I have a confession to make…I am not a ‘perfect’ mum, I try my hardest but like every other mum on the planet, it is impossible for me to be perfect at being a mum. So why then, am I so hard on myself for not being a perfect mum, and for making mistakes? I think because like every other mum, from the moment they were born I was hit by ‘mum guilt’.
This is when you suddenly feel guilty for things that usually aren’t your fault, and often isn’t something to feel guilty about, but you just do, as you love them so much you want life to be perfect for them. For example, with my first son I tried my hardest but just couldn’t produce enough breast milk and so I had to bottle feed him…instant mum guilt when I saw adverts everywhere saying ‘breast is best’, and had breastfeeding friends who seemed to find it all so easy!
With my second son I was so determined not to be a ‘failure’ by not breastfeeding and persevered despite severe supply issues, to the point where my baby’s urine came out in dry powdery lumps, which I did not know was even possible. Luckily my milk did arrive on the very day that this started to happen, but did I feel triumphant and like a ‘perfect’ Mum?
Well no I mostly felt hungry all the time, had ridiculously sore nipples, and felt guilty I had almost made him unwell from my want to be ‘perfect’. In hindsight as a more ‘mature’ person (I was only 21 with my first and 23) and with the benefit of a lot more years of parenting I can look back and think that it does not matter how I fed either of my children so long as they were fed and loved.
The problem is that others feed mum guilt, from the mum’s who look down on you for not using all organic products and bottle feeding (or breast in some cases), to the media where every mum on television is portrayed as perfect and in control, and the various ways of doing anything with or for your child is debated to a ridiculous degree, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to be the perfect parent!
Even random strangers feel they can tell you in public, where you are supposedly going wrong, and family members all have different opinions on your parenting which they don’t always sensibly keep to themselves!
NO ONE can be a perfect parent, it really is not a concept that exists in reality. We are all just trying to do our best, and we make mistakes, we take shortcuts (anyone else’s child ever have McDonald’s two nights in a row because there’s no time with after school activities to cook, or sneakily taken a school top back out of the dirty washing to re-iron as you forgot to put a white load on the day before and they’ll never notice?), but the fact that we try to be good parents should be enough for us.
I think we as parents often wear ourselves out trying to be perfect, when all our children really want is us to be there when they need us, and to let them feel like we need them.
I’m writing this post today with no draft, just an outpouring of what is in my head at the moment so I apologise if I’m waffling, as believe me my head is a waffling type of place. I’ve sat down to write this today after embarrassing myself talking to one of the other school mum’s on the phone, and crying and sobbing like a fool.
The reason for my tears? My youngest had a learning assembly today, which is basically a mini assembly all the classes do every year to show what they have been learning, and I missed it.
They changed the day and I forgot to change my diary, and he would have looked up at the parents where I always usually am and seen that I wasn’t there. Putting this into perspective, I am often the only parent to watch his class swim, I am certainly the only parent to stand in the rain in winter to watch all of his football practice, whilst the more sensible parents hide in their cars for the first half, and I help out on school trips when I can (but I am not slating those who have to work and can’t before anyone gets on their high horse!).
Basically I am always there for both of my sons, and today I wasn’t, and it left me in floods of guilty tears. A complete over reaction I know, but the idea of letting either of my children down in any way literally hurts. I never want to be a disappointment to them, and mum guilt kicks in whenever I feel I may have. I think really that even though there is no ‘perfect’ parent, I want them to believe I am.
Luckily today the lovely mum Sarah who I spoke to told me that Harley was smiling at the assembly, and when it came to the end bit when the children go over and see their parents for a while he was happily running around and laughing, so although I feel guilty I have now managed to stop the ridiculous tears.
I’m also going to football practice after school today armed with new Match Attax cards, as only pretending to be perfect parents need to resort to bribery and sucking up sometimes!
Writing this has helped me to put today into perspective more, and now I can wipe away the mascara off my cheeks….here’s to not being perfect and accepting it!
If you’d like to read some more of my ‘imperfect’ parenting please do check out Are you a salad cream parent?