On Tuesday, I left my four-year-old sobbing inconsolably in the arms of her pre-school teacher.
I’m talking the kind of shaking, gasping kind of sobbing that’s actually physically painful to hear.
My kid loves pre-school. In fact, when she started at the beginning of this year, it was rare for her to even give me a kiss before I left to continue the school run. “You can go now,” she’d say, waving me off to spend time with people far more interesting than her own mother.
But something has shifted since the end of last term. And all at once, I am the world’s worst mum for leaving her in the hands of her wonderful, caring teachers and friendly, inclusive kinder buddies.
There’s plenty of talk about the ‘hard’ parts of parenting. The car-seat poo explosions and supermarket meltdowns that leave you sobbing in the pantry, inhaling Tiny Teddies and hiding from your children. There’s less said about the decisions you need to make that are ‘good’ parenting, but still rip your heart in two. It’s a uniquely painful experience, exclusive to members of the mummy (and daddy) club.
It starts with a vaccination
That first round of vaccinations is usually your induction into the “good parents who make tough decisions” club. Seeing that tiny baby thigh stuck with a needle is not enjoyable. Know what’s worse? Watching your baby’s face as the needle makes contact and they experience pain. “How could you?” their eyes seem to say as they sob inconsolably. “I thought you loved me.”
That, right there is good parenting cracking your heart WIIIIIDE open. If your eyes don’t water the first time you see your precious bundle stuck with a syringe … well , you’re a stronger person than this mama who still apologises to all three of her children at each and every vaccination.
Difficult days and decisions
As your kids get older, there’s less mama guilt over the baby stuff (solids, sleep, work, when it’s acceptable to crack open that bottle of prosecco). But there’s so, SO much more over the everyday occurrences that chip away at your heart. Being a good mum? Sometimes it’s damn hard work.
Case in point; when I banned my son from a family ice-cream afternoon due to him being – at the time – a heinous mini human being. Family bonding time may have been the goal but the ice-cream was the more popular aspect of the outing. There had been much talk of flavour combinations and potential mix-ins. And then there were only three of the four of us eating.
Watching my son’s face as he realised that yes, we were actually serious about him missing out and that yes, he was leaving without a rainbow cone was hard. Because despite his feral horrible-ness, seeing your kid sad HURTS. Even if they’re learning an incredibly value lesson along the way.
Them mothering instincts
The primal mothering instinct to protect your cubs, not just from wandering wildebeest but hurt feelings and a sore heart, is strong. I stood by my ‘ice cream gate’ decision because I knew it was part of being a good mum. But it was tough. And it hurt us both.
Because we all strive to protect our precious babes, be they brand new and fragile or big enough to boot a footy through the dining room window. We make the tough decisions because we want the absolute best for them, but in doing so, sometimes we break two sets of hearts. And we are powerless to prevent it, something not many of us enjoy (because we are mothers and we can #doallthethings). Turns out we can also do hard things, despite how much they hurt. And that’s what being a good mum is all about.
I picked up my daughter after kindy and was treated to dry eyes and a huge cuddle. She’d had “so much fun”. And as she rattled off the activities of the day and filled the boot with paintings and ‘craft’ projects (AKA a whole bunch of cardboard boxes stuck together with sticky tape that I’ll need to smuggle into the recycling), I was reassured that all was okay, that I’d made the right decision. My heart still hurt a little though.
Brand new to the mother ‘hood’ and wondering how you’ll survive the heartbreak of being a good mum? Check out our top 5 tips for mama bears.