Today was the birthday party of one of Isaac’s best friends. We got there, and he was having a whale of a time. Until I had to leave for work, when he burst into tears, and I had to leave him crying
I left him for the right reasons. He was with people he loved, and I knew that he would be playing 5 minutes, if that, after I left. Had I taken him home, he’d have been in a worse state. I had to get to work and I knew if all else failed, the daddy cavalry could get to him in about 2 minutes. I know all of that in my head, but in my heart? Full on Mummy Guilt.
And I bet I’m not the only one who gets it. Breastfeed? Guilty for wanting your body back. Formula feed? Guilty for not breastfeeding. Working? Guilty for leaving little one. Stay at home mum? Guilty for not working. Store prepared food? Guilty for not cooking. Home cooked from scratch? Guilty for feeling tired of it. 1 child? Guilty that your child doesn’t have siblings to play with. More than one? Guilty that they don’t have enough attention.
Whatever it is, whatever the choice is, guilt. Guilt guilt guilt. Because none of us are capable of being Supermum, and it hurts. We want to parent brilliantly, sensitively and imaginitively, all the while looking calm and composed with nary a hair out of place. And sometimes – in my case, more often than not – it just ain’t happening.
Am I a bad mum? Intellectually, my answer to that is no. I’m merely a mum, like the vast majority of other parents. Some days it seems to come naturally. We dance, read, cook, take trips out, make stuff. I’m on fire, and Isaac’s loving it. Other days, I feel like crap, and all I want to do is to sit on the sofa and eat chocolate. And actually, if I were to take a survey, I suspect most parents are very similar.
The thing is that I am not and never will be perfect. No one is, outside of Christ. And no-one expects me to be either – the only person in the world who expects it of me is myself. God, the one who made me and knows me and my capabilities intimately, doesn’t expect me to be perfect. So why do I expect it of myself? And what do I do with the guilt when it does come?
I guess I have choices here. I can choose to wallow in it, to tell myself again and again what a bad parent I am, and to strive even harder for perfection. More pain, more gain, right? If I only try harder, I’ll get it right. The danger with that is that I end up in an ever more depressing spiral, constantly beating myself up for mistakes, and missing out on all the grace filled joy of parenting my beautiful little man.
Or I can choose to believe, despite the way I feel, that the promises in the Bible about God’s grace and God’s love apply just as much to me as they do to everybody else. And that means that I need to take Perfect Mummy and shove her off the nearest available building. She’s a myth – she simply doesn’t exist. The truth is that I am human, and I will make mistakes. I will let people down, and I will even occasionally put the television on to babysit whilst I grab a loo break alone. It’s ok to be human. Because I can’t be perfect, but I’m covered by the One who is.
God doesn’t call me to be perfect. He calls me to be me. So when I make mistakes, I need to own them and make them right. But after that? After that I can walk free. Free in the knowledge that I’m not Super Mummy, and I don’t have to be. Isaac doesn’t need me perfect. He needs me as me, making mistakes and modelling forgiveness – not just to him, but receiving it too, and healthily dealing with the guilts. Because actually, I can’t get it all right. And, with God, I really don’t have to.
Super Mummy needs to die so real mummy can live free. Much healthier for me and my family. Rock on, real ones. You’re beautiful.