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Because family life matters

The Sixty Minute Mother

Rob Parsons talks about how he came to write a book for mums about the joys and anxieties of motherhood.

I often meet mothers who feel discouraged. And they are tired: tired of worrying, tired of getting the blame for all the ills in their kids’ lives – from verrucas to failed examinations – and tired of feeling guilty. Occasionally a mum will confide the heart-rending realisation that she wishes she had never had children to begin with. She carries this thought like a scar for it is mingled with unbelievable love for her child.

It can be very hard coming to terms with all of this. Society keeps telling us that parenthood is the ultimate privilege, but why then do parents often feel what appears to be sheer misery? The answer is not that we are failures, simply that we are feeling the effect of complete responsibility for the life of another person, over whom we have no final control, and who seems only intermittently to either want our involvement or be in the least grateful for it.

Almost every mother I have ever met acknowledges motherhood as a joyful, painful, exciting, mind-numbing business and, above all, as a long-haul affair.”

I have listened to mums who feel they have blown it irretrievably; to ‘stay at home’ mums who wonder whether people think they have taken the soft option; and to working mums who are struggling with a demanding toddler and an even more demanding boss – both of whom have learnt how to stamp their feet when they don’t get what they want. I have listened to mums who think they are the only ones whose baby won’t sleep at night, and to mothers of teenagers who feel they are the only parents in the world whose child sits next to them for the whole school journey without saying a word.

The art of motherhood

I completely understand that even all this experience doesn’t get me near being qualified to write on motherhood, but I do feel I have been in a very privileged position. Thousands of mothers have written to me, often spoken with me, and told me of the lessons they have learnt. Many have said, “I wish someone had told me about some of this when my kids were small, but I learnt it the hard way.” In ‘The Sixty Minute Mother’, I wanted to pass on some of what those mums have told me – lessons in the art of motherhood.

Almost every mother I have ever met acknowledges motherhood as a joyful, painful, exciting, mind-numbing business and, above all, as a long-haul affair. No matter how old our children are, it seems the task of parenthood never ends.

Fifteen years ago, a mother who was 95 years old came into my office. She said to me, “I can rest in peace now, my boy.” I said, “Oh, why is that?” She replied, “Because I’ve just managed to get my youngest son into an old people’s home.” It turned out that he was 72 and a bit shaky. But she was in full control of all her faculties and, having got him started in school, university and marriage, was now tying up the last few ends – as a mother.

Sixty Minute Mother 214

I often meet mothers who feel discouraged. And they are tired: tired of worrying, tired of getting the blame for all the ills in their kids’ lives – from verrucas to failed examinations – and tired of feeling guilty. Occasionally a mum will confide the heart-rending realisation that she wishes she had never had children to begin with. She carries this thought like a scar for it is mingled with unbelievable love for her child.

It can be very hard coming to terms with all of this. Society keeps telling us that parenthood is the ultimate privilege, but why then do parents often feel what appears to be sheer misery? The answer is not that we are failures, simply that we are feeling the effect of complete responsibility for the life of another person, over whom we have no final control, and who seems only intermittently to either want our involvement or be in the least grateful for it.

I have several hopes for this book. I want us to laugh together and I want all kinds of mothers to yell out, “Thank goodness this is not just me.” I want single parent mums to feel encouraged and not marginalised. I want mums who feel failures to be inspired not to give up. And, above all, I want mothers to feel honoured and respected.

It was Gerald Ford, previous president of the USA, who said, “You can hold high office, but when your time is over the world will forget you.” That is not true of motherhood – your kids will remember you forever.

You can buy The Sixty Minute Mother in the Care for the Family Shop.

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