Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Being a terrible mum

Perversely being a good mum was not something I dreamed about being as a child, and then as a young man.

My dreams were all about which member of the A-Team I could replace, or who I’d slay first as a Jedi Knight.

They often still are.

I was a recent guest of Radio 5 Live talking about relationships and parenting, as well as plugging my book (Parenting with Balls – soon available at a car boot near you).

We got on to the topic of the perception of single dads, versus that of their female equivalents.

The experts I was on the show with wanted to know why I thought men are generally heralded when they take care of children on their own, whereas women in the same situation – more often – seem to get lambasted and accused of being responsible for all of society’s ills.

I was asked what made me so special.

“Nothing.” I answered, in what must have been the best way to sell a book about my single parenting experiences on a national radio show, EVER.

Unsurprisingly I was asked to elaborate.

Thing is I agree - like many other single dads I know - I think that single mums do get a rough deal, but in a roundabout fashion, so do us fathers, and I wish it was the same for both of us.

Even if it means treated us both like crap.

I said I yearned – desperately at one point – to be considered a terrible parent, a terrible mother even (Stop it, Amazon won’t be able to keep up with the demand).

It may seem a smidge ridiculous, wanting to be criticised rather than praised for my parental skills, but to me it would have been a sign of acceptance, in certain situations, if not one of endorsement.

See, I’m sure a lot of the kind words projected at me were genuine and well meant, but there were lots that can’t possibly have been.

From first sight it must have been impossible to tell whether I was doing a half-decent job of caring for my boy, and whether I was motivated into doing it for me or for him. At the beginning even I couldn't be 100% sure.  And to claim that I was doing a brilliant job was really jumping to positive conclusions, at times.

Or was it?

Was that all about my gender?

If I’d been a woman my parents would have called me Claire, not that I needed to share that particularly   would folks been more confident to be critical of me?

To treat me like a single mum?

My feeling was that it was patronising at times, and it was almost like, he’s doing the best he can, for a man, obviously he’d not be able to rub shoulders and stand equal with mums doing the same thing, but bless him.

This isn't to say I wasn't grateful for the well meant, and clearly genuine words I was offered, but at times I did wish that my lack of vagina could be ignored.

Paranoia probably didn’t help that.  With confidence at an all time low, given the intense and sudden loss I was dealing with, I’d perhaps jump to a negative conclusion a little too easily.

But I hope I made my point and still believe it was a valid one.