Monday, 17 May 2021

Motherland; Good For Whatever Soul I Have Left

 I'm really enjoying Motherland on Netflix just now.

If you haven't caught it yet - have a go.  It is a somewhat slightly exaggerated take on the trials and tribulations of parenting school-age children and the school-gate politics that arise.

As a mama to three boys and having dealt with the school gates for the last 13 years, I can find a wee bit of myself and people I know in each of the characters.

I'm no fan of trying to make mum pals - in fact, I flat out suck at it.  

It's caused me a lot of heartache and confusion over the years.

I've come to the conclusion that actually, I am far too eclectic, too full of dark humour and just not 'proper' enough to make it with the 'in' crowd and actually, I have totally given up.

On a Motherland scale of Amanda to Liz, I am 100% a Liz.

Diane Morgan as Liz in the brilliant Motherland

From the moment she chopped her own finger off slicing frozen cheese for Julia and calmly headed off to A&E after doing her own first-aid, to the drunken promises she made on behalf of Julia and Kevin for the school fundraiser, I can totally relate to being the outsider who just does herself and fuck whatever anyone else thinks. I appreciate her down-to-earth take on things, her patience, her wit and I absolutely see her dogged determination to survive and make sense of whatever shitty hand she is dealt.

As a mum at a small-ish village school, in a relatively higher class area, I stick out like a sore thumb.

I'm not well-off enough to carry off anything classy.  Messy bun? Tick.  Running late? Epically. Tick!

I'm the one whose son wears princess dresses because he can if he wants, who champions unbranded school uniforms to keep the cost of the school day down for everyone, and asks awkward questions around fundraising.  I'm a rule-bender, a risk-taker and someone who speaks their mind.

 My kids are not in the expensive swim team, football club, art club or drama group, nor are they sporty.  I let them spend a lot of time on their computers.  We have very loose bedtimes at weekends.  

I can't afford to send them to the various 'lovely' activities the other kids enjoy, nor do we massively value academia. We would rather the kids were safe, happy and loving what they do, because we both tried hugely and did all the right things, kicked our own arses to get the grades and have struggled ever since!

As two people who have been very roughly shafted by the world in the pursuit of such stuff, we are more than a little disillusioned and probably a wee bit traumatised, and so we are focused on raising our kids to be decent people with kind, compassionate, inclusive values, where you aren't afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty and where you open your mind to as much as possible - we can't begin to imagine a world for our kids where fitting in with an ever-decreasing elite of paid-for opportunity and outstanding grades at all costs would be a 'good' thing to do.

Me and my husband both work in the third sector - not only do we both know what it is like to live in relative poverty and deal with the many social, physical and emotional challenges it brings, we also spend our days scooping up other people who are dealing with the effects; the time for giving a shit about manicured lawns or whether our cars are immaculate is not really now for us.  

Is everyone fed, clothed, washed, happy, achieving, nurtured and well-humoured though? Yes! Isn't that what counts? 

Does our lack of care around some of the finer details come off as bad parenting?  


I am tired.  My life has been a fucking struggle.  Girl, I am surviving and I will absolutely take that.

Motherland tackles this to some degree. It encompasses the spectrum of mother characters quite aptly; the single mum, the stay at home mum, the stay at home dad, the seemingly-has-it-all mum, the queen bee mum and her side-kick and the mum who has run out of shits and just wants to get through it.

Joining the school PTA has become a recent favourite weird pastime for me - I'm not sure the Head Teacher knows what to do with me.  

Here's the woman he has pegged as an incompetent mother (veiled very thinly) showing up, giving a shit, interacting, giving opinions that he finds he 9/10 actually agrees with and it's always entertaining on the Zoom call (with the brilliant rural wifi 1.5 second lag) inadvertently showcasing my dark humour, which the other mums really don't seem to understand. 

The dark humour usually comes out around some of the more mundane topics, like dog shit or parking and I can't help myself.  It's been nearly two hours talking about dog poop and I start making quips, and it's like unleashing the beast.  And guess what?  Apparently, giggling about dog poop on kids shoes isn't that funny, Genna. 

"Why am I such an outcast?" I'll sob to Dave (usually the day before my period when the world is a dark black spot of shit and everything is pressing harder on me than usual).

I tried to make mum friends - I really did.  I suck at it.  I'm in the wrong area; outcast, out-resourced and outnumbered.  I'm in a weird middle ground and I guess I have resigned myself to a lifetime of lonlieness.

Fuck it.

For now I'm taking my solace in Motherland and enjoying their take on Mum life.

If you are like me and feel totally left out of the mum circle with no hope of getting in any time soon, give it a watch.

It's a source of real comfort in an ever-weird and confusing world of parent politics.

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