Want to know how well Jo Turner’s doing at parenting? Ask her kids. They’ll probably make you a chart.
My kids are into rating scales. With absolute faith in their opinion, they pass judgement on friends, teachers and family members with regards to shoutiness, fun-ness, driving, dancing, cooking and, bizarrely, levels of maturity.
This critique usually takes place in the car and is, I imagine, their way of indirectly letting me know their view of things and how I’m doing as a parent.
The most recent poll was on a topic they’ve called ‘Cool Mum, Cosy Mum’. Naturally my interest was piqued by this one, triggering my ‘I’m a bit of a crap mum’ switch.
I had to ask.
Apparently, Cosy Mum knows what her children want. After a begrudging acknowledgement that she may occasionally have desires of her own, it’s understood that she is basically there for the kids. Cosy Mum is welcoming and likes Christmas, wears thick jumpers and woolly hats and gloves, or beach hats in summer. She does not embarrass you in front of your friends and knows what kids your age are into.
“Cool Mum jokes around with your friends but is still nice. She takes her children to swimming pools and roller discos, and listens to weird music, often with rude words in.”
Cosy Mum redecorates according to the seasons and has a preference for log fires. Her hair is long, more commonly blonde, she doesn’t work and plans trips and holidays around what her children like doing. No walks.
Hot chocolate and homemade cakes feature strongly and she owns a beach hut.
I was a bit unnerved at this point since my kids had just pretty much described my polar opposite (Crap Mum gremlin was having a party). I imagined that in contrast, Cool Mum must be a spiky, self-obsessed workaholic with a rubbish house, dragging her offspring around non child-based venues and embarrassing them with her age-inappropriate comments and short hair. I braced myself.
Cool Mum jokes around with your friends but is still nice. She takes her children to swimming pools and roller discos. Hair can be any length but if long, is generally worn in a ponytail. Cool Mum works but preferably from home to fit around her children and listens to weird music, often with rude words in. If you are a loud child you are more likely to favour Cool Mum; if you are quiet you she will make you feel a bit awkward.
Anyone who is a mum, auntie, granny, woman will probably at this point be battling with some kind of internal dialogue. Mine was along the following lines.
“Having considered the extremes and of course casually asking the kids where every other mum I know fits on the Cool/Cosy spectrum, I find myself coming to a happier realisation.”
I love my kids, to some crazy degree that I would walk over hot coals, stick pins in my eyes, shop naked in Sainsbury’s if somehow that were required to secure their happiness… buuuut, I do also have one or two of my own things going on.
I like to think that I have an identity and purpose beyond their existence. However, I’m kind of drawn to Cool Mum because, well, she sounds cool but there is also a part of me that likes the idea of my kids regaling their friends with tales of my award-winning cakes and other Cosy Mum pleasures.
Good news. My kids come in at the end with the reassuring news that you can be both Cool Mum and Cosy Mum, ideally in about a 50-50 ratio. Having considered the extremes and of course casually asking the kids where every other mum I know fits on the Cool/Cosy spectrum, I find myself coming to a happier realisation.
Sometimes I am a crap mum, checking emails at the dinner table and (again) being late for Scouts pick up, swearing at the dog and screaming at everyone about the state of “the bloody house”, venting spleen about my day at work.
Sometimes, though, I am frankly a brilliant mum, finding the things that make us belly laugh together, giving them enough freedom to work stuff out and, yes, occasionally making some damn fine birthday cakes.
I actually like the concept of Cool Mum, Cosy Mum. I get that my kids love the reassurance of a cared-for house and a soft-jumper cuddle, but that sometimes they also want to test the waters of something a bit more edgy. I am far enough in to know that parenting will be a continuously rocky ride of getting it fabulously right and catastrophically wrong and have given up all notions of being a perfect mum or anything close.
If my kids are OK with it (and it seems they are) then I am more than happy to be a mash-up of Cool Mum, Cosy Mum and whatever other insightful characterisations they can dream up.5383 Views
Jo Turner is a physiotherapist and co-carer for Will, Flo and Spigget the springer. She's also a budding author and aspiring (winning, naturally) Strictly contestant.