the sanity and your patience.
I’m not there to be their friend. I’m there to wipe their bums. Teach them how to be polite, healthy and rational adults. Show them the meaning of respect for their possessions.
Sometimes being the one who says no to treats (because they’ve already eaten enough sugar to supply the next series of Great British Bake-Off) or being the one who tells them to dial down the noise makes me feel rubbish.
I’m sure I used to be more fun than this, I think to myself. Wasn’t I carefree, relaxed and happy to just go with the flow. Now it’s all about getting these little people into bed on time, trying to prevent accidents and stopping the walls from being defaced. Again.
Being a stay at home mum is tough. It’s relentless and the feeling of responsibility can be overwhelming.
The stuff my kids want to do isn’t my idea of fun, because there’s a 30-year age gap between us! I don’t want to build a tower and knock it over 50 times. The daily grind of the routine means days blur and it all feels so monotonous.
Hopefully I’m not the only mean mummy out there, previous experience has shown me that so much of what we go through is the same. We just don’t talk about it enough because as mums we feel so bloody guilty for confessing that our little cherubs are not filling our lives with joy 100 per cent of the time.
I hope if you’re reading this, fellow mean mummy, that it makes you feel a little better.