Motherhood And The Myth Of Perfection


T H E  L O W - D O W N (17)

If I were ever to openly describe myself as a perfectionist I think most of my friends and family would fall about laughing. Not in a nasty way – it would actually be a fairly reasonable response.

  • I don’t know how to iron properly and I have no inclination to improve – I like my non-ironing world.
  • My ‘career’ is a little fluid and bouncy – much like the rest of me at times.
  • I’m not one for all out competition. Not always a bad thing but I like to dance to my own tune and all that.
  • My house isn’t tidy very often – although it must be said that I’m not the messiest person in the house any more (and yes, I am counting my 2yr old in this statement).

Essentially I have never considered myself to have a perfectionist gene. Besides, perfectionists sound a bit scary.

Turns out I can be damn scary when it comes to motherhood and the myth of perfection.

It’s not that I expected my children to be perfect (I’m not an idiot) but I definitely hold myself up to a silly level of perfection as a mother – not just in terms of what I do but also how I should feel.

My first child, Louis, died – he was Stillborn at 41 weeks. I imagined the future that had been taken from us. Watching him grow, having fun together and loving each other. He was a beautiful baby, perfect – that is exactly what he became to me in every way. Perfect.

The perfection I created in my mind didn’t wake me at hourly intervals throughout the night, perfection didn’t have colic, tantrums, illness or 7 year old strops.

Fast forward 13 years and I have all those things and more. I am blessed to have two wonderful, happy, difficult, loving, funny, stroppy daughters.

They really are perfect (or at least perfectly normal!).

The problem is…I’m not.

If my son was the perfect embodiment of all we had lost then I was the perfect mother.

It was five years between my son dying and my eldest daughter arriving – long enough for me to set in stone my personal myth of motherhood.

The happiness I felt when my daughters arrived safely is unparalleled. I must have done a deal with the devil every day of my subsequent pregnancies, if only my daughters’ could survive then I would be grateful every single day.

am grateful every single day, but I’ve also put myself under a lot of pressure to feel that gratitude.

I had such a strong vision for the sort of mother I would be – unending patience, loving, fun and creative. I would use clothe nappies, purée my own (organic) food and meet lots of like minded mum friends. We would hang out at museums and parks having a lovely time with our lovely children.

I would feel happy, content, fulfilled and the exact opposite of bored.

Of course some of these things came true…and some of them didn’t, at least not all of the time.

I remember the first time I really acknowledged I was feeling unfulfilled and bored. My eldest daughter was about 6 months old at the time, the weather was terrible and I had found myself stuck inside for a couple of days. I didn’t feel myself, I felt trapped, I felt bored. It wasn’t major and it wasn’t rocket science why I felt the way I did but I became really upset with myself for not being happy/grateful/patient enough. I wasn’t being the mother I thought I was supposed to be.

So began years of fighting with myself over how I should behave and how I should feel about motherhood.

I recognise my bizarre perfectionist ways in the planning of ‘perfect’ days out, working from home I think it’s possible to juggle everything and be happy whilst doing it, the crushing defeat of cooking a dinner that no one wants to eat (neither of my girls liked any of my organic purée!).

It’s like I want to feel happy around and be grateful for my family at all times. But let’s be honest, we all get busy, we all need time and life doesn’t always go perfectly. I know it but I struggle to put it into practice, when motherhood gets less than perfect I feel like I’m failing.

Who? I’m not sure (the girls don’t seem to mind) – it must be that deal I did with the devil.


And then the fun began...

Super Busy Mum



17 Comments on Motherhood And The Myth Of Perfection

    Claire's Mum
    6th January 2015 at 5:28 pm (3 years ago)

    Claire Louise!! Just had to leave a comment, no you are not a perfect mother I cannot honestly say I have ever met one, we all have our different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to dealing with motherhood, lets face it your father was so much better than I was at nappy changing, not one of my strong points! However, despite many challenges along the way, both you and your brother managed to grow into two adults, unafraid to join society and make their own unique way in life, I am proud of you both on a daily basis, lucky enough to like you as well as love you both unconditionally, we survived the sleepless nights, the traumas of relationships, those teenage years, where I always tried to keep the door open to conversation, even when you did’nt want to talk, through illness and health we worked together as a unit and somehow it worked! Perhaps I got it wrong some of the time, I know I did, and you will too, but we are human subject to failing at times, as long as you are there for the girls, giving them love and stability the rest will follow. I am honoured that you still like to chat most dats!

    • Claire
      8th January 2015 at 8:26 pm (3 years ago)

      Dad’s nappy changing has fallen apart with these new fangled disposable nappies!!
      We would definitely speak everyday if it weren’t so expensive to call you up your mountain – thank goodness for whatsapp!

    Rachel @ Parenthood Highs and Lows
    7th January 2015 at 3:16 pm (3 years ago)

    So sorry to hear about your eldest son. There is not such thing as a perfect mother, or a perfect anyone. All we can ever do is try our best, and if we cock up somewhere (which in my case is daily!) is learn from it.

    • Claire
      8th January 2015 at 8:32 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you.
      The perfectionist side of motherhood took me by surprise as I cock up fairly regularly in most areas of my life and it doesn’t bother me too much!
      Thanks for reading!

    7th January 2015 at 5:17 pm (3 years ago)

    Claire~I share your same sentiment of motherhood and perfection. It’s a hard thing to shake because, like you, all I want is the best for my child. I’ve only been a mother for a bit over 12 months, and what I’ve taken from that is mistakes are the best form of learning. I learn from failed dinners, and sleepless nights; from hungry colicky babies and the eventual bumps and bruises. As long as there’s love and attempt, everything is will be ok…and everyone will be well.

    Like I said, it’s a hard concept to grasp, and I’m still trying to do so myself, but baby steps go a long way.

    • Claire
      8th January 2015 at 8:33 pm (3 years ago)

      It really is the ultimate job with zero training isn’t it? It’s also pretty much the most important – perhaps that’s where the feeling of pressure comes from!!
      Thanks for reading!

    7th January 2015 at 11:27 pm (3 years ago)

    Whilst I haven’t had your experiences or felt your pains I do this to myself ALOT. Its hard that we are the ones putting the pressures to be perfect mother and grateful in every way everyday, all the time. We are human and we need to sit back and realize life isn’t perfect and its ok that its not perfect. I am glad I am not the only one that feels this way too. I bet many others are like us too. It’s ok though if we fail a few times over our children will still love us and be there when we are perfect again. Just keep telling yourself it’s ok to be human! We all do it. They will still have an amazing blessed life with you. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

    • Claire
      8th January 2015 at 8:38 pm (3 years ago)

      This is what I love about blogging – that moment that someone says ‘me too’! I don’t have many ‘mummy friends’ so it’s great to get feedback – and generally hear that I’m not the only one!
      Sometimes I look at my girls and I know they don’t care about very many of the things I stress about. They barely register that anything has goes ‘off plan’ – just perhaps that mummy gets a bit stressed when dinner is rejected (directly onto the floor!).
      Thanks for commenting.

    9th January 2015 at 7:12 am (3 years ago)

    Oh Claire what a lovely post and I’m so very sorry to hear about your son’s passing. Your words have really touched me xx

    • Claire
      11th January 2015 at 3:13 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you for your lovely comment and thanks for reading.

    13th January 2015 at 9:08 am (3 years ago)

    Claire, I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I think I made a similar deal with the devil when I was expecting my daughter (who was not expected to survive but thankfully did) – promising myself that if only she lived, I would always be thankful for every moment I had with her. It makes for an awful lot of guilt during those mundane and difficult moments of parenthood that we all struggle with even though of course I am grateful for it all, it doesn’t always feel that way! It’s hard to measure up to the myth of perfection that many of us have for ourselves as mothers and it’s taken me a long time to accept that I am not anywhere near perfect, but my girls are happy and loved and that is what matters. Thank you for sharing such an honest post.

    • Claire
      13th January 2015 at 5:10 pm (3 years ago)

      You must have gone through such a nightmare with your daughter’s pregnancy – I’m so glad to hear she survived.
      I never saw myself as a perfectionist and it took a long time for me to realise that’s how I was behaving. After my son dies life was truly dreadful for a long time, I think I honestly believed that if he had lived life would have been perfect (which probably isn’t entirely true as life is never perfect). When my daughter’s came along I couldn’t let myself admit it wasn’t always perfect.
      Of course my love for them is as close to perfect as humanly possible – that will just have to be enough!
      Thank you for your lovely comment.

    Reneé @ Mummy Tries
    13th January 2015 at 3:13 pm (3 years ago)

    What an incredibly honest and moving post Joy. I honestly do not believe that the words perfectionism and motherhood ever belong together. Real life rarely lives up to the idea of it we have in our heads, but being happy with our perfectly imperfect families is a great thing. I wrote a very similar post myself that you might enjoy xxx

    • Claire
      13th January 2015 at 5:35 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much. I’m making some really positive steps in letting go of the perfectionist in my head but it’s no easy when I realise what a myth I built up over the years – I’m getting there though! It’s a shame I couldn’t redirect some of it to my career or the cleaning of course!

    13th January 2015 at 6:48 pm (3 years ago)

    It’s hard to imagine just what kind of mother any of us would have been if we’d suffered the unimaginable loss of stillbirth at term (or I guess any point before or after birth), but I guess there’s no way it can’t change you. I love my kids more than life but blimey do ever get bored sometimes – I think I am a rubbish mum in many ways, I fob them off, I give in to demands for rubbish food. *sigh*. At least your perfectionism means that your girls have a mum who is trying every day to be the best she can be X Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout

    • Claire
      14th January 2015 at 3:42 pm (3 years ago)

      I doubt very much you’re a rubbish mum – or if you are then I think we all must be as I rarely turn down an offer to fob them off and get something done and they’ve definitely inherited my sweet tooth!
      I obviously have no way of knowing what kind of mum I would have really been to my son – probably not the saint like vision I created for myself. I think I’d be less neurotic now but perhaps it’s just better to think that way than to assume it’s my natural disposition!
      Thanks for reading!

    26th January 2015 at 8:15 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks for following me on bloglovin’. I think you will enjoy it. The whole theme is basically about what you wrote in this post!


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