There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one (quote Sue Atkins, Parenting Coach)
It's time to quit striving for perfection, and keep it real.
WHY DO WE DO IT?
Striving for perfection… comparing ourselves to ‘other mums’ who seem to be nailing it… living in fear of ‘dropping the ball’... sound familiar?
You’re not the only one. We all desperately want to do the very best for our children, be the very best, and ultimately give them the childhood of dreams. We want to give them what we never had, and perhaps even be the person we ourselves needed when we were growing up. And there’s nothing wrong with that of course, except when it starts to affect how we feel about ourselves when we don’t keep up with our own (or other peoples) crippling standards.
We want to live in nice houses in nice areas, drive nice cars, go on nice holidays, give our kids the things they want - so we break our backs juggling work and motherhood. We want to be the best stay-at-home-mums so we relinquish our own wants, needs and dreams. We want to be fun mums and have play dates and go to every single get together we’re invited to, despite our already chaotic schedules. We strive to throw birthday parties that rival the organisation of a full blown wedding, plan christmases equivalent to those in festive movies… and don’t forget the Easter Egg hunt, the Tooth Fairy (she’s upped her game lately hasn’t she - 2 bloody quid, fairy dust AND a personalised letter?!), Halloween parties (and costumes)... it’s never ending.
The gifts we buy for kids parties must be meticulously thought out. We want to pack lunch boxes that resemble something from some sort of kids version of Deliciously Ella (God forbid the other school kids should get something tastier or more exciting for their lunch - how would we live with ourselves?)
We want our kids to enjoy out of school activities like swimming, ballet, gymnastics, martial arts… and don’t forget we should be doing homework 5 nights a week! We desperately want to be oh so patient and calm, compassionate and easy going. We want to laugh and play and hug and have fun and genuinely love bath times and wake up early to pop fresh croissants in the oven, but...
Hear me now mama's... it's just not real fucking life!
What is perfect anyway? One mums perfect is another mums hell - Milly wants her kids to do 30 minutes of homework every day before tea while Molly prefers her kids to play out in the garden after school. Both are fine! Some of our little darlings have activities 5 nights a weeks - some have none, and again that’s totally ok!
There’s the mum who’s fashioned a halloween costume from scratch (that’s the envy of all the other mums at the school gate) and you legged it to Asda at 9pm the night before dress up day - again - despite last year swearing you’d get your shit together. So what! Your kid’s gonna have a ball in his outfit and he’s going to get loads of candy… he’s not losing any sleep over it sista!
GUILTY AS CHARGED
My babies are 4, 6 and 8 now and looking back, my incessant pursuit of perfection started the moment I found out I was expecting. I read book after book on how to be the perfect parent (from smart-wiring the baby’s brain in utero, to providing a completely organic diet once weaned), I played music to my ever growing bump, and I threatened to kill anyone who dared to smoke within 6 miles of me. It was my most important mission yet - and I was going to reign supreme!
Once my first born arrived I revelled in the role of super-mum, and believe me when I say I gave it 100%. I was nailing it. I joined breastfeeding groups, I baked, and I attended every single mum and baby group going, from music to tumble tots, little-swimmers to baby massage. I was unstoppable. I HAD to be the perfect mum, for my perfect, beautiful little baby. Same for baby number two, and baby number three (I’m breaking by this point by the way - I haven’t slept in 4 years and my face is starting to look like a bag of chips).
It continued well up to, well, last week!
Looking back, I’ve been the worst for comparing myself to other mums. I’d overhear a conversation in the playground about how much time was committed to daily homework, and I’d think “Shit, I don’t do that!” I’d see someone volunteering at school and think “Damn I should be doing that”. I’d read an article on Mindful Parenting and think “Oh fuck that’s so not me, why am I not like that?” Before I knew it, there were approximately 172 things I wasn’t doing, being, saying, making, cooking, sewing, growing, organising.... and if I wasn’t doing all of these admirable things that the other mums were doing then that surely meant I was less than good enough, right? I was failing as a mum? I wasn’t (gasp) perfect?
There would always be someone who seemed to have their shit together - their house would look like something out of ‘House Beautiful’ magazine, their kids would be learning 7 different languages, they’d bake the most amazing cakes for school and they even knew what contouring was (I STILL don’t know what fucking contouring is dammit). I’d hear about classmates who could swim 100 metres unaided while mine were still flapping around with mismatched disney armbands on. I’d look at the quiet, calm mum who never raised her voice, and wonder why I was the Miss Hannigan to her Mary Poppins.
And there was me - I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed the kids bedding and I was sure the little chimps would be getting freezer tapas for tea again. Fuck.
In the end I decided to let go of ‘perfect’. It wasn’t healthy for me or my boys (the standards were crippling for the kids and I want them to have as fun and carefree a childhood as possible). I became heartily sick of striving to be this non-existent fairytale fantasy mum who has everything together and never drops the ball. It’s crazy. Unrealistic. Pointless.
I decided to just be me, and to recognise and appreciate that actually, I’m more than enough, just as I am. I decided to quit comparing myself to mums on social media (a lot of what we see on there is bullshit at its filtered best anyway) and to start focusing on the positives, the things I do well as a mum, the things my boys will (hopefully) remember - the stories I write for them, the little notes I hide in their lunch boxes, camping out with them in the spare room with cookies and milk and a movie, our unique family quirks and traditions that only we have.
WHY WE SHOULD JUST KEEP IT REAL
We’re all different when it comes to parenting. We’re different people and we have different kids with different personalities and varying needs. We have different situations - some of us have family close by to help out, some of us are alone. Some parents work, some don’t. Some have supportive husbands, some have husbands who work away. Some mama’s are naturally more maternal or more organised than others. Whoever we are, whatever our situation, we’ve got to keep it real, stop comparing (and stop judging others), and have the confidence to just be ourselves.
I say let’s aim for ‘real’ not perfect, and allow our kids to be real too!
That mum that grows veggies in her garden and only feeds her kids organic, homemade food? That’s awesome, but does she take the kids roller skating on a saturday like you do? That mum that does an hour of homework a night with her kids? Great, if that works for them, but do they have that special story and song time that you and yours have every night? That Mother Earth mummy that is so calm and compassionate and you JUST KNOW she never loses her rag or shouts - I admire her, but does she make the best chocolate cake in the world?
We simply cannot do everything, so let’s choose what works for us and ours. Let’s focus on the things we’re awesome at, the things that we DO do. There will always be mums doing stuff we’re not, and we’ll be doing plenty of things that others mums are not. That’s life. It's physically impossible to do everything, be everything.
So let’s not feel so freaking bad when we miss one swimming lesson because we’re just so damn tired or run down. Let’s not berate ourselves if we serve up beans on toast or fish finger butties because we just haven’t got the energy left to cook a proper meal after music class (we can give them veg tomorrow). Let’s stop beating ourselves up if we haven’t bathed the kids or if they’ve had a bit too much screen time this week. The world won’t stop spinning and our kids won’t require therapy in their twenties just because we sent them to school in an un-ironed shirt or because we didn’t read them read 17 stories before bed. Let’s just give ourselves a break!
*Loosen your bone Wilma*
I also think we should allow our kids to see our mistakes, to see that we’re just human, which in turn allows them to be human and make mistakes too. Let’s allow our kids to see a happy, relaxed, flexible mum rather than a robotic, anxious, worn out one. Let them see the funny mum with the cheeky sense of humour and naughty laugh. Let them see the mum who’s about to launch the cling film out of the kitchen window because it’s fucking twat-arsing stuck to-fucking-gether (obvs we wouldn’t let them hear the swearing through gritted teeth). Let them see the mum who cries at Disney Films or gets upset when she sees homeless people. Let them see the real us.
I am not only a mum. I am a person. I am a woman. One day dear daughter, you will be one, just like me. One day my son, you will marry one, just like me.
Let our kids see us mess up sometimes, hear us apologise when we get it wrong, see our humility, and to understand that we’re ‘just doing our best’. As long as they’re feeling the REAL LOVE that emanates from our very bones for them, they’re well.
So here’s my message for all you wonderful mums out there: You’re doing great, you’re kids adore you, and they’re gonna turn out just fine - so don’t sweat it, just keep it real. We’re all doing our best, and that’s good enough!
If you liked this you may also like “Juggling work and motherhood and feeling like you suck at both”
*Loosen your bone Wilma* is a term used by Jen Sincero in her book “You are a Badass”. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read it if you want to unleash the Badass in you. This books gets my vote for ‘most fucking funny and genuinely kickass’.
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x