No Fun Mum

September 11, 2009

Tough talking at Divorce Towers yesterday. I was having a chat with the girls about life, growing up and stuff, and they were entering that fantasy realm, which I love, planning their future lives. Child Two used to say she would live next door to me but I notice she’s thinking of the other side of London these days. They have very different views of what they want to be when they grow up, both with quite plausible career paths mapped out, though neither, sadly, wants to keep me in the luxury I so clearly deserve by becoming a plastic surgeon or a lawyer. Probably just as well as I am right off lawyers at the moment and I’m not ready for surgery yet. Well, not quite.

Then Child One rather surprised me by saying, ‘…..and, of course, I want to be a fun mum.’

I should have known, from her tone, not to follow this particular conversational hare but I crashed forward. ‘Am I not a fun mum, then?’ I asked brightly, obviously expecting a torrent of reassurance.

Dead silence.

Eventually, Child Two piped up. ‘Well, you can be a bit fun. Sometimes.’


Then, probably because I was quite hurt, though I was trying to be brave and not show it too much, we ended up in a big argument and I shouted rather a lot, which I never really do. So then they felt they were justified in stomping out, yelling back in delightfully sarcastic teenage tones, ‘yeah, you’re so much fun, Mum.’ Harrumph.

Obviously I’ve been thinking about it all since then and I have to say they are right, I am no fun. It’s partly circumstances – the divorce, though I brought it all on myself, or on everyone around me, was the absolute definition of No Fun At All – squared. Relations with everyone concerned (ie Mr X, though of course I never mention him now that this blog is squeakier clean than a jumbo tub of hand sanitiser) have been, at very best, frosty ever since. The fall-out from the divorce and subsequent two years of psychotherapy have also been zero fun, involving me facing up to the fact that I was depressed, analysing the causes of the depression (deep shudder) and then, trying to do something about the depression, with mixed results. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even brought up myself to have fun – my childhood was horrible (though whose wasn’t?) and fun was definitely something other people were having, somewhere else, a long way away.

Child Two once said, when asked if she had had fun seeing a close relative, ‘Oh no, they don’t approve of fun,’ which rather sums it up. I, on the other hand, do approve of fun – it’s just that I’m not sure how to get it.

Of course, there are problems with the relentless pursuit of fun. As the parent who does all the crap – the homework, the music practice, making a borderline sick/malingering child go to school, forcing the writing of thank-you letters – I can’t be the girls’ best friend as well as the slavemaster-in-chief. And I don’t want to be one of those sad 40-somethings who tries to be taken for their daughters’ chums or, worse, desperately wants people to say, ‘oh, I thought you were sisters.’ I am their mother and, much as I sometimes want to put my feet up and let them do what the hell they like, I can’t. I am the one in charge, and that’s that.

Mind you, though they may well think they endure endless suffering, I do manage to sneak the odd bit of sheer, senseless pleasure into the girls’ lives. Tomorrow, we are off to the wonderland that is the Glades shopping centre in Bromley, to try on every single thing in Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and New Look. If that’s not teenage fun, then I just don’t know what is.

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  • Angel Bluestocking September 11, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Oh dear. That's quite a bittersweet blog DD. Firstly it made me smile because my youngest always used to say that he was going to marry me when he grew up.
    But then your words resonate about not being fun because I don't think I'm a fun person either.
    Like you, I've had some tough times, tricky past, and some unhappy memories. But we can't all be bouncing off the walls! Don't beat yourself up. I yell at my eldest all the time – drives me mad. You sound a far better mum than me. What I'm trying to say, rather inarticulately is that we all think we're the worst mums, or we're dull, or not as good as the next person etc. You and I just give our children something different. I read with mine, draw and craft. But I've never kicked a football with them or tickled them. But I bet both our kids know how much we love them. That's all that's important.

    Now you go and have a great day out with them tomorrow! Whatever you think, it will be a lovely memory.

    I never had a mum to take me shopping. They are very lucky to have a mum like you. And I bet they wouldn't swap you for the world.

    warm wishes

  • Potty Mummy September 11, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    'Fun'? I hope you used some lines from Monty Python's 'I were brought up in a paper bag' sketch to underline just how 'fun' their lives as teenagers are compared with what they would have been 30-odd years ago.
    It's all relative, DM – don't beat yourself up about it too much; they won't properly appreciate how holding it together – boring as that can be – is actually more important than saying 'sod the roast, let's have Maccy D's for Sunday lunch!' until they have kids of their own. Until then, I'm afraid 'sharper than a serpent's tooth' and all that…

  • Island Mum of 2 (or 3 if you count their Dad!) September 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    From your blog, you certainly don't sound an un-fun mum…especially not with the prospect of THAT shopping trip! You've clearly had a hell of a lot on your plate to deal with. And as you say, one can only be the kind of mum we've been shown how to be by our own mothers. Unless you have some other fantastic role model around at that formative time…

    I know what you mean though about getting bored at playing the 'Bad Cop'. In our house, Daddy comes home and is the patient, ever-calm, serene and loving parent. Whereas, frazzled after looking after the kids solo for the entire day, I am usually the snappy, tired mummy who's no fun to be with. Having said that, I still believe that kids want their parents to create safe boundaries for them (even if that involves discipline) not to be their best friends. Not easy.

  • mumplustwo September 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I have never, ever met a child who thinks that their own parent is fun. And by the time they get to their teens, we're not only un-fun: we're annoying, too old to understand anything and toe-curlingly embarrasing, too.

    For what it's worth, I just KNOW that you're fun!

  • Chic Mama September 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I have complete empathy for you….same here. Fingers crossed though that you will be very close when they're older. They'll realise then how hard it's been for you.

  • family affairs September 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    You will claw back loads of fun brownie points for a Top Shop trip and just tell them they should have seen you in DisneyWorld! Lx

  • Littlemummy September 12, 2009 at 2:11 am

    It's a thankless job so it is. It's difficult to be fun when we're associated with all the crap ie dishes, homework and discipline.

    Went to pick Erin up at nursery the other day and I swear she looked like her world had fallen apart because I wasn't Daddy, I can let it washover me, will be harder to cope with when she's a teenager 🙁

  • Angel Bluestocking September 12, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Your blog stayed with me yesterday and I came back to check on you and see my comments are not on there. It's hard to get it right when you don't 'know someone' so I do tend to write from the heart. I hope I didn't upset you in any way and make it too personal.
    (or maybe you didn't get the comments.)

    take care

  • rosiero September 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Shopping with teenagers can be exhausting. I have spent many an hour or five in one session just staring at the cubicle curtains while teenage daughter tried on the umpteenth outfit that afternoon.

  • Linda September 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Of course you are fun. You have great times together and they know they are loved. As others have said, they may not be the first to admit it though. We have too much bloody fun and not enough tidying, well not any, which means no-one else can ever come and have fun at our house. Today Emily asked me a question that wasn't much fun: "Mum if you had seen Hitler, what would yo do?" Then she said: "I would shoot him." I went away, fell asleep and dreamt Neil was in the Nazi party.
    Why on earth am I telling you this?
    But you ARE fun. So there. We can't all be "I'm zany, me!" like some daft twonk off The Fast Show and you also have class! Something your daughters will be very, very grateful for and which mine wil never be able to identify with!

  • geekymummy September 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Dorothy Perkins, do they still have that stre back home"? Your plan sounds like a lot of fun to me. In fact, it is exactly the kind of fun my sister and I used to have with our mum, and I'm fondly reminiscing on scenes from my own, rather happy, childhood. (though of course we would never have actually told her that she was fun!)

  • Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy September 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I find myself looking on with jealousy as my husband races around and has lots of FUN with the boys, and I, who am here all the time, doesn't have the energy to do anything like that. I think 'fun' can look all enticing, but fun fun fun is actually not a whole lot of fun really.

    I think your girls wouldn't change you for a thing. You are who you are. And you do have fun, lots of it, just not maybe the obvious kind of fun that they are referring to.

    Anyway, very silly award for you over at mine.

  • Not Waving but Drowning September 14, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    They've got loads of friends but only one Mum and judging by your writing, you sound like enormous fun to me.

    Be kind to yourself,


  • Kate Morris September 15, 2009 at 3:53 am

    From what I know of your blogs I know there is a fun, funny person desperate to get out.

    I so know what you mean by being the one who has to cajole, persuade, monitor, and generally look after. I am sometimes amazed at how responsible I am. And probably how boring.

    I remember once reading a thread at Mumsnet about doing craft, swimming etc with young children and the relief I felt when I read that other mothers found it boring sometimes. I feel guilty when my son asks me to play Monopoly or race with him and I don't want to, or I set up a drawing or painting for five year old daughter and then leave her to it.

    Anyway I hope you had a great day shopping. Would that be fun for you? Or something you do for your teenagers?

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Thank you, Angel Blue, though I'm not sure about the swapping – don't even let them get the idea that's a possibility!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:14 am

    Potty Mummy, quite right, I should have done that whole routine …I remember my grandmother saying I should clean my plate because children in Africa were starving and me saying, 'send them my leftovers then,' – I think my girls would be just as Marie Antoinette-ish. They can't quite believe we didn't have DVDs back then, let alone fun ….!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Island Mum, hello, lovely to meet you and sorry you've popped in on one of my whiny/whingey/moany posts, I'm not always this drippy, I promise!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Mumplustwo, thank you very much, that's very morale-boosting.I have been known to have the odd soupcon of fun, it's true ….

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Chic Mama, thank you, actually I expect they'll be hopping mad when they hear the whole story, but there were extenuating circumstances ….

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Family Affairs, yes, Top Shop did go down a storm, and I have shown them the photos! Well, most of them ….x

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Littlemummy, I'm sure your lovely Erin loves you to bits, Daddies just have novelty value! x

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Angel Bluestocking, not at all, your comments were lovely, but I had to enable comment approval as I was getting a lot of Chinese spam so there is a bit of a time-lag these days. I feel my blog friends know me better than anyone so I really treasure their comments – please keep telling me your thoughts!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Rosiero, I know, I feel I know the curtains in Zara a lot better than the back of my hand ….plus these days I am not allowed even to go into the cubicle as the girls are having outbreaks of modesty. If I didn't have Twitter I would probably have not survived Saturday!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Linda, you are a doll! Thank God I am not a wonk off the Fast Show, you have put everything into perspective. I'd love to come round to your house (though I would probably have to tidy up, you know me and my compulsions. Just look on me as a free cleaning lady – talk about class!!) though I admit I am not anxious to see Neil in Nazi costume!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Geekymummy, so you're the one who had the happy childhood! I'm very glad. And yes, Dotty P is still alive and well and doing some rather fab jewellry these days, though you do have to search out the acceptable from the chav chaff – hours of fun!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:29 am

    Oooh, Brit in Bosnia, how lovely, thanks for your kind words and I shall pop over forthwith for my award, that's made my day!

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Not Waving, thank you, I'm really not at all sure that I'm fun but I think maybe stability, cake-making and a bit of drawing are better in some ways ….

  • dulwich divorcee September 15, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Hi Kate, are you working on book 3 now? Did love the the Seven Year Itch. I absolutely loathe Monopoly and most bored/board games and would do anything to get out of them – on the other hand, I could play cards for hours. Naturally child one loves the board games so yes, I understand your guilt pangs!

  • English Mum September 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Ooh, I'm with Family Affairs – I saw you at Disney! (in fact, I've just written about it) – little do they know!

    Ah, but it's true – how can we be fun when we're forever nagging about messy bedrooms and eating vegetables – 'tis a thankless task, my lovely. I'm sure they appreciate you really – as my teen says 'Mum, just don't talk to me when my friends are about. We can do all that talking stuff at home when we're alone'. Erm… okay then.

  • Uptown Girl September 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

    My mom has finally figured out how to be fun with my youngest sister (age 14)… she stops the nagging for a bit and they watch naughty tv together here and there! Like "That 70s Show" or something that she would normally disapprove of.
    If you're not a fun mom you must be a good mom then. your kids are lucky. keep encouraging your kids to become plastic surgeons tho.