Mums versus kids...

Three children at the breakfast table

Sometimes I think they set me up. It's like waking up in a war zone. From the very first moment of the day, the junior recipe testers seem to deem me arch enemy number one, and it's on for young and old. I must try and get them dressed, which most frustratingly often requires them to be shod, and out the door. They, it seems, aim to achieve pretty much anything else.

When we return to the nest, following a day of educational or industrial attainment, I often assume that the battle will have fizzled out during the day. Sometimes it has. Other days the juniors seem to have spent the day honing their craft. They have assumed a higher strategic position and taken greater command.

On these days, conquering the proverbial shoes is a distant memory. It is a mere trifle compared with the ultimate triathlon that lies before us: dinner, bath and bed.

It often feels like we're on one team and our children are on another. Much humour is made about the battlefield that daily family life can be - mums (or parents) vs kids. The conclusion is that our needs as mothers are always opposed to the needs of our children. And ain't that the truth on some days?

But continually pitting the needs of mums against the needs of their kids can have, perhaps unintended, negative consequences. If our needs are so vastly different, then it logically follows that how we are best supported must also be vastly different.

In a former life, I spent a long time thinking about family wellbeing, particularly as it applies to families living with disability. What I saw, time and time again, were vulnerable mothers whose needs were pitched against the needs of their children; a kind of bidding war, of who was most needy. Children, universally, need protection, love and care. And sometimes mums, due to poor health, sheer exhaustion, lack of support, or a raft of other reasons, need a break from their children.

In many cases, the assumption then became that mum could not be the person to provide the protection, love and care her children needed. Her needs were too different, or too great. Her children needed to be cared for by someone more competent, or at least less needy. As a result, children were removed from the care of their mothers (and sometimes fathers too). What resulted was a complete re-ordering of the needs of a now grief-stricken mother.

There is no doubt that in some instances, for the safety and protection of children, they need to be removed from their family home. But in many cases we need to recognise that supporting mums is just what children need. As a society, we're good at prioritising the needs of individuals.

We could do more if we were prepared to support the common needs of mums and their kids.