When we’re driven by perfectionism, we’re always going to fall short. But what if we’re getting it ‘right’ much more than we realise?
So many times, I’ve wondered if I was screwing it up.
I’d scream, or say something in anger, and my mind would immediately go to what those words will mean to their future selves. Will they be angry adults now? Have I just set them up to be selfish people? Have I just screwed them up?
Every moment feels like a test. Every single moment. Get it right, and they will be happy, healthy and fulfilled. Lose your cool and you’ve got a bitch on your hands. For the rest of both of your lives.
The pressure! Seriously, no wonder we’re burnt out. Perfectionism doesn’t even adequately describe what we do to ourselves as mothers – we’re not aiming for perfect. We’re going for Godliness.
And we fall short. So many times.
Which is why I want to share this story with you. Not because I’m the most awesome, perfect, godly mama, sharing another moment of ‘oh look at me – another perfect parenting moment.’ Ah, no. Ain’t no perfection here. But there is a tonne of reflection and realisation in my parenting moments because, quite simply, being a mum is the single greatest lesson in how to pull my own shit back into place and be the person I want to be I have ever come across.
It was Sunday night. It had been a busy weekend and my husband was out at a work dinner before flying out on the 6am flight the next morning for another week away. There was a hell of a lot to organise for my solo parenting week ahead, and I was feeling surprisingly on top of things – organisational speaking. Emotionally? I was feeling a little lonely.
And as I turned around to choose a story to read to my three year old before bed, my little guy picked up a ceramic green money box shaped as a pig, and dropped/smashed it.
This was the pig that my Mum chose for him when he was born. Not having much money at the time, she spent ages thinking about what to get her new grandson, and as a very spiritual woman, she believed that giving him the gift of money and savings, she was setting him on a path of abundance.
And there it was, smashed on the floor.
I had really been missing my parents. The distance between us was feeling huge, and just that day I’d said to Mum on the phone how much I wish I could just bundle the kids up in the car sometimes, drive around the corner, and rock up at their doorstep for dinner and a G&T.
And so, in that moment, my little emotional reserves were gone.
And I very nearly lost it. I immediately thought of all the memories and importance and significance in that little green pig and I could feel the anger at the Universe/my son/whoever was listening that this was broken. It was important to me, and I had wanted to keep it forever. And now, it was smashed.
The noise in my head was screaming ‘this is all so unfair!’
But then, (and perhaps only because the rest of the night had gone smoothly) my girls heard the smash and mummy’s cries and rushed upstairs too, and once they were all in the room watching my reaction, I realised I couldn’t just voice all that was in my head. My son was crying, my girls were watching me.
I had to find a way to deal with this with grace, and not like the 2 year old child I felt like inside.
And this is why they are my greatest teachers.
Big deep breath, it’s going to be OK.
It’s just a thing – it’s the memories that are most important.
Things can be replaced, but I will always remember what my mum did, and how important it was.
So we talked it out. We saved a little piece as a memory. My middle child – the healer – rushed away to get the dustpan and brush, and we swept away the remnants of green piggy.
Half an hour later, as I came downstairs after finally putting the little guy to bed, I found my two girls in the loungeroom, frantically drawing. ‘Don’t look mummy!’ they screamed. So I went and finished cleaning the kitchen. Eventually, when it was time for bed and the drawing had to come to an end, I was presented with two hand-crafted pictures of… a green money piggy.
They are for you to keep, so you remember, Mummy.
Far out. All of the times I’ve screwed it up. All of the times I’ve yelled in the middle of the night because I’ve been woken so many times and I can’t think straight. All of the times I’ve been on my phone too much, I’ve got frustrated at the mess, I’ve let them down.
And they’re turning out to be these type of people. People who are compassionate, and giving, and empathetic.
Recently, in an interview with mama coach, mental health professional, and former mid-wife Maria Golding, I heard a staggering figure: we only need to be getting it ‘right’ thirty percent of the time to form strong, resilient and connected children. Thirty freaking percent! When she told me that, I struggled to believe her. Surely that’s not right? Surely we need to be perfect all of the time otherwise they’ll be in therapy for life, blaming their mother?
But no. Thirty percent, mamas.
And when I look down at those green money piggy pictures, I can see that maybe, just maybe, it’s true. Maybe I haven’t completely screwed this up.