We all know the story; boy meets girl, boy proposes, girl plans dream wedding, boy and girl love each other so much and decide to make a baby…
And that baby turns the girl’s entire life upside down.
Enter: Stress. Anxiety. Weight gain. Hair loss. Sleepless nights. Stretch marks. Criticism.
Exit: Sex life. Flaky friendships. Finances. Sexy clothing. High heels. Clean hair.
You see, society has led us to believe that women can have it all and do it all. And yes you can, but not all of the time, unless you want to have a nervous breakdown and end up seeing your family through glass at prison or the mental asylum.
We feel like failures.
If we can’t lose weight, or make our own homemade organic purees, and never give our kids sugar, or let them watch too much TV (how much is too much TV? *goes looking for scientific study*)
We see other moms at the school drop off, we see celeb moms ‘bouncing back’ 6weeks after giving birth, looking as glamourous as ever. And we feel like we’ve failed. More importantly, we wonder…’How does she do it?’ And, ‘If she can do it, then so should I.’
But the truth of the matter is, everyone has different circumstances. And I’m not just talking about your genetic capabilities to lose baby weight. What most mothers fail to realize is that everyone has varying levels of support and varying levels of finance.
*The slender mom standing in front of you at Woolworths may have more childcare in the form of willing grandparents, to facilitate her being able to go to gym once a day.
*The mom with the flawless make up may have a live in nanny or a retired grandparent living with them and so has more time to get ready in the morning.
*The mom who has her children on a strictly organic diet has the finances to purchase quality made food for her children.
*The mom with the perfectly highlighted hair has the extra time and money to go to the salon every week.
When you become a mom, it’s about time, and it’s about money. If you don’t have the time to do it, you can pay someone to do it for you. Some of us lack time, some of us lack money, and some of us lack both resources and so have to do everything ourselves.
But do we?
Enter: The husband.
Very often in the first year of marriage, the demise of the husband is plotted many a night by the wife. Husbands should really be more grateful for surviving the first year of parenting. If they only knew…
But besides delegating more tasks to your significant other, I feel that mothers need to let go of the elusive perfect mother noddy badge.
Our kids honestly don’t give a shit. And our husbands aren’t striving for the same level of perfection.
Your child doesn’t care where their veggies came from, they will spit them out all the same. Your child doesn’t care if their top matches their pants. Your child doesn’t care how many committees you are a part of or if you have read all the parenting books.
Your husband isn’t invested in much of this either. As long as the kid is fed and clean, your husband counts this as enough.
And so you run around all day, making mental notes of AAAAAAALL the things you have to do. And all the things you have to research, and make a second mental list of all the things you’ve failed at. But failed by whose standards? Only your own.
I used to be that mom. Having a cry in the bathroom because I had failed at yet another task. I used to be that silent mom that was always comparing myself to other moms.
And then one day…something dawned on me. None of this petty crap matters.
I remember this one particular day while taking my daughter for a walk to the shop (for ice cream). We got back home and I was exhausted. I planned to sit down and enjoy the ice cream with her and then get started on the cleaning.
And suddenly she reached over and give me the biggest bear hug ever.
‘What a nice adventure we had mommy.’ Those were her words.
A trip to the shop for milk, yoghurt, biscuits and ice cream was…an adventure.
When her father got home from work and asked her how her day was, she told him with such joy about our trip to the shops and how we picked flowers along the way and saw a bird.
As it turns out, I’m not a giant loser after all.
That day I learnt a valuable lesson.
I learnt what is important to children. And none of it was on my list.
I made a conscious decision that day to let go of perfection. And in its place I put HAPPINESS. Not only the happiness of my daughter, but my own happiness.
I’m not the perfect mother (I never was) but back then I was a mother consumed by anxiety and fatigue.
Does my child have a balanced diet? uhm..mostly. But do I also buy shut the fuck up snacks when I need peace? Yes I do. Because those five minutes make me a better mother.
Does my child watch too much TV? Probably. But has she learnt a lot from TV? Actually yes. And does the TV time give me time to do laundry and dishes and keep our house from turning into a cesspool for germs? Yes, yes it does.
When last have I read a parenting book? I honestly can’t remember. I do what feels right for me and my family, and my daughter’s personality. I don’t spank, I don’t do time out. I do explain her actions and the consequences, and occassionally withhold treats. Okay I bribe. Whatever.
Do I engage with my child every second of every day? No. Because for a long time I did and it was exhausting. And none of my housework was getting done. Contrary to my husband’s belief, there aren’t magical fairies who do the laundry. For a long time my daughter was clingy and couldn’t play on her own, so all the toys we bought were kinda useless. Gradually I took a step back, and while we are still in the same room, I’ve had to encourage her to entertain herself. Have a problem with this? Take a number and stand in line, coz I aint got the time.
I cannot hold myself to these impossible standards anymore. And I don’t see how it is healthy for a child to have a mother who is burning out on both ends to create a perfect world for said offspring when a perfect world doesn’t exist.
Since taking a step back I feel calmer. My house is a bit messier but my heart is lighter and everyone in getting along better in general.
I refuse to sweat the small stuff anymore. (Unless it involves my favourite chocolate being sold out or my eczema flaring up)