50 signs that we need to stop spreading the myth of the 'ideal mother'

A popular new list on the 'signs that you're a mother' is a thinly-disguised attempt at shaming women who don't fit the mould

Just as you thought that we might have reached "peak list", there’s a new one in town, called "Top 50 Signs of Being a Mum". Although it may as well be titled "50 ways to make you feel bad because you’re not measuring up as a mother".

Based on a survey commissioned by Asda, it's all a rather long-winded way of praising hard-working, multi-tasking modern mums. Yet most would be hard-pressed to not find themselves wanting after reading it.

After all, there’s something perverse about the idea that to be a "good mum" you need to swap killer heels for "lots of comfy shoes", as number 22 on the list suggests. And there’s certainly nothing empowering about making women feel they’re lacking if they choose to shop at ASOS rather than BHS, as per 24: ‘Choose comfort over style in what to wear’ (subtext: “Put down those Louboutins, ladies, please!”) 

So, how do I score on the "50 signs of being a mother" list? Sadly, not that well – I can’t get my daughter to drink the white stuff, so that strikes me off the simplest: number 19’s "buy gallons of milk". I should probably go to bed at 9pm every night (21), as I’m up before 5am for work – but of course I don’t. This said, 17 stands true – "Can function on very little sleep", although it’s more a point of necessity than of pride.

I would be lying if I said none of the items on the survey rang true – I do "long for a lie in" (1) and I also "don’t go anywhere without a phone" (16 – does anyone?).

But hand on heart, I never "have kids TV channels on when there are visitors" (25) or "have an early night rather than go out when the kids are away" (26) – what a waste!

Others are simply arbitrary – I do happen to know all the words to "Let it Go" (28), but that’s nothing to do with my child, who would rather play with trains while I sob and sniff my way through Disney’s Frozen. I am always "rushing everywhere" (3), but that’s more a sign of London life than it is of being late or disorganised; and I do have a packet of raisins in my handbag (37) - although no used tissues.


The "50 signs" list may just be a light-hearted PR attempt to convey the pressures and pitfalls experienced by many a mother, but there are more insidious messages here.

What the survey really does is to tell us that to be a "good mother" you must put aside your own identity, and exist only to serve your kids, as evidenced in the horrifying 30: "Find bigger pants more comfortable".

And there’s nothing more depressing than ticking boxes to find out how we "match up" to the maternal ideal, at the same time as sticking in a barb about body image. For according to the quota, if you choose boots or heels over slippers, or take five minutes out of wiping snotty noses to put on some slap, then you’re not really fulfilling the "perfect mummy" role.

At best, we could roll our eyes over surveys like this, and cast them aside for what they are – generalised fluff, a thoughtless five minutes of stereotyping. At worst, we could criticise them for women-shaming, disguised as aspiration; a thinly-veiled implication that the instant you give birth, you are expected to stroll seamlessly away from French Connection; and give up tequila for a desperate, tea-time glass of wine.

I’ve got a new list for 2015, and it’s only got one item on it: enough of the lists, before we all feel bad. Actually, make that two: no more big pants.

Top 50 signs of being a mum

1. They long for a lie in

2. Have a photo of their children as a screensaver

3. They rush everywhere

4. They know all the words to popular kids TV theme tunes

5. They are permanently knackered or 'wired'

6. They always have a pack of wet wipes to hand

7. They can function on very little sleep

8. Can't leave the house without asking everyone if they've been to the toilet

9. Always carry a massive bag or multiple bags

10. Always have tissue in their handbag

11. They know the name of characters from kids TV

12. They appreciate their own mum more

13. They go out shopping for the day and only return with stuff for the children

14. Thinks nothing of sharing stories of difficult births, miscarriages, breast feeding etc

15. They have a cupboard dedicated to medicines

16. Never go anywhere without a phone 'just in case'

17. Super organised

18. They don't get queasy at the thought of poo, wee or sick

19. They buy gallons of milk

20. Always watch TV through catch-up of Sky+ - never live

21. Go to bed at 9pm every night

22. They own lots of comfy shoes

23. Total inability to watch sad things about children on the telly

24. Going for comfort over style when choosing what to wear

25. The kids TV channels are always on when they have visitors

26. They'd rather get an early night than have a night out when the kids are at a sleepover

27. They go to the toilet just to get a few minutes peace

28. They know the words to ‘Let it Go’

29. They have a massive family organiser on the wall

30. Bigger pants are more comfortable

31. They get drunk quicker on one glass of wine

32. The realise other work colleague seem so young

33. They can fall asleep anywhere

34. Have a strong opinion on schooling and education

35. They cry really easily when watching TV or films

36. Social media post are suddenly all baby pictures

37. Always have a box of raisins or snacks in their handbags

38. They swear under their breath

39. Instinctively grab a someone's hand when crossing the road - regardless of the age of their company

40. They panic about a late night

41. They are more likely to have seen the newest kids release at the cinema than the latest blockbuster

42. Nappies are always in their handbag

43. They have 'mum' nights out

44. They say 'sugar' and 'fudge' instead of swearing

45. They learn to sleep on the edge of the bed because their child in asleep horizontally next to them

46. Suddenly a people carrier is a good idea

47. Accidentally cut sandwiches into triangles

48. Jiggling the shopping trolley as if it was a buggy when they're in the supermarket

49. They can spot a high temperature at ten paces

50. They know all the words to irritating pop songs