London - A new tyranny has entered my life and I’m not talking about the intensely irritating, demanding and time-consuming Furby Boom which my son just got for his seventh birthday. I’m referring to the guilt inducing, emotionally disturbing “OCMs” as I have labelled them, Other Children’s Moms.
According to my eldest girls, aged nine and 11, OCMs are so much better at this mothering malarkey than I am. OCMs are more organised, more likeable and less embarrassing than me. They are “awesome” or “epic” - qualities I do not possess according to my female offspring.
OCMs let their daughters stay up really late on a weekday, they let them watch YouTube in the privacy of their rooms, they serve candy floss for breakfast and they don’t shout “put a bloody coat on” before school every day.
They don’t wear leopard print in public either. No sirree, OCMs are just about perfect, and against all logic and reasonable thinking I am actually threatened by them. Even though I realise my daughters are being economical with the facts I sniff out a tiny kernel of truth in the positive descriptions of these paragons of parenting and run with it, until the OCM looms so large in my life she’s becomes an imaginary friend questioning my every move.
“Would so-and-so’s mom screech ‘turn that noise down now’ at the top of her voice from the bottom of the stairs?” I ask myself as I prepare to toddle to the top floor and patiently ask for the Katy Perry to be on a lower volume.
So-and-so’s mom would never bellow “you fool” at their little one for dropping the biscuit tin (lid off) on to the kitchen floor for the third time in two hours, would she?
OCMs don’t swear, they don’t shout and they have oceans of patience.
I encounter many OCMs, given that I have four children. My eldest two spend their lives on playdates or being ferried from party to party at the weekends - when they come home they happily relay details of family lives that seem superior to ours. Everyone has a bigger kitchen, more cuddly pets and fewer bossy baby siblings than in our house.
“At Maddy’s house they had smoked salmon,” Gracie says on Saturday, eyes wide at the memory of this exotic food stuff, “Everyone just helped themselves. It was so grown up. And Maddy’s mom never raises her voice, she just plays with the children all the time.”
These OCMs make me behave in a different way at home as I try to keep up. I find myself being extra jolly and smiley when I have an OCM’s child at my house. Midnight snack? Yes of course, only a heartless despot would deny you that. Chocolate Rice Krispies? Why not, we have them every day actually.
No one has to wear socks or even shoes outside if they don’t want to here, I tell our miniature visitors. Of course I know who Little Mix are and OMG I’ve obviously seen that ‘Amazing Phil’ YouTube video EVERYONE is talking about. LOLs.
I become the mothering equivalent of “fun Bobby” from the TV show Friends. The mate everyone thought was cool, stylish and the most entertaining guest ever.
Mr Candy regards me with extreme suspicion and asks why I am in such a good mood, then he checks the medicine cabinet for Prozac. I don’t say No to anything for the entire duration of the playdate - it’s like being on a night out with Miley Cyrus.
But I can’t keep it up, the demands are becoming more extreme and frankly I can’t hide my inner grump for more than 12 hours (you may remember “fun Bobby” turned out to be an alcoholic who was no fun once he was off the sauce).
I have tried to work out why this foolish tyranny makes me feel judged and why I am irrationally jealous of OCMs because obviously I realise children are prone to exaggeration and little girls know your weak spots.
Maybe it’s because I’m worried it’s only a matter of time before my offspring discover I have no qualifications for this mothering business. Then they’ll really feel let down. Or perhaps it’s because women generally assume some one else is doing what they do better than they can?
It’s possible I feel threatened because I fear I will soon hear the ultimate OCM accolade, the emotional dagger in the heart of every working mother.
“So-and-so’s mom picks her up every day from school.” - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle.