Mothers, it’s time to reflect on what a great job we’re doing

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A mother blackbird and her 10-day-old babies
A mother blackbird and her 10-day-old babies

After this past Mother's Day likely didn't go as planned - again - perhaps it's time to reflect on what a great job we're actually doing, writes Janine Dunlop.

Or maybe not?

At times, it can feel as though we're not that great at this, the most 'natural' of roles, and we're a far cry from the image of motherly serenity we cherished in our pre-parenthood days.

Falling short

We vowed never to yell, but repeating our teenager's name 17 times in a row and getting no response can be… trying.

We were adamant we'd never let technology play nanny to our kids, yet here we are, bingeing a Netflix series while they're on their devices, chatting to their friends.

At least we hope that's what they're doing.

And we swore we'd always be attentive, rapt by the gems flowing from their perfect lips, but seriously, how many times can we be expected to laugh at a YouTuber we don't care about and have never found particularly funny?

Also read: 'More a science experiment than reality': How the pandemic has impacted working moms in South Africa 

Ideal parenthood

It's sad, but true: we often fall short of our ideal picture of parenthood.

Before we all go beating ourselves up and refusing the macaroni necklace and soap basket Mother's Day gifts that we all so deserve, here's a cheering fact: Even in the animal kingdom, some parents make us look like saints in comparison.

Humans don't hold the patent on bad parenting. Birds, for example, can be terrible parents. From kicking their kids out of the nest, to attacking their young, here are some examples of the questionable parenting strategies of birds: 

Failure to launch

Have an older teen who looks way too comfortable on your couch and is seemingly reluctant to move out?

Take heart!

Albatross parents have experienced similar struggles.In a paper titled, "Failure to launch…" (sound familiar?!), researchers write about their observations of some Albatross chicks that just wouldn't leave, spending almost 50% more time (150-200 days) than their siblings hanging around in the nest and being fed by their parents.

Tough love or irresponsible parenting?

Feel guilty for having kicked your comfy teen off the couch and into the world? 

Penguin parents can be much more brutal than this.

Researchers studying what happens to a young penguin when he's ready to leave the nest found that abrupt abandonment seems to be the order of the day: "The parents on a breeding island feed it and when the day comes they leave and it's a case of 'Goodbye, you're on your own'. The young birds have to get into the water and try to work out what to eat and where to find it. To put it in our (human) terms, it's irresponsible parenting!" 

WATCH: A panel of experts answers your Parental Alienation questions  

Outsourced parenting

Sheepish about your (disturbingly regular) fantasy of flying off to a remote island, leaving the children behind in the hands of your partner or your parents?

Take comfort in examining the Greater Honeyguide mom. Having cunningly evolved to mimic the eggs of bee-eaters, kingfishers, or hoopoes, she lays her eggs in their nests, leaving them to do the work of parenting, while she's freed up to forage for food and lay more eggs.

Good-enough parenting

Examples like these show us that, even in the natural world, mothering simply doesn't come naturally to everyone, and that our worst parenting fails can look fairly modest.

This Mother's Day, I say we should raise a glass to ourselves and celebrate our good-enough parenting.

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