Perfectionism in the dictionary is defined as refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, a doctrine holding that perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.
Isn’t it funny how many of us strive to be the perfect parent on a daily basis? My story is one of striving to do everything perfectly and failing miserably, but realising that actually, it didn’t really matter in the first place.
I am a typical mother, I work, I run a home, I try to exercise, I like things to be tidy and clean, I do the shopping, try and raise well-rounded, happy children and every so often have some time for my husband and my friends. In theory all this should be fine. I, like many women before me, can rise to the challenge and achieve all the things I mean to. In reality though, it really isn’t as easy as it seems.
Do you ever look at the other mums around you? Whether it be in the school playground, or while dropping your child off at nursery, or playing in the park or at soft play centres, parenting groups, even in the supermarket, and think, ‘how the f**k are you doing it?!’ How are your children well turned out, behaving, not covered in biro, how are you fashionably dressed, with styled hair, lovely nails, an organised diary and a huge smile on your face?
I did too, so I decided I could be one of these women, I could do all the things I needed to at work, I could get up early and go for a run beforehand, I could get to every school meeting and help with every project, trip and fair, I could get my children to after-school clubs and extra-curricular activities, they can always be smartly dressed and on time with their homework and reading books and I could always squeeze in social occasions with not one grey hair on show, lovely painted nails whilst looking smart and fashionable.
It started well, I got up at 0500 hours to go out and run, I got home and ready for work on the days I was working and handed the children over to my parents who help with the school run on the days that my husband and I can’t do it. I scheduled to attend all the meetings for school, answered yes to all the children’s party invites, I offered help and assistance in all I could and tried to never say no to social occasions or family events. I started to book life up to five weeks in advance and the two weekends off we had together as a family of four were so impeccably planned that I could tell you exactly where we would be and when at any given minute. I started cooking more from scratch and tried to get the children to understand the importance of organic, local produce and eating healthily.
I got more and more tired and had more and more moaning from my husband and children about where I was going, why I wasn’t home and why couldn’t we just sit and watch a film. So I started to learn about the other parents I had viewed as perfect for so long. There were the ones who volunteered and helped with everything at school who I realised actually worked from home or worked fewer hours than me so were able to juggle their lives in a different way to how I managed mine. There were mums who were new to the area and didn’t know anyone, whose husbands were the breadwinners and actually things like school PTFA meetings were ways of socialising and making friends.
There were mums who actually had little or no money because they sent their children to every possible club or lesson in order for them to better themselves and actively attended every one of them to see the fruits of their labours. There were mums who were presented impeccably but confided in me that they had so little self-confidence that the thought of going on the school run without any make up or messy hair bought on an anxiety attack and actually envied the mums I had viewed as imperfect like me who rocked up wearing whatever. I learned that some of the super skinny mums who I thought must gym and run in the small hours like me actually had issues putting on weight or found that life was so stressful with juggling children and all the joys they bring that they actually didn’t eat properly.
In short, I found that every single parent I met was fighting some kind of unseen battle with something that no one had any idea about. Some were doing amazingly well at juggling all their parenting roles but were really struggling with work, some couldn’t find work, some were flying high at work and feeling guilty about how little time they had at home. Essentially there wasn’t one person who wouldn’t change something if given the opportunity to do so and everyone agreed, all they wanted was a happy life with happy little people.
So at the point where I had become tired, grumpy, and things started to fall apart, I stopped. I ran less and stayed in bed at the weekends and snuggled with my family watching kids TV and I smiled. I didn’t go to every meeting humanly possible, only the ones that I could reasonably manage and where my input would be worthwhile, (turns out grotto building isn’t my thing!) I started leaving work on time and not staying late as often as I was, I spoke to the boys about which clubs they actually wanted to do and listened to their answers. I made sure the plans we made as a family were just that, planned with us all in mind, optimising time together with the other things that need to be worked in working around us and not the other way around.
I had my brows done so even with no make up I looked like I had made a bit of effort and I stopped worrying so much about grey hair and how well styled it was. Please don’t get me wrong I still could make more time for me and this is such a huge and important part of keeping sane as a parent.
I realised that trying to be perfect made me the least perfect I had ever been and all the people around me who I thought were perfect really were not. They were just like me. No one cared about all the things I did, no one knew most of it unless I told them and my children behaved worse than they ever had because they wanted more attention. The best compliments I have ever received are about my children, how lovely, bright and kind they are. No one ever complimented my impeccable time keeping, richly coloured hair or bursting to the brim diary. There are no awards for meetings and parties attended and how early you get up in the morning.
Be happy, embrace who you are; you are the most perfect version of yourself by just getting up and being you each day. You are an amazing parent who loves their children and would do anything for them. Love is attainable, perfection I found is not.
My name is Lucy, I am a wife and mother to two gorgeous boys, in my thirties and living in Whitstable, Kent. I feel like I live a number of lives, mum, wife, office dweller, volunteer youth mentor, runner, home maker and wanted to try and write about how I try and juggle all the different elements of my life while trying to keep a smile! My blog is about me and my eternal struggle to do this, I would love it if you would join me and get involved. You might be surprised by what you read!