travel with me from SAHM to working mum….

What price academic success?

On my way to the station I walk past a smart prep school. Today a family – mum, two children under six, smartly-dressed in regulation coat, hat and gloves – were coming in the other direction.

“Of course you know the answer – its between 10 and 20”, shouted the mother.
The daughter continued to sob. The little brother looked on.

I averted my eyes and hurried past, distressed.

I’d like to say that my distress was purely for the plight of the little girl with the pushy, aspirational mother. But it wasn’t.

Sometimes it’s only when you witness a scene as an onlooker that you recognise something about yourself.

My daughter and son used to go to that school, and now attend similar ones: most schools in this part of Surrey are, give or take different wrappings, as schools reflect the people who live in an area.

I’ve berated my daughter, and sons (not so much my sons as they’re younger and I’m learning) for not knowing the answers to timetables, French verbs or spellings. She’s cried. I’ve felt bad, but justified. I want her to learn, get GCSE’s, go to college, university.

But is this all that’s motivating me? And isn’t the clue in the way that that mum, and myself with my own children, was interacting with her daughter, just outside the school gate.

My distress was compounded by knowing how the mother was feeling as she harangued her child.


Panic, fear of failure, desperation. How can you face the other mums when your daughter is bottom of the class, or not competing for the top? They won’t get into the best (even more competitive) senior school – or sets, if you’re talking state schools. Social suicide. Better get your child a label to hide behind.

And how can you face the teacher when, yet again, your daughter has failed to get the times table certificate, or fails to be the first to achieve their times table badge? You’re the lazy mum who can’t be bothered to teach their child the times tables. You’re the sahm, you don’t even go to work, your children are your focus (or you’re working and selfish when your children should be your priority).

Just some of the explanations for these emotions.

But is shouting at your children until they cry the best way to encourage learning? Of course not. And if they do manage to learn through fear, how will this affect the life choices they will go on to make. Will they need to recreate this environment in later life?

It’s good to be brought up short occasionally by a mirror. And if it means I’ll bite my tongue and engage my brain before next spelling test day then three children will be a little bit happier. I just hope the small child outside the school gets the same chance.


3 comments on “What price academic success?

  1. Chelsea Brown19
    November 16, 2012

    Just letting you know that I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.
    Check it out

  2. I should be working
    February 25, 2013

    I have a 10y old daughter that has just made it into the very competitive Senior School. Ultimately…so what? I just want her to be happy. End of. I don’t mind if she is a pauper artist (or writer) that is content pursuing her dream. There is no denying that I feel like a more successful parent if she can calculate the rent on her studio and budget – whatever her budget is but that is just me projecting my hopes/fears/aspirations onto her.

    The world is a big and interesting place with little danger unless you go looking for it, or are just very unfortunate. A mum like you that can see the mirror is all your kids can hope for. I think they are very lucky that you see a mirror at all.

    • domesticbubblewriter
      February 25, 2013

      It’s true. You want your kids to experience success, but for their own benefit, not for yours. Too many people live through their kids. And actually, I get more pleasure when I get an A for my work than when they get one for theirs.

      Saw your comment about going back to school – what are you going to do?

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2012 by in family life, school and tagged , , , , , , .

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