Why perfectly imperfect parenting is healthy parenting

Expectations of perfection, versus the often shambolic reality, is the nemesis of any would-be Supermum. I’m sure we were all much better parents before we actually had children to parent and we could be the most perfect images of ourselves.

Yesterday I had one of those days where I had planned a “really fun day” for the boys and felt like it was going to be playful, joyful, #blessed-full. I took them to Battersea Park Children’s Zoo, at eye watering expense, and had visions of playing for ages in the fabulous playgrounds, laughing joyfully together at the lemurs, watching the meerkats and eating my lovingly prepared and thrifty picnic. Heading home together holding hands after a fantastic day, with both boys saying “thanks mummy you’re the best!” Ok maybe the last bit was wishful thinking even for my fantasy brain, but you can dream, right? In reality, the day was scuppered from the start when there were sibling fights about who got to press mummy’s card onto the ticket machine at the train station. And the tone of dysfunction was set further when, on entering the zoo, Freddie spotted a toy in the shop (yes, you have to go through the gift shop on the way IN, thanks Zoo creators), and decided he wanted it, and wouldn’t.let.it.go. and declared, again and again, tearfully and angrily, that he wanted to go home because I wouldn’t buy it for him.

The Supermum Myth

In my mind there had been carefree laughter and bonding, in reality there was FFS muttered under my breath and “why on earth do I even bother?!” escaping from my frustrated lips. Tears and grumps, huffs and puffs.

Which is all human, right? And perhaps it’s just the expectation of supermum bliss and achievement which led me to feel like the day had been a “failure”. It made me think about how we aren’t encouraged to embrace the full spectrum of emotions that motherhood can unleash around us, which means we’re less likely to cope well when we encounter the less blissful moments, as we feel like failures and like we’re the only ones who are doing a crap job.

Some feelings, such as anger, irritation, sadness we might not admit freely to because they maybe don’t feel nurturing or normal, and it makes you feel like you must be a terrible mother to be experiencing them. You imagine that no other “good” mother feels these feelings. In fact these feelings are completely and utterly human and “normal”, and the key is bringing them into healthy balance, by noticing when you’re feeling them and why. Emotions serve a useful purpose, they are signals from our body for us to respond in a certain way, and are trying to tell us something valuable. Understanding them a bit more, and allowing ourselves to feel them rather than pressing them down or feeling guilt for feeling them, can help us figure this out.

What we need is not to berate ourselves for feeling the feels, particularly when a day has veered off our imagined ideal course, and instead take a deep breath, shrug our shoulders a bit, and know that tomorrow is a new day. We are always modelling behaviour for our children, at these heightened times almost more than at any other. Yesterday I modelled the fact that being frustrated (and uttering subtly inaudible animal growling noises) when your best laid plans are going aglay is actually quite normal – I was annoyed, I was disappointed that the day wasn’t the Great Day I had pictured…but rather than allow it to spiral and consume the entire experience, in the end I apologised to Freddie for being upset by his tunnel vision about this toy, we cuddled, I explained how I was feeling, he told me that he still wanted the toy because he’s 4 and can’t really understand what I’m going on about, I sighed deeply, and we moved on with lighter hearts… The one thing I have learned over my last 8 years of motherhood and through writing The Supermum Myth, is that I need to not give myself a hard time quite so much of the time. I need to forgive moments of human emotion and plans going wrong, and realise that even the most organised and serene of mums will have days like this.

You don’t have to cherish every moment to be a great mum. You have to savour the wonderful ones, roll with the more challenging ones, and know that everything passes, and you’re doing a brilliant job.

How are you today?

The Supermum Myth

#perfectlyimperfectparenting #postnataldepression #mindfulnessformothers #goodenoughmother #thesupermummyth #emotionalintelligence #MBCT #postnataldepletion #emotionalhealth #selfcareformums

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