I have always been, as they say in the industry, a ‘completer-finisher’, a perfectionist or as some affectionately call me, Anal.
As far as I can remember, I’ve been a stickler for dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’. My mantra growing up was ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’.
As I see it, there’s a right way to do things, an orderly way if you will. Have a goal, stick to the correct procedure and once completed, bask in the glory of a job well done. As a child, following this obvious logic served me well and I graduated from school a shining example of a grade A swot. Then at work, I rather satisfyingly gained myself a reputation as someone who ‘gets things done’. No half ‘assed job from me – no siree!
Fast forward a few (ahem…several) years and I am now a full time mum to a ‘spirited’ three year old boy and eight month baby girl. And oh how the high and mighty have fallen.
Gone are the days when I could reflect on my day’s activities with a sense of accomplishment, viewing my existence as worthy and purposeful. Now I’m just thrilled if I reach 10pm having kept both children alive and resisted that third glass of wine.
To excel at the job of mummying, I’ve realised that basically, you just gotta Let Things Slide. For the uninitiated, the following is how not to be a perfect mum.
Bless the damn mess
Children are a magnet for dirt, untidiness and utter chaos. And, (so ‘they’ tell us) the more you embrace this, the more successful you will be at bringing up wonderful, expressive and uninhibited little people into the world.
Letting your child roll in the mud, shower their entire body in glitter or smear ‘finger food’ all over the furniture is part of their ‘learning journey’. After all, having dried on Weetabix on the floor is a badge of honour – the quantity directly proportional to how well you’re doing as a parent.
But … oh Holy Cow …who knew how dirty, sticky, and deeply, deeply stained your once prized possessions could get. Sometimes, on very bleak days, I feel like the dirt has seeped into my bones and no amount of scrubbing will ever make me clean again. Uuugghh. Best to ditch all those copies of Ideal Home…
Remember waste is a natural byproduct
And I’m not just talking about what comes out of their sweet derrieres.
Children have no concept of finite resources. They are very inefficient in how they use things.
Here I am mostly talking about food (reams of paper, plastic toys abandoned and relegated to behind the couch after only one outing, and endless tat you get in children’s party bags is another story).
Kids will proclaim they are ‘starving’ but after you’ve carefully produced a beautifully cooked, nutritionally balanced and, let’s not be bashful, rather delicious meal, they sit there coyly, doing a great deal of food pushing about the plate whilst managing to eat hardly any of it.
Each week I must throw away the food equivalent of the GDP of Luxembourg. Sometimes, I wonder if it would be simpler to put the food straight into the bin on returning from the supermarket and direct the little loves to the dried on Weetabix on the floor, if they feel a bit peckish.
After most mealtimes, in a vain effort to remember the children of Africa, I wolf down soggy, half-gnawed-at pitta bread and mushed up banana. This helps keep the guilt chip at bay but does nothing to help me get back into those pre pregnancy clothes.
Take full advantage of the electronic babysitter
Pre children I vowed piously that my children would watch TV sparingly and only educational programmes at that. Instead I imagined blessed days with them baking sugar free muffins, embroidering quilts and frolicking in the meadows.
Supernanny would have you believe these precious moments are the pinnacle of parenting. Rubbish. The black box is a mummy’s best friend. It stops you opening the gin after lunchtime and gives you a few precious moments to rest your weary bones in amongst all that dust you still haven’t hoovered.
These days, I anxiously watch the clock for 4pm to tick by so I can gleefully say ‘how about as a special treat, you watch a little bit of Go Jetters whilst I make you a lovely, nutritious meal?’ (And eat an emergency chocolate bar whilst I’m at it – better than the gin I reckon).
Consistency is flexible
It is oft-said that the most important thing you can do as a parent is ‘be consistent’. Particularly when it comes to discipline. I fear this is only true of mummies of the Stepford Wife variety.
On a good day, you’ll follow the code of mummyhood religiously. Dishing out three warnings when the little tykes ‘test the boundaries’ and, if all else fails, asking them to sit themselves on the step to think about why trying to wrench off their baby’s sister’s nose might make her a bit ‘sad’.
But the other 90% of the time, the little buggers will completely flip your switch, usually over some small misdemeanour. Suddenly a red mist envelopes you and you become ‘she who will not be disobeyed’. This results in the severest penalty of confiscated toys, cancelled playdates and no screens whatsoever for a week! (Which of course is harder on mummy when 4pm comes, let’s be honest).
But that’s ok. The punishment fits the crime. Mother knows best. Always.
At the end of your long, long day of not being a perfect mum, you will notice you have not ticked a single thing off your to-do list. In fact, you will see that several tasks have now been added to it (mainly several new requests from your son’s school).
However, you must remember that when all is said and done, you have kept fed, watered, entertained and loved some very special beings. And that, I reckon, has got to be good enough.
pic: Fun in the mud by Jon Skilling, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jon_skilling/