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.
I 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.