The Illusion Of Coping

As a mum, I have come to accept that there will be days where I don’t cope well at all.

The days where kids are late for school, clothes are dirty, dishes hover precariously 17 inches above the sink waterline, showers are unwittingly missed, dinner comes under the heading of ‘ready meal’ and everyone in the house goes to bed without brushing their teeth. But what I have also come to accept is that actually, this is coping; there is a Parental Coping Spectrum along which all of us will rally from one day to the next.

At one end is “Acing This”; those (admittedly rare for some of us) days where everything falls into place and gets done, not just satisfactorily, but brilliantly. You’re one of those superwomen you usually mutter a begrudging ‘goodmorningpaula’ at through gritted teeth at the school gates. The one who’s on time, looks great, has a three tier stand of cupcakes for the charity bake sale in one hand, and her gym kit and idea-for-new-business folder under the other*. Then the house gets cleaned, washing done (and ironed if you are off-the-scale acing it or a psychopath), emails replied to, bills paid, dog walked, or maybe a day’s work outside the home is done (complete with making everyone laugh during a meeting and you see in your colleagues eyes that they are in awe of how you do it all), TV license renewed, dinner prepped, and suddenly you find there’s still time for a glass of wine and a bit of a box set after the kids go to bed.

At the other end of the PCS is “Shell of a Human Being”. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail about these days, because no one needs to be reminded. These days of barely coping make Fortitude look like a pleasant place for a weekend away, and make the most miserable Eastenders Christmas special seem aspirational.

None of us want to wish time away, but on these days, the hours can’t go quickly enough.

But thankfully for the most part, we sit in the middle of the spectrum, our days dictated by routine and peppered with small triumphs and minor disasters. At the start of motherhood, I naively planned for every day to be at the ‘acing it’ end of the scale, but the sooner you accept that that doesn’t happen (outside of Gwyneth Paltrow’s ten-bedroom self-cleaning house), the happier you will be. Now I embrace the barely-coping days. I remind myself that tomorrow will be better, and that there’s still plenty to love about today no matter how exhausting or chaotic. Because even on the days where life feels like walking through treacle, we need to congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

*kidding. This supercilious cow doesn’t actually exist.

Originally published at on February 28, 2017.

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