Lee Koetser

What is “perfect?” As mothers we always strive to be the “perfect parent”. So I ask again what is perfect?

Breastfeeding, Carefully organised daily routines, sleep schedules and a colourful assortment of healthy foods? If this describes the “perfect parent” then we may as well admit defeat!

Throughout school I truly embraced the free spirit I was. I loved life, my family, peers and my earthly surroundings. As soon as I met my matric year something snapped and my eccentricities were fractured with reality. The rude awakening that my future was fast approaching and studies and decisions were not to be taken lightly. My sense of humour and carefree nature took a back seat to meticulousness. Step aside, time for the brain to head in overdrive.

When it was time to have children I should have readjusted my sails but instead I was sailing against the gale force winds. Perfectionism is not a positive attribute but a limitation. It is an unattainable goal. When we venture into the path of motherhood we need to acclimatise to our new course.

Reality: There will be sticky floors, messy rooms, broken sleep, inconsolable tears, endless diaper changes, blood curdling screams, accompanied loo visits, tower of pots, missing tea spoons, achy breasts, stand-up meals, sore backs and the list goes on.

If you find yourself constantly cleaning and tidying up after your offspring, fighting the sleeping patterns, hoping for peaceful lavatory calls, looking forward to uninterrupted baths and cover to cover reading…you are launching yourself head first into post natal depression or generalised anxiety.

The reality is if you want all of the above don’t have children or wait 12 years. The first thing you need to realise is that when you have children your life is going to change. You are no longer in a self-centered existence. You have to attune your ways to the demands of your infant. There is a quote, which states that happy children have sticky floors. This is because mommy is attending to baby and not the house.

If you are a perfectionist you will never be an amazing mother. How can you be? How can you be perfect at EVERYTHING? You have one responsibility and that is to be the best that you can be. Ask yourself these questions:

Is you child fed?

Is your child clothed?

Is your child clean?

Is your child healthy?

Is your child loved?

If you answered yes to all of the above then you are an incredible mother! So what if the dishes are not done immediately. It is hard enough trying to be the baby whisperer determining the type of cry your baby exhibits. Is he or she wet/ sick/over-stimulated/ hot /hungry/ tired? You can only do your very best.

This is something, which can make or break an individual. What is this hogwash of trying to outdo one another should we not be supporting each other? Where are the days when mothers were real, empathetic and supportive?

I hear young mommies of today comparing sleep routines, schools, extra mural activities and diet. That in itself generates a recipe for guilt, lies, poor self-concept and inaccessible goals.

It also breeds anxious children. Look at the happiest children. They have the least toys but the most love, minimum activities but the most creative minds, the calmest mothers and the messiest lounges.

I have never pretended to be the ideal mother in fact my innate need for transparency allows me to voice that I’m anything but. I have however done the best that I could do and shall continue to do so. I will continue to be real. If I could change one thing on my journey it would be to enjoy it more and perfect it less. This is why I am encouraging you mummies, dads, caregivers and guardians to embrace the glorious mess that you are!

Look at yourself with love, acceptance and understanding. You were all born and created unalike to compliment one another to learn from each other. Different strengths, interests and personas.

Imagine how boring the world would be if we were wired the same. We would also not have doctors, engineers, musicians and artists. Be true to yourself and all will fall gracefully into place.

Advice for your parent type:

For the stay at home mom: Never let anyone say you do nothing all day-you have the most unrewarding job with no pay, no rest and no normality. On the upside you will never miss a milestone and will have a tight bond with your kids.

For the working mom: Never overcompensate with gifts for your absence. Allow this time apart to make you a better parent when you are home and let them feel your presence not your presents.

For the parent juggling everything from part time work to parenting to tuck-shop etc.: You cannot do 100 things 100% well. Cut yourself some slack and do what you can as best you can. Your intention is good so don’t be so hard on yourself. This phase won’t last forever so enjoy it.

At the end of the day it is family first, nobody’s opinion matters and it is often the parent who struggles the most or someone who has not even had children who make the most comments.

“You cannot be perfect so be real, children learn more from who you are rather than what you say anyway.”

* Lee Koetser is parenting columnist for Mamas and Papas