Why I no longer strive to be the perfect mother

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)

mom post

 

 

Does my husband know?

I am scared to have another baby.

There. I said it.

Currently this isn’t even an option for us financially but I fear the day we are able to afford it..because I’m scared of doing it all again. But at the same time I do want to give my daughter a sibling. And I want to experience pregnancy again. To savour it one more time.

Does my husband know the intense sleep deprivation I experienced in those first few weeks? Does he know how anxious I was? Does he know how I felt like I was drowning? Does he know how I longed to go back to not having a child? Does he know how neglected I felt? How I longed to shower more than twice or once a week in those first few weeks?

Does he know?

Does he know that he actually has no idea what tired means? Because the person who got two hours of broken sleep really knows what tired is. And that person is me. The mom. Does he know that I switch between loving him and hating him in 5 minutes on certain days? Does he know that I blame myself because I wanted to prove I could be supermom and do it all but all I ended up doing was being super burnt out?

Does he know?

Does he know how my body betrayed me? This vessel that had served me my entire life and which created and moulded and birthed a miracle then decided to just fall apart. Does he know that I wish I could go back to the days of wearing what I want and feeling good about? Does he know that even though he thinks I’m hot I don’t?

Does he know?

Does he know how many nights the baby kept me up and how we both cried silent and not so silent tears, clinging on to each other for dear life not knowing which way to go? Does he know that I suffered through that alone because I felt like he needed his rest to function at work while I could ‘recoup’ during the day on maternity leave? Does he know that when I went back to working full time I just wanted to run away?

Does he know?

Does he know everything that gets done around the house?

Does he know that I do so many things that don’t even cross his mind? Let’s do some laundry, Oh and don’t forget the kid must wear something blue on Tuesday and take a treat with for the picnic on Wednesday and their favourite toy on Friday. Must not forget. Let’s wash the dishes. Go find the random forgotten sippy cups and half eaten treats before we have a different set of problems. Remember which day is trash day. Remember to pack in sneakers for soccer practice. Talk to kid about school. Remember names of friends and names of friends moms. Birthday party this weekend. Directions. Gift, gift wrap, cute little birthday card. Do we have everything? Shit we forgot to buy shampoo. Let’s sweep the house. Oh look, need to go through this pile of art work. Can’t keep it all so have to pick favourites when kid is asleep. Friday is bake sale day? When the fuck did that happen? oh…here it is in the email I got three weeks ago but forgot to read. Must pluck eyebrows so that I don’t look like big foot’s sister, but wait, kid needs me to open juice box even though dad is sitting around doing nothing. Eyebrows later then. Must paint nails to look presentable at work, but wait…waiting for nails to dry is not productive. Skip nails. Hang up washing. Do more washing. Change bedding. Must get ready for work. Make sure we have everything. Get to work. Shit forgot lunch at home. Go home. Let’s bath the kid. Let’s have tea. Let’s remember everything for tomorrow. Husband needs pants mended. Kid needs new socks.

Does my husband know that this is what my brain feels like on a daily basis?

Don’t get me wrong. My husband is a modern man. He isn’t an old school pig that expects me to do everything, he just has no idea what gets done on a daily basis. And I think many men don’t realize what kind of WORK goes into organizing the daily activities of a family. But I fear that having a second child will catapult me back into those first few weeks of desperation and also once again infringe on my personal time and our time as a married couple. I am over thinking this. And our daughter is 4 so I fear we have left it for too long because I am comfortable with the way things are. I like having a shower everyday. I like having a relatively clean house. I like being able to sleep for longer than 1 hour at a time.

Does my husband know that I fear losing myself again? Does he know that while having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me, it was also the worst thing to happen to my confidence, self esteem and sanity? Does he know that I love our daughter with all my heart but that the first year of parenting led to our worst year of marriage and I don’t want to experience that again?

Does he know? 

Does he know that while I have all these fears, I also fear NOT having a second child? Never cradling a small tiny human at 3am again. Never experiencing the joy and wonder that is pregnancy ever again. Never nourishing a child from my breast ever again. Not giving my child a sibling while our immediate family circle is so small that I have to perfectly coordinate playdates on weekends so that she can associate with her peers.

Does he know about this inner war raging inside my head? How I try to find the words every day to tell him but I can’t translate it into man-speak so I just leave it or I start and end up looking deranged. Like do you want it or not want it?

Our financial situation right now means a second child would be financial suicide, but by the time we are financially able I fear we will have missed our window. Yes yes, I know some people have their first kid at 36 and well into their 40’s but that’s not for us.

I just sometimes wonder if my husband knows how I feel about it as I made it clear that I wouldn’t whine about a second child because I feel totally blessed having a healthy and happy child while someone can only dream of one, why cry for two? But that is the practical side of me speaking. The emotional part of me yearns to have a big belly to rub that I can talk to and play music to and create dreams for.

I just needed to say this. Because I know there are others out there. With the strain of the cost of modern living deciding how big their family is.

I am glad I have one. (I say this while my hand hovers over my belly wondering if I will be lucky enough to grow another human in there)

does my husband know

Being a mom without a mom

Being a mother without your mother is really hard. Every woman who has given birth to a human being without her mom by her side can relate. Wishing her mom was there for support, advice and simply just taking the baby for a cuddle.

But…here’s the spoiler alert: My ‘mother’ is still alive but not in my life.

I would hate to do any type of comparison or diminish someone else’s pain and grief but this situation somehow just feels more painful than when a good mother has passed on. A good mom in heaven can be thought of in a loving way, and missed on special occasions.

Mine is best avoided at all costs. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish things were different. But my mother is a covert narcissist, and no good can come of having her in my daughter’s life. I went ‘no contact’ a few years before I was pregnant and it would have been nice to reconcile ‘for the sake of the child’, I knew that my child would be nothing but a trophy to her.

‘Mom-ing’ without a mother, especially when yours has been toxic, is a confusing journey. You wish you had that maternal shoulder to lean on, especially in the early days when you have no fucking clue what to do. But you are also struck with a horrible realization. For many years, many of us in the struggle can and will find many ways to justify the behaviour. We justify the way we were treated in many ways. ‘Oh she had a hard life’, or ‘I’m sure there is a reason why she is this way’; and then you have your own child. And you’re scared.

You’re fucking scared shitless because you worry that you carry this evil in your DNA.

But then you look into your child’s eyes…and a horrible awakening overcomes you. And you ask yourself ‘How could my own mother have treated me that way?’.

I am not a perfect mother. I’m human. I get short tempered when I have had broken sleep. I get cranky after the 50th ‘why this, why that’ from my now ever curious four year old. But the love I have for my daughter is deep and real and like no other love I have ever known.

And I’m scared. I’m still scared. I’m scared I raise her with a whole different set of issues. I’m scared I spoil her too much. I’m scared I discipline too much or too little. I’m scared because I feel I have no idea what ‘normal’ motherhood is because I have no frame of reference. I’m scared of the day she asks me ‘Where is grandma?’ and doesn’t accept ‘far away’ as the answer. I’m scared of the day my ever psychotic mother tracks her down as a teen and fills her head with so much lies and manipulation about me. I’m scared.

Some days I live in the moment. I exist as the person I am. Wife, mother, coworker and friend. And other days I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t know how to do this. Am I capable of doing this on my own? Should I just give up now because I’m going to fail anyway?

The love I have for my daughter comes naturally. There is no switch for that. But all the years of manipulation are hard to switch off. I still hear her voice in my head. You’re not good enough. You will never amount to anything. You will never find someone to love you. You are overweight. 

And while for the most part I feel I have succeeded, my inner child keeps tripping me up.

There are moments of clarity I have as a mother. Those moments mean so much more to me than the average mom. When I get home from work and my daughter comes running to me with the biggest smile on her face. When she leans in for a cuddle and tells me ‘I love you so much mom’, when the house is full of friends and family and she chooses to sit by me. Small things that mean so much to someone who grew up in a house with no affection.

As women we all have a very skewed view of motherhood before we actually have children, and I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that the first week is a rude awakening. I haven’t lived up to the ‘ideal’ I had in my mind. I’m not 100% patient, my child doesn’t eat 100% organic (fuck I’m lucky if she eats an apple), I went back to work much earlier than my heart could handle, and the ‘love hate’ phase of toddlerhood really tests me at times.

But I am proud of the mother I am. My husband is proud of the mother that I am. My child loves me. And chooses me over everyone when she is hurt or ill or heartbroken. Even on my worst day, I am not my mother.

Many people look at my life and may find my parenting style weird. But I know why I do what I do. And having lived the life I have lived, I’m not going to explain myself to anyone who isn’t open to understanding that not everything is all sunshine and roses.

Motherhood is a different ball game for me. I do not deny it. I actually own it. And anyone who doesn’t respect my choices as a mother for my daughter can actually fuck right off. I waited for these moments, I earned my stripes, I have come out the other side much stronger than I ever thought I would. I am fucking proud of that and won’t allow anyone to take it from me.

The questions have started. (‘where is your mommy?’) And the questions will persist as she gets older. For now I am enjoying the untainted time I have with my innocent, beautiful, emotionally in tune child.

I’m not sure when the day will come, but it will. And we will sit down side by side, and I will have to tell her the tale of my childhood. The scars, the pain, the abuse, the blood, the tears.

Until then, love.

I’m looking forward with love.

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Dear Dummy

DEAR DUMMY, I have a confession to make. Pre-mom me never liked you. Well you have quite the reputation and not such a good relationship with the teeth of certain kids, so don’t hate me. I bought a breast pump set and two of you came with, so I didn’t really choose to buy you. And yet I packed one of you into the hospital bag, first time mom jitters I guess. When the nurse at the hospital discovered you she was in such shock and disgust, I actually thought she had discovered drugs in my bag. Oh well.

At 6 weeks I introduced you to Lia in the hope you could soothe her. So much crying, what is up with the crying. Lia didn’t like you at all and screamed even louder. So back into the cupboard you went. At the tender age of 3months I had to send my precious angel to school, on the list of things to provide in her bag was guess what…a dummy. I explained that she wasn’t interested but they thought they knew better. After the longest 8hrs at work in my life I rushed to fetch Lia and discovered her peacefully sleeping with you in her mouth. You were her comfort when I wasn’t there. I didn’t know whether to cry or be grateful.

Lia turns 4 at the end of this month and for the past two years you have been her dirty little secret. She doesn’t use you in public and makes no mention of you when outside the house (sorry). She has picked up on the fact that society is not happy with kids her age having a dummy and has adapted accordingly, only using you for bedtime.
So many childless people make comments like ‘oh is she still on the dummy? So and so’s kid left the dummy at age 2 or 3 blah blah (insert eye roll here) Depending on who it is I react with a variety of responses like ‘yeah well so and so’s kid has a security blanket so shut up’ or ‘Lia is my kid and I do what suits me’.
Or the ‘perfect parents’, ‘oh my child never used a dummy, do you know how bad it is for their teeth, and you’re going to struggle SO much getting her off it’ (insert yet another eye roll) uhm lady, I haven’t berated you for breastfeeding past age 4, and I can see your 6yr old sucks his thumb so back off and leave me alone will you. Stay in your lane dumbass.

The truth is I changed my mind about you when I saw how you calmed my child. Although sometimes I wish you were never invented, like when Lia was 8mnths and waking me up because she was not capable of finding you on her own in the dark at 3am. Then I just went out and bought 6 of you and sprinkled you over the cot like Motherhood calming glitter.

Last night Lia went to bed without you…we couldn’t find you (we weren’t motivated enough to find you, quite frankly we are sick of you) After much tossing and turning she finally fell asleep and in the morning we praised her so much for being a big girl. We had given Lia the cut off of her birthday, a day when she would hand you over to a baby and let go of her babyhood. But we somehow speeded up the process.

I feel kinda sad, I feel like I’ve lost my baby. But I have also waited for this day. Thank you. Thank you for soothing my child. Thank you for giving me ten minutes of peace at times, dummy in = silence. hahaha

Goodbye dummy. The other dummy moms feel exactly the same (sorry again) but you make a difference in the lives of kids and that is all that matters. Not the opinions of other people.

Pregnant moms know best

Yes I see you pregnant mom. With your ever swelling breasts and expanding watermelon waistline.

I see you in the sweet aisle giving me that look of ‘oh my child will not eat sweets’

I see you at playgrounds when my child will not share and is crying. Yes because your child will always share.

I see your expression when people talk about breastfeeding past 6months, or co-sleeping,only making home cooked baby food,disposable nappies. I see you roll your eyes when other moms talk about having no time for sex,and discussing how long its been since they shaved their legs.

Yes I see you.

I see you in clothing shops checking out a woman with 3 kids. Her hair hasn’t been washed or brushed and her one kid is still wearing pjs from last night. Yes I saw your expression. That will NEVER be me you think.

I see you sitting peacefully in restaurants with your husband. Chatting away while someone else’s kid whizzes past you. ‘Fucking hell!’,you think. My kid will never bother anyone.

Yes I saw your face.

And I laughed and laughed till the Barbie milkshake I was drinking came out my nose. And I think I peed a little.

Because I wish I could be there when you finally realize you will be everything you always hated in other mothers.

You will breastfeed past 6months and it wont be ‘weird’. You will co-sleep because fucksakes how else will you sleep? Your kid will be annoying to other people. Me for example. It will annoy me for sure. You will switch on the TV and give your 2yr old some marshmallows and flings to shut up and leave you alone just to have one minute of peace to pee and eat. You will forget to brush your hair,you will live in pjs for 3mnths,you will *gasp!* go weeks without painting your nails.

And guess what!!!!

It’s not called failure. It’s called motherhood.

Please dont hold any grudges against your pregnant form once you give birth. It’s not your fault you were so naive.

A baby isn’t a dog you can train. It is a human being that has it’s own needs and wants. And as a mom,no matter what it takes,you do it. It’s love. It’s all that tiny human wants.

I say this with conviction because I too was once that know it all. But now I really know it all. Motherhood takes more than a textbook and rules and routines. It takes guts and blood,and sweat and tears. And the ability to admit that you’re not the perfect mom. But that you’re the perfect mom that YOUR child needs.

Chat to you in 6months time pregnant mom. Till then keep your know it all looks to yourself while I’m in the supermarket trying to pay and giving my kid a kitkat at 10am so that she can be quiet because I got jack sleep last night.