As March gains momentum and the daffodils are beginning to adorn the landscape, the theme is ‘celebrating mother’s day’ as proclaimed in a shop window I passed this morning. It has given me pause to reflect on how I can celebrate myself as a mother this month and the high standards that often prevent me from joining the party.
The ‘Perfect Mother’ Trap
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” Leo Tolstoy
When I became a new Mum I put pressure on myself to be the ‘perfect mother’ and to ‘get it right’. Sound familiar? There was a lot of ‘should be able to do this’ and ‘ought to do it like this’ running around in my head and a littering of failure as I strived to live up to the image of the perfect mother – a trap that I had inadvertently set up for myself. I wanted to be good at breastfeeding, I wanted to be the only one who could soothe my baby to sleep and I wanted to be perfect at it all without fail. I set some very high standards, and at all costs I was going to magnificently cope in my new role. As the pressure grew, and standards slipped, I became overwhelmed, angry and more disillusioned as I could not live up to the image I had set. I viewed myself as a complete failure and slowly but surely spiralled down into feelings of helplessness which resulted in post-natal depression.
Being ‘Good Enough’
Over time I realised that I was unconsciously putting pressure on myself to be perfect and that this resulted in feelings of extreme anxiety that fuelled a need for acceptance within me. As I gained more insight, I learnt to challenge my belief that ‘I should be perfect’ and I have learnt that I may shoot for the moon but it’s also okay to be good enough and just reach the sky. Learning to question my high standards, to evaluate what is realistic, what really matters and what is humanely possible has often helped me to relax my tight grip on wanting everything to be perfect and has still enabled me to get the job done to a standard that is adequate and acceptable, even to me. As Rebecca Wells so eloquently writes “Good enough is good enough. Perfect will make you a big fat mess every time.” So today I’m in celebration of the good enough mother, a role that I will proudly embody on mother’s day and beyond, what about you?