A story was shared with me a few nights ago because of a pile of washing in a photograph. I wont repeat it all, because it’s not mine to tell. I’ll tell you one that does belong to me instead.
I had Bodhi by emergency c-section, while most of my friend’s natural births went to plan. He screamed, while other babies seemed to sleep. He hated the car, while other babies seemed to love it. He wouldn’t tolerate not being held or involved for more than a minute or two, while other Mums seemed to have babies who would coo quietly from the bouncer for an hour or more. With the arrival of this little man my world was both shaken and stirred… and all the while I watched Mums around me carry on as though this motherhood business was the easiest thing they could imagine. I still remember an argument with my husband back then, when he said “But why can everyone else manage so easily? Why can they keep on top of all the house work and the cooking and everything else while you find it so hard?” He wasn’t being mean. He was being frustrated. Truth was I was wondering the same thing. Was it me? Was I somehow failing at this thing that should be more natural than anything in the world? He wasn’t being mean, but it stung none the less.
So I tried the books, watched the DVDs, read the articles… learned all I could about how I should have been doing this or that or something else another way, all the while another article was telling me the opposite. Eventually I threw the book at the wall (no, seriously, I actually threw the parenting book at the wall) and realized I didn’t fit it any more than my son did.
When I relaxed it started getting easier, not because my son had changed, but because I made a conscious effort not to compare our perfect to someone else’s. Because really, I didn’t care too much about the broken sleep, and he outgrew the car thing pretty quickly, I was actually ok with having him in my arms all the time and the parents at mothers groups who found my more attachment style of parenting off-putting… well, they probably weren’t people I would have gotten on that well with anyway.
Us Mums are surrounded by a lot of perceived perfect families. A lot of parents that seem to have it all together. Sometimes they’re supportive and inspiring, other times they’re critical. More often though we’re critical of ourselves through their eyes. We doubt ourselves from their points of view, when the thought probably hasn’t even occurred to them.
Humans, like animals, are prone to hierarchy. We’re prone to imaginary positions of importance and achievement, and parenting becomes part of that. It becomes a job, and one that we must excel at.
The problem is, parenting doesn’t work that way. Kids don’t work that way. It’s an artificial box that we try to put ourselves and our families in, when really they’re much too organic – too interesting – to fit.
No one – I repeat, no one – is perfect. No mum has it all together, no kids behave all the time, no marriage is without annoyances, no house is without mess. Every mother has had moments of feeling trapped, exhausted, frustrated or at the end of her tether. Every father has had his own mix of difficulties too. And you know what? That’s ok. In fact it’s good. Because if we wear the hard parts as proudly as we do the joyful parts we start allowing ourselves the authenticity of the moment. And we might just help someone too.
The story I was told the other night was of a Mumma who had had too much. She was surrounded by a lot of what she saw as perfect families and spotless houses and mums that never seemed tired. She was surrounded by all those who seemed to find it so ridiculously easy. And she couldn’t fit into that box, not then. That beautiful Mumma was slowly crushed by all that she thought she couldn’t be, and from that place of despair her story had a sad ending. She deserved a happy one, so did her kids.
So today, while you put on appearances, don’t be afraid to wear your imperfections as proudly as your strengths. Because there might be a parent you pass today who feels like I did when my son was little, like all of us do from time to time, maybe even someone who feels like that beautiful Mumma with the sad ending. And that parent NEEDS you, more than you know. They need to see that you don’t fit that box either, and that you’re ok with it.
They need to see that you’re still seeking too.
You can help someone in a myriad of ways. With an act of kindness, a helping hand, a heartfelt smile and sometimes even with a messy house that you didn’t get a chance to clean.
Your bloopers can bless someone as much as your highlight reel. Never forget that.
You’re doing great, and great is far too interesting to fit in a box called “perfect”.
Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013