When my boys were babies, I met one of those horrible “sanctimummies” who was so freaking high-and-mighty about her perfect newborn-rearing. Every conversation was about how she exclusively breastfed and exclusively used organic fabrics and exclusively used all-natural, non-toxic household cleaners. Meanwhile, my twin babies were drinking formula in their Kmart onesies while my dog licked them on the mouth. Not only would she go on and on and on about how diligent she was in her parenting, but she was one of those judgmental mums who also had to weigh in on what everyone else was doing wrong. It was a whole lot of “Well, studies say…” and “You should know…” and “I would never…” I usually just smiled and nodded, but in my grouchy, sleep-deprived head I was usually thinking something like, “Suck it, lady, suck it!”
I mean, it was clear that this mum and I were never going to be friends, not only because she was annoying, but also because I didn’t want to hold myself to some impossible parenting standard. I had twin babies and was barely staying upright! It was about survival for me, never perfection. I learned fairly quickly that I was never going to do everything “right” so I stopped even trying. Instead, I focused on doing what worked for my kids and my family, and I’ve been good with that ever since.
Wanna hear what I’ve been doing all wrong? I’m not ashamed.
First of all, I stopped breastfeeding after a few months because I never made enough milk anyway. So rather than torture myself to eek out a couple of mls, the boys went exclusively to formula. They turned out fine. When they were about five months old, we went ahead and did sleep training, at our paediatrician’s suggestion. Believe it or not, they turned out fine…and they’re also amazing sleepers now. My kids do eat organic eggs and drink organic milk, and we do try to stick to organic for the dirty dozen produce, but they also eat a lot of crackers, a lot of treats, sometimes sand from the playground. They’re doing great, thanks.
I also often allow more than two hours of screen time a day, not because I’m lazy, but because I often have to work in the afternoons and it’s the only way to get two active boys to sit still. I don’t think their brains are rotted out, but hey, I guess time will tell.
Lastly, and I’m not proud of this one, I yell at my kids. I yell at them more than I’m proud of, but less than I used to. I’m getting better, but sometimes, like when they’re driving me insane and not listening, I can’t help it. I’m hoping all of the excessive hugging and kissing balances it out in some way.
So yeah, I’m not “perfect,” certainly not by any parenting book standards. Certainly not according to studies. That being said, I think I’ve actually nailed this mum thing. Seriously. Because even if my choices aren’t perfect, they are still my choices. I’ve always been really thoughtful about the decisions I’ve made regarding my kids. I’ve been consistent in my parenting. I’ve weighed pros and cons and ultimately landed on certain methods, based on who my kids are, and who my husband and I are.
We encourage our kids to be “game” and self-sufficient and do for themselves. We give them boundaries to help them feel safe, and to minimise the chaos. We ask them to acknowledge grownups and to say “please” and “thank you.” We encourage them to learn organically and at their own pace, discovering things because they’re interested, not because we’ve given them flashcards. We ask them to try, even when it’s hard, and to keep trying, even when they want to give up. At the same time, we want them to embrace all of the joy of being kids so, when it’s child-friendly, you will often see my kids screaming and running and acting silly because that’s who they are right now and I would never want to stifle that.
I have no desire to be a perfect parent. I wouldn’t want anyone turning to me for parenting inspiration. I have no judgments about how other people raise their kids. I just want to be the best mum I can be to my kids, to do the very best by them that I can. But, let’s be honest, I don’t always get there. I fail a lot. I’m often disappointed in myself. I’m often questioning my choices. I’m often wondering what I’ve done wrong. I beat myself up plenty. We all do, right? But I will never ever beat myself up for not being “perfect” because I think that’s an unattainable ideal and a whole heaping load of crap. There’s no such thing. And all of those sanctimummies on Facebook who are #blessed and #lovebeingamum are screwing up plenty, too, even if they won’t always cop to it on social media. I mean, it’s not like I’m putting all of my screw-ups in my status updates either.
In reality, none of us are perfect and we know it. We’re doing our best. And most of us imperfect mums flock to the mums who are just as sucky/amazing at this parenting thing as we are, who do like we do, and never judge. Sure, I feel #blessed and lately, yes, I #lovebeingamum. In order to really love it though, I have to be real with myself, and embrace my own messy, in-the-moment way of parenting. I’m #notaperfectparent and I’m perfectly okay with that.