When I was younger I never had an urge to become a mother. I just didn’t see myself changing my whole life to become this another character, a perfect mother – a warm and fuzzy, smelling of freshly baked cake. In fact, I was most terrified of the scenario! I always had this feeling it wasn’t my priority in life and that perhaps one day it would work for me, but only when I could afford a Nanny.
This strategy of feeling my way through and delaying having babies could have terribly backfired as years were running past. But at the end I can’t be more grateful than having followed my gut feeling. At a ripe age of 38 I finally gave birth to beautiful twin boys, to a man who fully respected and loved me the way I am, not so perfect mother.
So here’s couple of practical points how to avoid being a perfect mother.
I indeed waited until I was able to hire help and I have never regret it or suffered a single day of guilt. Perhaps it helped having twins, as no-one in their right mind would expect you to manage it alone. But my boys are soon turning 7 and we have always had help, recently a string of au pairs.
I don’t want to brag about having help, that’s not my point. And I do appreciate that not everyone can afford it. But often I see women refusing help for reasons that are not financial.
It might be that they don’t want someone else living in the house (au pair), but for me it’s a very small price to pay (plus the weekly pocket money) for the freedom I get. I do almost zero housework during the week. No, I don’t like housework and why should I? Just because I’m a mother? Sorry, if that would make me a perfect mother, no thank you.
Some women pride themselves not needing anyone’s help. I much rather do the work I do love, and educate my children that you can work as a team and respect other people for their contribution. I have no need to make myself indispensable at cooking or cleaning, when I rather make myself indispensable at loving and parenting.
Put your own happiness first
I believe that if I don’t put my own happiness first, my kids will end up with a very miserable mother. It is my decision and my responsibility to create the life I want, naturally within the framework of the people I love and live with.
It is my job to manage my schedule so that I get to do meaningful work and feel fulfilled. It is my job to make sure I relax and do sports to take care of my physical and mental wellbeing. It’s up to me to connect and build healthy and fun relationships outside home. It is also only my responsibility to do my part in my marriage. Being present with my children is also my responsibility and core part of my happiness, but I don’t let my children drink my fountain of energy dry.
When I function as a connected, happy and joyful woman I’m also at my best as a mother. It’s important to accept that and then try to shift guilt from ‘not being a perfect mother’ to rather feeling guilty about ‘not being a complete you’ if you haven’t nurtured your own happiness and set time aside for yourself.
Do it your own style
I recently read an article about an introvert mother who got depressed. She discovered the source of her anxiety was she was trying to be a perfect, social mother, the centre of the family; not all mothers are social. Her natural state was that of an observer and as a writer she enjoyed solitude. Naturally you have to get involved as a mother, but over time she was able to find a balance and not try to be the model-mother from a glossy magazine.
Like her, I have to do ‘mother’ my own style. As an example, I don’t particularly like playing with my kids. I like being in the same room, doing my own things and being the occasional audience, but I don’t like to organise or get too much involved. If I get involved I like to draw, craft or – eh, well – bake. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t do that too often.
I’ve picked the key points and activities in the day when I’m in my own element and I try to do those really well and be present. My boys like to join my morning yoga practise or I help them with their morning play whilst doing my yoga practise. Then I make their breakfast, a part of my day I particularly enjoy and which is very important to me. Just because I work from home doesn’t mean I’d spend time with them when they come home school. I like to work until 6 pm and then it’s my time with the kids again.
Don’t look for an approval
I’m not looking for my children’s approval of my mothering style. If they are unhappy about something, that’s ok. Being unhappy is healthy as it prepares them for the real life. Neither do I ask for permission to be myself from anyone else. Being a mother is simply one aspect of me. I’m far from perfect, and that’s fine.
Try to figure out what works for you. Try to combine your genuine personality with the practicalities of being a parent and learn to express love your way. Don’t let motherhood drown you. Be proud of your own style and your kids will be proud of you.
Happy Mother’s Day (UK)