For me the dawning of being a Real Parent was no eureka moment, no life changing experience complete with fireworks like they have in the films. It was a slow realisation that the so called perfect mum never actually existed. I had read every anti-natal book available, waded through all the baby books and yet once I was left alone with my first baby to change its first nappy I was a blubbering mess. I muddled through the early years raising two children but it wasn’t till I was a single parent that for me the dreaded perfect mum idol entered my life. She was there at the school gates, her perfect dress sense, perfect smile and perfect children. She didn’t stop there, she would torment me at the supermarket, haunt me at the local shops, in fact anywhere I was, she was there too .Now this ‘she’ wasn’t actually one person, she was any mum who was doing the whole parent thing better than me. As a single parent there seemed to be an assumption that I would fail and that my perfect mum idol would just spin herself higher up on her pedestal.
Ask any mum at the school gate who she thinks is a perfect mum and they will immediately point someone out. You may even agree with them. Ask another mum and they will probably point to someone else. They can’t both be right; they can’t both be perfect mums, otherwise they would be the same, but they are different mums with different lifestyles. So what’s going on? The answer is that everyone’s idea of perfect is different.
For me, my perfect mum idol possessed all the attributes that I didn’t have. I didn’t have the perfect the dress sense – I still don’t to this day. I struggle to grin like a Cheshire cat in the mornings and my kids have never looked like they slept in their school uniforms in a trouser press over night.
What I didn’t understand was when I saw other mums I only saw a brief snapshot of their lives. I saw what they wanted me to see. I heard what they wanted me to hear. I didn’t see their imperfect bits. I didn’t hear the thoughts in their heads. I was so wrapped up in giving my children the best and the huge pressure of doing it as single mum that I assumed being perfect was the answer. I wasn’t seeing the real mum; I was just projecting all the things I thought would make me a good mum. Perfect isn’t achievable, perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect doesn’t make your children love you more. Perfect doesn’t make your child happier.
I’m not striving to be a perfect mum anymore; I’m striving to be a real mum. A real mum knows everything won’t get done today. A real mum knows she won’t get it right all the time or every time. As a real mum I will have sticky handprints on my jeans as a cuddle from my kids is worth more than a clean pair of jeans. If we were all perfect mums we would never experience personal achievements, we would never experience or cherish the good days that get us through the bad days.
With all the pressure to be the perfect mum, it takes a leap of faith to stop, look around and see that being perfect isn’t the recipe for happy children. It’s about being real, being you and doing it your way.