Advice from Bluey’s Chilli Heeler
I can’t be the only one who feels that someone is keeping an imaginary scorecard of her mothering. Maybe it’s my mother. Maybe it’s another mommy friend. It could be that mom on the pool deck who has multiple kids and reminds me every time we chat that she did x,y,z while pregnant, nursing a baby, and having toddlers. Or it could simply be me. I am guilty of measuring myself against every one else and thinking they are doing this whole mothering thing better than me.
One of our favorite family cartoons is Bluey, a show depicting family life by Australian heeler dogs. With four kids ages 5–14, it’s something the entire family enjoys. We giggle with hilarity over the granny episodes. We see our family portrayed by Bandit and Chilli Heeler and their children Bluey and Bingo. And sometimes we wish we were just as cool as the Heelers.
Many episodes resonate with me, but especially the episode where six year old Bluey is playacting as a mother. In this episode she hands her mother a scorecard and asks her to grade her parenting. Chilli’s provides the best response to the scorecard and motherhood: “You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering.”
Mothers put more than enough pressure on ourselves second guessing if we are doing it right. It’s a thought that pervades our thinking as we enter each stage of parenthood, infancy through adulthood. The fact that a children’s cartoon shares this sentiment shows how much mamas feel that someone is judging us. I see it all the time on social media when friends share instances of their kids screaming like banshees in the middle of the store, potty-training, sibling rivalries, whether or not to work outside the home or stay home full-time, or the frustration of never being able to keep up with the housework and laundry. We share our life stories and wonder: Is it always this hard? Am I doing it right? Can I give my kid pizza for breakfast? The answer to all three is yes. And even though it’s hard, motherhood is also wonderful.
I try not to be too embarrassed and fail miserably when someone comes to my home for an unexpected visit and see the dishes in the sink or still on the table and the front hall littered with shoes and jackets as my children hurriedly left the house to make it on time for school. In the time of COVID, we don’t have any unexpected visitors and the house never stays neat. With four children home full-time distance learning, the clutter of shoes, jackets, and school bags have been replaced by legos, books, and hoodies. My house is messy and I keep reminding myself that in four short years, my oldest will be heading to college. It will be all too soon when my house will feel awfully quiet, all the things will stay put away, and I’ll miss the constant reminders that my children are sharing my space.
“You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering.” I wish someone had shared this piece of wisdom with me 14 years ago when I was struggling to get that work/life balance as a brand new mom. I felt judged for going back to work when my son was five months old and I felt guilty that I would rather be with him than working full-time.
“You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering.” I wish someone had told me this twelve years ago when I left my job as a teacher to become a stay at home mom to two young children.
“You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering.” I wish someone had told me this nine years ago when my third baby never slept because of reflux and I was having trouble nursing him. At the time my husband was in the middle of a major work project and needed to travel often. At the time our youngest was only months old and we had three kids under six years old. I remember being sleep deprived and feeling helpless because our youngest was unhappy and uncomfortable. I cried a lot that first year with him wondering how I was going to do it all.
“You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering.” It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I felt confident in my parenting and didn’t feel the need to measure myself against other moms.
I’ve learned that I’m not always going to get it right the first time, but what I am doing is pretty darn good. And I’ll keep telling myself that while I hide in the corner eating dark chocolate riding out the teenage years with my oldest. And I’ll say it again and again and again as each of his siblings follow suit and try to figure out who they are when they hit adolescence.
The show Bluey keeps it real in the art of parenting and work/life balance. Well, as real as it can get for a cartoon series featuring Australian heelers instead of people. The lessons translate easily enough.
I have never felt more seen in motherhood that when I’m watching an episode of Bluey. Chilli’s advice, “You don’t need someone keeping score of your mothering” spans the stages of parenthood. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to parenting or learning to navigate college applications. No one needs to measure themselves against anyone’s ideal of motherhood. Mothers don’t need to scrutinize and keep score. We might do it differently, but we’re not doing it wrong. Motherhood is wonderful, messy, and at best imperfect.