Bad Mum diaries: When exams bring out the helicopter in you

Bad Mum

Its exam time again. And the Bad Mum vs Good Mum boxing ring opens in my head. What exactly is my role? How involved must I be?

Can I sit back, confidently knowing my kids will study like they’re supposed to, and holler for help if they need? Do I cut myself off from the world to sit and study with them, disguising my own anxiety by this ridiculous concept of nurturing? Do I just keep the calm at home- checking that the study timetable is adhered to, and making sure the snack cupboard is fully stocked?

Confession: I don’t check my kids books. I don’t check their timetables. I barely sign the diary. I don’t even read every newsletter. Class chats,  yes – they’re useful, but sometimes I am lost there too.  So, does this make me a Bad Mum?

First time Mum – the bad one

But there was a time I did it all. With my firstborn. For heavens sake, I happily accepted the role of Class Mum so I could be on top of everything.  And boy, I was. In fact,  I enjoyed being back to school. I studied Gandhi, and re-learnt BODMAS. I knew all about the water cycle. So when it came to tests, I could teach and test and make sure my kid got that A and made it to top 10. Now that was a Good Mum. Or rather a Bad Mum, I’d admit now.

Fast forward a few years. More kids in tow with more schedules, tests and work loads. I felt overwhelmed, to say the least. I barely caught my breath, and rarely slept. I had labelled myself a Bad Mum for missing a spelling test, or actually allowing a day off from school.

And as I let go of my darling firstborn, I realised she had no feet to stand on. She needed me to test her, to learn chemistry and weather patterns for her.

Acknowledging being the helicopter Mum – the Bad Mum

Slowly, painstakingly, it dawned upon me. I had crippled my child – by being a helicopter mum. By keeping up with the perfect mums on social media, and every coffee date with the perfect mums.

I remembered my mantra when looking for a school – they all teach 123’s and abc’s but its the culture that matters. Its the extra little things, like sports, like independence, compassion, inclusiveness, kindness, consideration, confidence, leadership and every other value, not taught parrot fashion from textbooks, that mattered. And that is why I chose the school all my kids attended.

With guilt and remorse, I awoke. There’s a fine line between hovering over your kids and gently guiding them. I had slipped. I was the Bad Mum. It  was time to let go, and let grow.

Shifting from Bad Mum to Good Mum

It’s a mental shift, really. It’s you reminding yourself that no one remembers what they scored in History in Grade 6. But they do remember the confidence they gained from  knowing and being organised. Every adult will reminisce over sports days, or rainy PE lessons when movies were allowed. Or an outing. In a nutshell, they remember the journey – the fumbling and the triumphs, not really the destination.

And this is when the magic happens. When you can shift your thoughts and remember the journey, you will let go. While you stand by their side, you will guide them and protect them, but you wont helicopter them. You will miss a few newsletters, but you will grow adults who will be confident and responsible. Who will understand the value of their studies without you begging them to open a book, or setting tests for them.

You will still know what’s going on in their lives. And at school. And what homework was done, and which subject needs attention. But this will come from your kids. From their confessions and confidence. From routines. From the trust you place in them. From the accountability you pass on.

Yes, help by all means. Teach if you must, because education begins in the lap of a mother. And we’re born with the natural instinct to love and nurture. You can watch from the side. Or above. But dont get involved in the game.

They will fall. But they will rise. And you will be ever so proud to be their Mum. The Good Mum.

Bad Mum vs Good Mum


This article was inspired by a poem by  Emily Roussell:

I can’t stop the rain.

But I will hold the umbrella.

Even as my children get older,
and closer to grown.

Even as I know life is both.
Sunshine and rain.
Immense joy and immense hard.

I can’t stop the rain.

Despite giving it my all.
Despite deeply cherishing.
Despite loving unconditionally.

The rain comes.
In aches. In grief. In uncertainty. In trials.

I can’t stop the rain.

And I’m not meant to.

Because I know it’s on me
to protect them from life’s storms,
but to also give them the skills to navigate the waters.
To guard them from the floods,
but to also understand some rain is needed for growth.

It’s a sacred dance we do as their mothers.

It’s a back-and-forth rhythm of shielding,
while trying to grow their independence.
It’s trying to raise them to be ready and capable,
while still protecting and nurturing.
It’s holding on,
while gently letting go.

I can’t stop the rain.

And it’s my job to teach them to maneuver through it.

But for as long as I’m able,

I will hold the umbrella.

Because while I can’t stop the rain,
I can give them the gift of knowing
that whatever they’re going through,
if the storm becomes too much,
there is someone who will stand beside them

and hold the umbrella.

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Analytikal Mama

Analytikal Mama

Analytikal Mama, mother of 4 beautiful children, wife and co-chef to a braaimaster.  She loves spending time with family and friends, traveling, and is endlessly curious about religion, parenting and the culinary world. 

2 Responses

  1. That’s always the dilemma isn’t it? Have I done enough or too much? The fine line is rather blurry and that’s what makes it so darn difficult. I’ve slowly learnt to let go and realised that it gives them a chance to prove themselves, to show us what they’re made of and that my role is a supportive (in the background) one, not a controlling one.

  2. This is such an honest, wonderful article. So insightful about finding the balance between doing too much for your kids and teaching them resilience. Thank you

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