How do you measure motherhood?

Mothers day card

How do you measure motherhood?

By the number of nights you are last to fall asleep, waiting until you hear gentle snores float along the hallway. Or by the number of mornings you are first to wake, tiptoeing down to turn on the heater and warm up the house before breakfast.

By the tears dried, or arnica applied, by kisses or bedtime stories. By the number of times you’ve towelled wet hair, or the number of tiny toenails snipped, holding your breath in case you nip. Do you count bath times and birthdays, or the number of little-boy boogers you’ve had wiped on your skirt?

Some numbers are too big to even contemplate. The pears puréed and apples sliced, the crusts cut off, tomatoes diced. The dishes stacked and sheets washed. The sticky, spreading spills mopped. The endless names, dates, parties, appointments…

How many crumbs have you hoovered up? How many bottles of bubble mix have you blown away on the breeze? How many toy cars have you fixed with the tiniest dab of superglue? How many chocolate buttons have you administered as bribery? How many monsters and crocodiles have you chased away from under the bed? How many out-of-focus shots did you take before finally capturing that one perfect photo? How many cold park benches have you sat on? How many thank you cards have you written on behalf of someone so small they can’t yet hold a pen? How many cups of tea have sat, undrunk, on the sideboard? How many miniature glowstars have you stuck to a bedroom ceiling? How many times have you shaken glitter off your pillow, with no idea where it came from? How many times can you read The Tiger Who Came to Tea without wanting to hurl it out of a window? How many sharp little Lego bricks have you stood on barefoot? How many times have you shouted, ‘Remember to flush‘? How many pockets does a handbag need to hold all those snacks and sunhats, toys and tissues?

None of those numbers are the right ones, really.

Motherhood has no KPIs. But every day feels like a performance review. So we have to come up with something.

I like to count the warm, crumpled daisies that I’ve had pressed into my palm. The shells that I’ve rescued from trouser pockets. The crayon rainbows taped to the wall.


I’m so delighted to have been shortlisted in the Best Writer category of the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards. Thank you so much to you all for your support. If you would like to see DorkyMum make it into the final six, please vote for me here. Voting is open until Friday May 16th.

50 responses

  1. I like to count the times my kids come tumbling out of school shouting what did you do today mummy before I get to ask them, And the times I have wanted a bath to find it full of moshi monsters which make me smile. And the endless hours I spend attempting to untangle crazy curls….. precious days

    • Oh Anya, I did too. T was only tiny and I was using clippers instead of scissors, I took a bit off his pinkie. Still makes me just crumple to think of his little face when I did it. xx

  2. Beautiful. Sometimes I feel like I’m measuring motherhood by days survived. Your last two posts have made me rethink all the things that are truly of value. I’m going to start measuring it differently!

  3. Beautiful. It’s made me put a pot of bubble mix in my handbag for when I go to pick up the Bean today, just to get another notch, to get a little closer to infinity on all the tiny but lovely things I share with him.

  4. Pingback: How do you measure motherhood? « dorkymum | New, Health and BeautyNew, Health and Beauty

  5. You are such a beautiful writer my love – well deserved nomination and short-listing. I like to count the number of stones I have pulled out of the washing machine from my children’s pockets that are “special”…far too many, and probably one of the reasons they keep breaking! 😉

    • Oh goodness, yes! And sand! Since we’ve moved our poor washing machine has had so much sand in it that I’ve had to pick out with my nails. x

  6. this is fabulous Ruth, I can see why you’ve been nominated. But where many others have daisies and tissues in their pockets I find tonnes of bus tickets with I love you sprawled on them! 🙂

    • Ha! Yes, I believe that! And the number of times you’ve heard a grumbling over the baby monitor and laid there praying that it stops instead of turning into a full on cry! x

  7. It’s immeasurable. But, at the moment, I like to count the number of times my son wipes his nose on me or the sofa, the amount of times he puts his head on my lap for his style of cuddle and the number of times my daughter does a ‘plank’ impression when trying to pick her up, put her in the car seat, highchair or anything else! x

  8. Ooh I really like that, have always wondered when my line manager was going to appear, or the equivalent of Ofsted. I’d like and outstanding, but I think the most any parent should hope for is ‘good enough’ we’re only human after all 🙂

  9. Pingback: How do you measure motherhood?

  10. I would say it is immeasurably measurable. You have reminded me so much of my mother, and all the wonderful things she did for me… Hot breakfasts every morning, keeping every piece of art I created, every piece of jewelry I made and gave her, always saying that they were her favorites. Any maybe they were? How could a silly tumbled amethyst pendant, glued with epoxy into a fake gold setting, ever trump her beatiful set of graduated pearls? Somehow they did. Somehow.

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