by Jendella Benson 

“Well, as a mother…”

If I’m honest I’ve been tempted to draw blood upon hearing this obnoxious qualifier more than once.

While parenthood does afford you another perspective on many things, the sanctimonious emphasis on being a mother can be kind of unbearable. When Andrea Leadsom found herself opposing Theresa May in the Conservative leadership race, she pulled the “mother card” and it backfired on her. But what edge did she think it would afford her?

It goes without saying that there are certain behaviours and qualities expected of mothers. It’s hard to say whether the respectability politics of motherhood stems from the awe-inspired reverence that many of us had for our own mothers once, or whether the cultural expectations of mothers actually inspire the childhood awe.

Either way we often come to an age of understanding where the illusion of our supermother is shattered and we realise with disappointment and sometimes thinly veiled disdain that our mothers are actually just human beings with all their flaws and contradictions now painfully evident. The only thing worse than the rude-awakening to your mum’s mortality is becoming a mother and realising that you are more like her than you’d care to admit.

And here is where the idea of “generational curses” that you scoffed at growing up in a superstitious-religious community becomes an actual thing. As you watch traces of your own parents’ behaviour reflected in yourself, you wonder if these bad habits and questionable choices are the only form of inheritance available to you. Then suddenly you’re looking at your family tree from a birdseye view, making sense of all the loaded comments and passive aggressive jibes that once swum over your head. But the most pressing question above everything is, will you ruin your child’s life?

But you, are you ruined? Bruised perhaps, definitely rough around the edges, but what else is to be expected when you are the product of two fallible human beings, themselves shaped by their own parents’ love and struggle. You may have had ideas righting the wrongs of your upbringing, and you may have dreamt about the magnificent “wunderkind” that you would shape with your reading lists and revolutionary child-rearing, but isn’t the march of human progression more evolution than metamorphosis?

It’s beyond cliche to talk about how hard parenting is, but “hard” is barely the half of it. With only the recollections of our own childhoods as guidance, we are so often looking for some kind of sign that we’ve gotten it right, that our child is going to be OK – better than us, even.

There are entire industries built on the anxieties of parents, but right now you are doing the best that you can do, and that’s all anyone can ask of you.

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Media Diversified Headshots 142Jendella Benson is a photographer, writer and filmmaker based in London. She writes about issues of faith, race, identity, feminism and the arts for various publications online and offline, and is also an occasional public speaker and workshop facilitator. She tweets regularly from @JENDELLA and more of her work can be found at

You’re Doing It Wrong is a bi-monthly column by Jendella Benson on parenting, relationships, and the kaleidoscope of small victories, anxiety and unsolicited advice that is modern family life.

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2 thoughts on “Will you ruin your child’s life?

  1. Yes. so true. I noticed that my siblings and I have softened all mother-blaming comments. Now, we’re in awe of mothers-their strengths considering all the struggles in their lives. Loved your post!


  2. OH! So very true! I have tried to raise my daughter with thought, care, love and to remember those things that I said I would never do or make my daughter feel. My mother is not a terrible mother, just a mother is a human being. Infused with thoughts, ways, experiences from her own parents and past.


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