The Myth of the Perfect Mum

There seems to be a lot of mums feeling judged and victimised lately, have you noticed? Whether it’s the usual SAHM vs WM divide or something new like “slummy mummy” vs “yummy mummy”, we mothers are, intentionally or otherwise, making other mothers feel bad about the way we parent our kids. The underlying theme seems to be that there is a “perfect” way to parent that we should all be aspiring to and if we don’t make the grade, we’re simply not good enough.

Please don’t listen to any of it. Stop buying into the myth of the perfect mum. I’ve looked far and wide, across time and across cultures and I haven’t found a single perfect mum, because no such thing exists. The myth of the perfect mum appears to be just another way for society to set impossible expectations on women. I’m not even going to tell you something trite like “we are each the perfect mum for our own children”, because, again, that word “perfect” sucks balls,

“Perfect” is flawless. Perfect is never making a mistake, never taking a short cut, never getting tired or too emotional, never regretting something we’ve done, never feeling clueless. Worse than that, perfect is never doubting ourselves or wondering what happens next. To be perfect almost means we need to be able to see the future, and we all know that’s not only impossible when you’re raising kids, it’s probably not advisable either.

So, l’m scrapping the impossible goal of being the perfect mum immediately, because it’s never going to happen. I am never going to be the perfect mum and – I think you already know this – you are never going to be the perfect mum either. Nope, never gonna happen. Does that worry you, or does it feel like a burden has been lifted from you? For me, it feels like the biggest relief to say that out loud. I am never going to be a perfect mum. I AM NEVER GOING TO BE A PERFECT MUM.

However, if I’m not perfect, what am I left with? Surely my kids deserve perfection, or at the very least, for their mother to be striving towards it, right? Well, no, actually, What my kids deserve is a mother who loves them unconditionally, keeps them safe and warm and fed,  and does everything she can to help them achieve their potential in life. Everything else outside of that is just “parenting as a hobby” and it’s that side of parenting that fuels insecurity in so many of us.

We’ve all done it, we’ve all beaten ourselves up for not being perfect like the mums we see on Instagram. The mums that seem to have their shit so together it shines. A loving partner who does his fair share of parenting and housekeeping so it’s no wonder the kids are well behaved and the house is immaculate (despite daily crafting and ‘educational activity’ sessions). The mum has a gorgeous body, even though she’s got three kids and says the only exercise she gets is, “playing with the kids”. Despite neither parent appearing to have an actual job, there is money in the bank for every latest ‘must have’ and family holidays and events the rest of us can only dream of. Yep, I’m talking about those mums.

The trick with social media is to not believe our own hype or anyone else’s either. A photo or a humble-brag update can’t capture the essence of parenthood, in all it’s imperfect glory. A photo can’t capture the kisses and the “attagirls” any better than it can capture the temper tantrums and door slams. It captures the peacefully sleeping child, not the endless nights spent sitting at the end of a that child’s bed willing for them to sleep. It can’t capture the smell of a poonami, only the good humour expressed when dealing with it. The frustrating afternoons of fighting over homework become an update about a child receiving an academic medal. The snapshot of a child’s nutritious breakfast doesn’t show the time spent on hands and knees to clean the mess off the floor once finished.

There’s nothing wrong with editing our lives and showing ourselves at our best. We do it every day when we slap on some make up and carefully iron a shirt when we walk out the front door. We don’t tell everyone we meet at the shops that we might look happy right now, but we had a massive fight with our husband this morning that left us sobbing in the bathroom for an hour and half. Just as we wouldn’t criticise that mum for looking good and being cheerful, despite the arduous morning she just endured, we shoudn’t criticise a fellow mum for her lovely Instagram feed.

But we shouldn’t buy into it, either. I accept that mums like showing their best selves and ideal life, not the “perfection” that actually exists in their home, and I move on. I move on because I know there is no such thing as a perfect mum and I’m done with aspiring to be one. I’m done with feeling envious of the things other mums have and the way other mums do things. I’m done with feeling inadequate because I’m done with comparing my life with someone’s highlight reel. See, a wonderful thing happens when you decide to accept yourself flaws and all: you realise how lucky your kids are to have such an awesomely ordinary person turn up every single day and be their mum.

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Image: Getty