Monday, 11 January 2016

It's hard to be good enough!

A couple of weeks ago I arrived at Dope’s first ever music class 10 minutes early with a HOME BAKED muffin in my bag.  She had napped well in the morning, eaten a good lunch and got in to the car without a blip.  We were the first to arrive at the class.  Dope walked in, waved at the teacher and started bouncing and swaying in her own goofy way to the background music.  The teacher was delighted, Dope was delighted.  I was delighted.  I also had a pram and a bottle of milk in the car.  After the class she was going to drink her milk, get in her pram and nap while I took her for a walk along the beach.  We were then going to drive to pick Buda up from work where we were all going to sit in his cafe and enjoy family time while Dopey ate her muffin (home baked, by me, full of goodness).  I had made a plan that day, and it was happening, all around me, just as it should.  I had a moment of feeling all squishy and light.  And just like that, for the first time ever, I felt like a good mum.  A REALLY good mum.

But then two other mums arrived at the class.  Not just any two mums.  One is a mum I used to be very good friends with.  I’ve made efforts to rebuild our friendship but she has a busy and full life and sporadic catch ups seem to be as much as I can hope for.  Seeing her out with another mummy friend made me feel awkward, uncomfortable and rejected.  Silly, I know.  She didn't intend this.  I have no claim on her time, it's just how I felt.  She was just out with a friend and bumped into an old acquaintance.  She probably went away thinking it was nice to see someone she knew at the class.  I suspect she doesn’t know how much I miss her.

By the end of the class, I just wanted OUT.  Seeing my old friend made me sad and reminded me that I'm useless at making and keeping friends.  With the final song she said, 'I'll text you, we really must catch up soon'.  This was awkward as we both knew this wouldn't happen,  I rushed Dope out and stuffed her into the pram.  She wasn’t happy.  She screamed and refused the milk I’d given her.  I walked her up and down the prom and she still screamed.  I pushed the pram through dog pooh and got freezing cold.  After the LONGEST time she finally slept.  I then attempted to un-poop the pram wheels by scraping them along curbs and tufts of grass.  My hands and face were numb.  And it was late.  It was now the time we should have been getting in the car to pick up Buda.  But I couldn’t wake her because I’ve read all of the baby books and I KNOW that if she misses a nap, or naps too late in the day, she will not sleep through the night until she is a teenager, or married, or in a retirement home.  I figured she needed that sleep.  I left her wrapped up in the pram whilst I froze on the bench next to her.  Then it got really late.  Buda was just wandering out of his workplace to wait for us completely unaware that I was sitting on bench with a sleeping baby 30 minutes drive away.  Finally, I woke her up, endured her screaming protests, wrangled the pram into the boot and set off.  By the time we got to Buda he grumpy from sitting in the cold for 40 minutes.  Dopey was still grizzling at me and it was almost dinner time.  I abandoned the idea of family time in the cafe and we went straight home.  The muffin, in all its home baked glory, was left uneaten.  My wonderful plan was shot.  And just like that, I felt like a rubbish mum.  A REALLY rubbish mum.

There are many positives in this day.  I cared enough about my child to make a plan, and a muffin, for her.  I’m privileged enough to have a child who is healthy, happy and confident enough to walk up to a strange teacher to wave and start dancing.  I can afford to take her to these classes.  We have a car to get us to such classes.  We live in a beautiful area where a seaside stroll is easily achievable.  My husband has a job for us to pick him up from.  We have a home to come back to at the end of a day, however rubbish that day was.  Our home is warm and safe and ours.  There is food in the house to feed my kid with.  My life is so easy that this faded friendship is pretty much the biggest hardship I face.  I know all of this.  Really know it.  Each and every day I thank God for all of these blessings because I can SEE and UNDERSTAND how good my life is.  But I just don’t FEEL like it is.  Life feels like a battle and a struggle, mostly with myself.  I KNOW what I should be doing and I expect myself to do it.  I just seem incapable of getting my sh*t together and I don’t know why.  So that moment, before the class when I felt like a good mum, doesn’t leave me feeling warm.  It frustrates me because I know now how nice life could feel.  That feeling is now the standard that I am striving, and failing, to reach.  I know that getting it all together IS possible because I did it once.  That means that I’m falling short the rest of the time.

I recently read that aiming to be a ‘good mum’ is simply inviting failure, much better to settle happily with 'good enough'.  That's all your kids need.  I get that.  It is advice I have regurgitated to many a mummy friend.  I just can’t accept it for myself.  Being ‘good enough’ is nowhere near enough for me.  I want to be a good mum.  All of the time.  This is a big demand and near impossible, but that’s the standard I set myself.  And every stumble, every meal that gets spat out and thrown to the ground, every nap that is late or cut short, every night time waking, feels like a punch in my gut.  It’s the price I pay for my ineptitude.  I need to fix this.  I know.  I need redraw the criteria by which I judge myself, or even better, STOP judging myself.  

So, what can I do?  I need to try harder.  Not on being perfect, but on being 'good enough'.  THAT feels like a bigger challenge to me that the striving for perfection.  This 'good enough' strategy feels so risky to me.  This little person’s entire life, future and well-being is in my hands.  What if I tell myself that  I don’t need to be a good mum, just a good enough mum. Dopey is fine, happy and healthy. If I drop the ball every now and then she will probably be OK.  But what if she isn't? CRAP! I dropped the ball.  She didn’t nap for the 3rd day running and now she won’t sleep at night and her development will stall because she will be so tired all of the time...and on, and on and on.

But striving for perfection carries its own risks.  It damages my mental health and sets a bad example for Dope.  I don't want her see her to grow up running herself into the ground and then beating herself up when she falls short.  So rather than continuing to push myself towards some un-achievable ideal, I'm going to push for the achievable.  I resolve to accept the hits and teach my kid that sometimes it’s OK to stumble.  I now strive to be ‘good enough’ mum, raising a kid that knows that SHE is good enough, no matter what.