Letting Go of the Pressure to be Perfect in Motherhood
Thanks to Instagram we see many different pictures and posts of motherhood. We see the Insta mamas that throw elaborate parties and make fruit pictures on plates at snack time. We see the super mamas who plan the most creative after school arts and craft activities. We see the mamas that limit screen time and live outside with their kids-rain or shine. We see the mamas with perfectly organized closets and capsule wardrobes.
Those are all amazing things. I try to do some of those things. I love to take the pictures, write the words, and post it to the gram because I try to celebrate those moments where I am trying to do something well and I love doing it. However, somewhere along the line we got the idea that every good mama does all of those things. We pile on the guilt when we don’t have enough hours in the day to prep fun veggie faces on our kids plate or make homemade refined sugar free brownies or cook from scratch or play hide and seek out in the garden. Motherhood becomes an exhausting and endless list of things we can’t do instead of a celebration of what we can do.
A couple of years into motherhood when I had my second child I realized that who I am as a mama is a reflection of who I am as a woman. That means I have the same limits and gifts, the same hours in the day, the same emotional makeup as I had before having kids. Having children didn’t give me unlimited resources.
To be the best mama to my kids I have had to simplify my expectations a little. I have to be realistic about what I can and can’t do, what I want to do and don’t want to do, and what my family priorities are. I don’t have to do it all, have it all, or be it all- as a woman or a mama. But in a world of Insta uploads and blog posts about ‘the perfect toddler meal’ and ‘101 videos of how to have the perfectly organized playroom’ where do you start? How do you find who you are as a mama?
Firstly you have to know what you love and be okay with the things that you don’t love. There are things about motherhood that I adore, I personally love taking my kids to the supermarket. I make an activity out of it, I get them interested in different foods, I get them socializing with the helpers and cashiers and best of all, I get my shop done (with just an extra snack or two for them for behaving well whilst we were in there); there are also parts that I endure because they have to be done. I personally don’t enjoy mealtimes (mainly because of the mess made by my almost-two year old) but it is something that has to be done. I don’t have to love it. The key is knowing the difference. It helps to purposefully plan to do the things that you love in motherhood. Read the stories or build the tents for movie night. Make homemade ice cream or play hairdressers. Just be yourself in motherhood. You can’t cut back on the nappies or the potty accidents or the discipline problems but you can build activities that you love into your daily routine.
Secondly, drop the Insta-expectations. You don’t have to have a perfectly decorated playroom (unless that’s your thing, of course!). You don’t have to buy every single arts and crafts supplies for an activity afternoon playdate or have your children in coordinating outfits every day this summer. You can eat a regular ice cream instead of a homemade one from a watermelon mold. Life can be simple and life can be sweet. It can also be totally worth living even without winning any awards.
Thirdly, look back to when you were a kid. I never remember my mum hanging up a summer bucket list. She kinda just went with the flow. Sometimes we would have ‘fish and chips’ night in instead of a delicious home cooked meal (to be fair the fish and chips were just as delicious). We would have Friday night movie night (I now look back and realize it could have been because she was exhausted from the week) and we just saw it as a Friday tradition and we loved it! There doesn’t need to be this pressure to perform. That is what we need to normalize. We spent our summers riding bikes outside our home in Cheshire, watching Nickelodeon for hours and eating Mi Goreng noodles and we loved it.
Equally we were fortunate enough to have a mum that organized great summer holidays and organized dance classes at home and cooked elaborate Singaporean noodles. The most important thing was the balance and that there was food and love and tired kids at night. Isn’t that really the goal? I’d rather my children learn how to live well than that life be well-designed for Instagram photos. (Although I will totally take both if that’s an option!)
Take them to the park. Watch some favourite movies. Teach your kids to pick up their toys. Let’s break from performing as mamas and return to embracing being mamas and show our kids how to live a happy life. Leave perfection. Mother on purpose.