Pressure, perfection and parenting

Prompt: ‘We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.’ ~ Joan Halifax

A friend of mine recently wrote Sunday Funday — Bad Mum Cooking, about her struggles to be the perfect mother.

Everything I do is to try and be super mum, super business partner, super partner, super ‘Stepmother’ (oh and no one can say that with a tone quite like an 11 year old girl).

The school lunches, the dinners, the healthy treats .. it’s a big part of it. Like if I can just make the gluten free, nut free, low sodium, sugar free crackers that taste just like BBQ Shapes (aka kid crack), then I can take a break. Everyone will be happy and I will be a good mum.

On Sunday I wrote a letter to a friend of mine from, who is expecting her first child. I dared to give her advice, even knowing that soon-to-be mothers are inundated with so much advice (and much of it contradictory) that they can’t possibly use or even remember it all. I still couldn’t help myself.

The advice I gave Aly was much the same as I wrote in my comment on my friend’s entry.

There is no such thing as the perfect mother.  That person doesn’t exist. If you persist in trying to be that person, you are setting yourself up to fail. You will exhaust and depress yourself trying to achieve something that simply cannot exist.

I remember my in-laws telling me about a friend of theirs who insisted on making all her own baby food from scratch.  She was exhausted.  And with exhaustion comes stress and depression.  How can you being exhausted, stressed and depressed possibly be good for your child?  It can’t.  I can understand wanting to give your child the best possible start in life.  I’m a mother.  Trust me, I get that.  I’m not immune from the internal pressure.  If you think I haven’t cried because I thought I wasn’t good enough at this motherhood gig, you’re dead fucking wrong.  Maybe that’ll surprise some people.  But it’s true.

I’ve cried after shouting at my kids.  What sort of mother shouts at her children like a fucking fishwife?  A bad one, right?

I’ve cried when I’ve run out of money and my child had to eat sandwiches for dinner for a week because we had no money for hot meals.

I cried when my teenage son told me he’d been suicidal for a while in primary school, thanks to bullying.  I cried because I hadn’t intervened early enough to prevent him going through that anguish.

I cried when I left my three month old daughter with a caregiver and went to work, and then read on Facebook that a friend had written ‘No amount of money is worth more to me than this time with my children’.  Clearly working mums are bad mums.

I still make mistakes.  I always will.  Because no one is perfect.  No one is a perfect mother.  A perfect father.  A perfect wife or husband.  A perfect sibling or child.  My children are not perfect, my husband is not perfect and I am not fucking perfect.  But my children know I love them.  My children know they are important to me.  My children know that I will always do what I think is best for them, even if sometimes I’m wrong and it doesn’t turn out to be best for them.  My children won’t remember the week of sandwiches.  They’ll remember that I fell on my ass trying to ice skate with them.  My children won’t remember that I shouted at them.  They’ll remember how I nearly threw up after going on the scary rides with them at Rainbows End.  My children won’t remember that I wasn’t able to help out on school trips because I was working.  They’ll remember me spending hours helping them make a journal, bake a cake, do homework, draw a picture, do a cartwheel, whistle, or a thousand other things.

Ultimately, I believe that what children truly cherish is your time and attention.  The rest is important, yes.  But only up to a point.  It’s not worth making yourself miserable over. It’s okay to be the fun mum.  Honest.

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