I’m raising a freak.
An Other Mother told me this recently, and I’m sure she’s right. She has manicured nails, highlighted hair, a cleaner and a husband, and is therefore almost certainly better than me in every way.
I’m sure you have your own Other Mother. Maybe even more than one. They’re the women who say things like: “Now I’m only saying this because I’m your friend,” or “Well, it’s just my opinion of course, but…” before completely eviscerating your parenting abilities.
In my case, the Other Mother is horrified that Flea doesn’t watch Hannah Montana, and I’ve no intention of introducing it – even if she asks.
“But she won’t have any friends. You’re raising her to be a freak, Sally,” says the Other Mother, tipping her head to one side so I know she’s only being a complete witch because she truly, honestly cares.
Well, I explain, Flea regularly asks for a motorcycle and a live monkey, so she’s generally okay with the idea you can’t always get what you want.
But the Other Mother is going to prove her point. “Olivia darling,” she asks her eldest. “What would you think if someone at school didn’t watch Hannah Montana? Weird, right?”
Other Mothers proliferate in small towns. In cities, where you can’t turn around without bumping into a different culture, nationality, religion or sexuality, there’s a far greater tolerance of diversity. Small towns seem to breed a herd culture that’s borderline fascist in some cases.
The Other Mother isn’t identified by anything she does or doesn’t do. It’s more the certainty with which she does it – because the Other Mother knows that there’s only one approach to life that’s ‘normal’ (hers) while everything else is ‘worrying’.
So you want to send your child to a school with small classes? “Oh, she’ll be under terrible pressure. Olivia loved being in a class of 35, so she could really mingle, didn’t you darling?”
Or you try and teach your child that there’s no such thing as girls’ and boys’ toys, just toys anyone can play with. “Oh, nonsense, it’s how we make sense of the world. Everyone knows little girls wear pink, don’t we?”
Of course, what I’ve worked out about the Other Mother is that secretly she’s terrified. Under all that judgement and phoney concern is a fierce hope that I’ll validate her choices by making the same ones.
The problem is that I don’t care about making the same choices as anyone else – if that’s a character flaw, then it’s one I hope Flea’s inherited. Because if all you ever do is make the same choices as someone else, how is your life ever going to be extraordinary? Where does the spontaneity, the magic, the passion come from?