Before becoming a mother, the portrait I would have created of a good mother would have been of a nurturing, calm, and tender woman.
However, having three young daughters—all under 10, and a fourth one on the way—I cherish the moments of calm tenderness I share with my children; but on a daily basis, mothering is a job, and it is one that comes with a multitude of shifting responsibilities and often requires the working of unsociable hours.
I’ve beaten myself up over the years about not reaching my own ideal of the “perfect mum,” but the reality is that it’s a tough job and one that is impossible to do perfectly. The shifting requirements of motherhood never cease, and sometimes the best you can do is to exert control over the chaos that little ones create. I think being a mother demands flexibility, and the best lesson I’ve learned lately is to stop trying to be a perfect mum, and instead, indulge in a little self-praise for small victories.
I remember my first daughter being born, staring at her tiny little hands and fragile body. She was perfectly helpless, and I felt perfectly useless. It was love at first sight, but I didn’t feel enough for this little bundle, and the feelings of insecurity as a mum didn’t really ever leave. On a bad day, I think every mother’s bottom lip has quivered as she has dared to utter the words, “I’m a terrible mother,” if only under her breath whilst feeling like the world’s biggest failure. Welcome to motherhood!
Each of my young children has different educational and emotional needs, and every day I try to meet the needs of all three of them—but when faced with a sink full of dirty dishes, a temper tantrum, and a sibling squabble, it’s easy to start wondering if you are doing enough. At times, I pondered over whether “enough” could ever be enough. I have often thought that my girls don’t need a mother, but a superhero with a never-ending supply of clean socks, energy, inspired ideas, and snacks.
The world of parenting can be a tedious one that offers very little sense of achievement. Like with everything, there are highs and lows. Some days it can be a hard job with few rewards and just leads to emotional bruising—but of course, it has its highs, even if some days this is when they finally go to sleep.
I believe that what makes the task of motherhood even more arduous is the popular mythology that motherhood is natural, fulfilling, and that the moment a woman gives birth she is supplied with a never-ending supply of patience. Indeed the false image of the idyllic mother reigned supreme in my mind for many years, and on a low day, her image still pops into my mind.
The reality of caring for children on a daily basis is far more emotionally complex than the soft-focused image it conjures up—and the reality is that all mums and children are different.
There are five key lessons that I have adopted to help me feel like and be a better mum, and I would recommend them to any parent because they have really helped me:
1. Stop Comparing.
It dawned on me one day that whilst I didn’t always carry enough emergency bananas in my handbag, and I have been known to misplace wet-wipes, I am the perfect mother for my children. I’ve had more than my fair share of self-doubting moments—the ones in which I have been left wondering if I am good enough to teach, to raise, to train, and to be the mother to my children.
But the reality is that with my messy kitchen and hectic schedule, I’m the best mother to my children that they could have—and I’m telling you that you, right now, you (too many yous. I think delete this one) are the best mother to your children that they need. Not the “perfect” mother that you saw on social media, your friend, or the woman that always looks perfect when she collects her children from school.
So, no more comparing. It’s simple; you are their mother, and they need you and love you. Even if gratitude is not in a child’s vocabulary.
2. Love yourself and take care of yourself.
A grumpy, tired, worn-out mum is no good to anyone. It is absolutely essential to take care of yourself on the motherhood journey as well as your children. Now, I’m not talking about basic care such a eating or showering counting as your “free time,” although there are times as a mom that just two minutes in the bathroom alone feel like a great luxury.
But, it is essential to take time for yourself and to value yourself. Just because you have become a mother doesn’t mean that your own identity has to fade away into insignificance. It is really good for children to see their parents doing things they love and to see them taking care of themselves. Rest is good! Downtime is good! Laughter is good! Pampering time is good!
3. Don’t expect perfection; be kind to yourself!
Life is so far from perfect, but in some ways that is what makes it interesting and beautiful. If life was perfect, you’d never get to test your strength, learn how to overcome obstacles, or realize your full potential. Motherhood can be crazy, stressful, and upsetting, but taking a deep breath and carrying on is what it is all about. There is only perfect and normal for you and your household; what anyone else does or doesn’t do is irrelevant. As a mother, the ability to just keep trying is perfection enough!
4. Children will be children.
All children are unique, fascinating, funny, challenging at moments, wonderful, crazy, energetic, emotional, crying, laughing, mischievous, resilient individuals who are learning to make sense of the world. They are not miniature adults or mini-me’s; they are children who need to be messy, play with paints, explore, run around, take part, be given freedom, have fun, and play. It’s so important that we don’t look for perfection, and that instead we embrace childhood. Our lives are so fast-paced and hectic that sometimes it’s easy to forget to play and have fun with and without your children.
5. Appreciate the little things in life.
Sometimes it’s important to step back and appreciate the small things. The cake baking days that don’t go according to plan, the spontaneous hugs, the sharing of your child’s soggy biscuit, and the moments that they fall asleep on you are all the bits that weave your individual story of motherhood and are the real measure of motherhood perfection.
Author: Seren Charrington-Hollins
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May