Why I’m not the perfect Mum and I don’t try to be.

With social media an image of the ‘perfect insta mum’ has resulted in mums feeling imperfect and failures at not being able to achieve this image and creating a crisis in confidence. Well I have news for you……they’re not perfect either.

First Time Mum

The wonderful thing about social media is that it is the perfect place to not only hide your true self, but provides an opportunity to create the ‘perfect’ image. You can be anything you want to be.

It’s full of mums achieving standards that don’t seem quite realistic when placed within the context of the real world. How super insta mum has created a fantastic game for her children, played with them, cleaned the entire house, done the washing, walked the dog, taken the children to the park, got herself washed and dressed with beautiful clothes and perfect make up, is none stop smiling, her children have eaten all their organic 5 a day breakfast, lunch and dinner, they haven’t cried or had a tantrum once and above all she has the time to make videos and take pictures of everything and post them to social media. I’m lucky if I get to shower that day never mind put a full face of make up on. And they are always happy.

What am I doing wrong? Why do I seem to be living in squalor while everyone else has it together? How is it that they find it so easy when I’m over here struggling? Is there something wrong with me that I’m not happy all the time and actually some days I wonder what the hell I got myself into? The answer is that these perfect insta mums are exactly the same as the rest of us. I am doing nothing wrong and neither is anyone else. Just like the rest of us, I am trying my best everyday. Social media provides mere snapshots of time, as they say you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, or rather an iPhone.

It can be damaging for anyone to compare themselves to others, let alone an image that is fabricated and unobtainable.

I have struggled with perfectionism for years. I constantly set myself standards that I am unable to achieve. This means I view myself as a failure all the time at everything I do and being a parent was no different.

Before I gave birth I didn’t have a preconceived idea of what I would look like as a parent. I was going to take it as it came. But when I got there I was not prepared for the anxiety and worry that accompanies being a parent. I was not prepared for what it took to look after a newborn nor the love that would consume me.

The more time I spent reading about developmental milestones, feeding, safer sleeping and routines, the more I began to form this idea of what I should be as a parent. Seeing other Mums on social media making it look easy further shaped this idea of what I needed to do to be the perfect mum. I couldn’t be anything less because my daughter deserved nothing but the best from me.

I believed that being a Mum was ensuring that I always smiled at my daughter no matter how tired or frustrated I was. She couldn’t see me as anything other than her happy mum.

I believed that when she was awake I needed to provide stimulation and encourage her development. That meant reading to her, playing with her with home made age appropriate games, singing to her and talking to her.

I believed that I should always be calm and I couldn’t ever be frustrated with being a mum and the demands this entailed.

I believed that I should always put my daughter first and consider her needs at all times. This meant that I wouldn’t eat, sleep, shower, or do anything for me unless she was asleep. That was the only time when I would give myself guilt free permission to do something for me.

I believed to be a good Mum was to be able to do everything. The housework, the cooking, entertaining the kids, looking after my husband and everyone else, working and to not find it difficult.

I believed I couldn’t ask for help because I was the one at home all day, I wanted my daughter and above all it was my role as a mum.

These were absolutes. There was no room for error. It was all or nothing and if I didn’t meet my standards everyday then I was a failure. The mum guilt was out of control.

It is safe to say that the pressure I inflicted upon myself was massive and I suffered with my mental health. There was absolutely no way I could be my idea of the perfect mum and therefore it was inevitable that I would be disappointed in myself everyday.

For anyone who has never heard of perfectionism in this sense, perfectionism is a personality trait in which an individual sets themselves standards which are so high that they either can not be achieved ,or that they can ,but to a great detriment to the individual. Perfectionism thrives on fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes and therefore something bad will happen. Now you might be thinking that doesn’t seem that bad. In fact you might be thinking that this isn’t a particularly bad trait to have in that it forces you to be your best and achieve high standards which bring positive rewards. Yes, it can have a positive side such as this and on the odd occasion, my perfectionist trait has led me to produce some of my best work at university and allowed me to perform at my job very well. However the mental impact of this is immense.

Think about it. Imagine running your personal best time. Now imagine that at EVERY race you have to run your personal best, even if you’re tired, ill or have a broken leg. You may STRIVE for your personal best, that’s different and a very healthy way to live, but as a perfectionist you must ACHIEVE your personal best EVERYTIME. That’s a lot of pressure and pretty much impossible.

I have found Perfectionism self help resources such as this to be very helpful.

I think as first time mums we are susceptible and vulnerable. I was particularly so in that I had lost my mum suddenly when I was 24 weeks pregnant and was very much first timing on my own.

Anyone I have ever spoken to who has had more than one child (veteran mum) will tell you how they acted differently with their first and second child. With their first child they did everything by the book, took the advice of every professional and essentially wrapped their child up in cotton wool. With their second child they did the complete opposite. Are they bad parents? Absolutely not. Are their children happy and healthy despite the differences in parenting? Yes. And it was these veteran mums who helped me to realise what I was doing to myself and helped me relax my standards.

What do I do differently and believe now?

Here are a few things which I do now to help me be the best imperfect mum I can be:

1) I don’t believe everything I see on social media.

2) If we all make it to bed at the end of the day fed, clean, watered and healthy as a minimum then that’s enough.

3) I’ve relaxed my efforts with the housework. The dishes can wait and if my husband or anyone else has anything to say then my reply is one of two: “you do them” or “this isn’t a hotel”. My house is lived in.

4) I take time for me. This is a big one and a must which I schedule into my day. It can be anything from having a bath, doing a workout or writing. As long as it is something I enjoy. I realise I am just as important as my daughter and husband, I MATTER and therefore I need to invest some time in myself.

5) I no longer HAVE to achieve my idea of perfection but rather I SRTIVE to be the best I can be everyday. This way of thinking motivates me rather than pressurises me and as result I’m more relaxed and happier. Excellence vs Perfectionism is key.

6) It’s ok to be frustrated ,being a mum is hard work. Admitting this also doesn’t make me a bad mum it makes me a better mum, which leads me nicely to..

7) It’s ok not to be smiling all the time. In fact it’s healthy for my daughter to witness my range of emotions as what is important is how I respond and manage them rather than having them to begin with. That way she will learn how she can manage and respond to her emotions and know that to show your emotions is not a bad thing.

8) I ask for help!! I can not do everything on my own. Yes I’ll admit somethings my husband does he does wrong because he doesn’t do it the way I would. But the point is it’s done.

9) Allowing my daughter to explore and entertain herself is just as important for her development as is us attending baby groups and engaging in ‘developmental play’. I love this quote by Kim Raver;

“I think it’s necessary to let kids get bored once in a while-that’s how they learn to be creative“.

10) Being a mum means: just love.

For any one giving themselves a hard time for what they should be doing, do me a favour and have a little look at the things you are doing.

Anyone who follows my instagram and facebook knows how much I love my daughter and that she is more than a daughter to me because she helped piece me back together after Losing my mum.

To be the best for my daughter is for me not to be my best!

First time Mum quote

Xxx

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5 Ways To Help Accept Your Grief

When you have lost a loved one carrying on with life can be an arduous task. You’ve finished all the arrangements for the deceased and people slowly drift back to their own lives. I found that this was the time when I truly started to grieve and when I most needed something, anything, to help me be with my grief. I am by no means an expert but here are the 5 ways which have helped me accept my grief and find a little piece of peace.

1. Make time to grieve.

I listened to my Mum’s funeral song today for the first time 11 months after her passing and rather than being crippled with agony and longing , I was actually able to smile and think of how she used to sing that song while she was cleaning. I didn’t purposely choose to listen to the song, it happened to be on the radio this morning and I’ll admit my first initial thought was to turn it off, remove it from consciousness because I didn’t want to be reminded that she’s no longer here right now. But whenever I get these thoughts of avoidance, rather than do everything in my power to avoid them, I do the opposite and focus on them. The same with my grief. Rather than do everything I can not to think about my mum and to run away from the pain, I acknowledge it and allow myself to feel it. After my Mum died and before I gave birth, I spent the majority of the time on my own for 12 weeks and I used this time to do what I needed to do, whether that was to cry, scream, sleep, eat, write or just stare at the TV. I allowed myself to feel. Because of this I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of managing my grief and living my life. Purposely giving myself that time was the best thing I could do in my journey of coming to terms with the loss. Even now I still schedule time in my day to sit and think about my Mum. On the occasions where I’ve been carried away by the days and tasks of being a Mum myself I really feel it. I start to get overwhelmed, irritated, anxious and distressed. My thoughts automatically turn to what I have lost and my mood plummets dramatically. Once I have taken that time to feel whatever I am feeling and more often than not have a good sob, I feel calmer and able to face another day.


2. Get it all out.

This may come as a surprise considering you’re reading this but I am quite a private person. I tend to be the listener and have taken the view in the past that others can’t help with my problems as they are mine and mine alone, so what is the point in talking about them. I suppose you could say this has been a positive result from my Mum passing in that I have found the courage to open up to those I trust. I believe that talking to my confidants has helped me greatly in figuring out how to adapt to my new normal and more importantly how to manage my emotions. When you lose a loved one you fundamentally change as a person, your very core being is altered permanently and whilst parts of the old you still remain, ultimately you have transformed into a new person. I remember my husband saying to me once that ” he had lost a mum but also his wife” and that’s true he did. Part of grieving is getting to know this new person, with new thoughts and feelings, new fears and new beliefs and a whole new way of living. Talking to someone I trusted enabled me to understand the new me but also to explore my new normal.

I have to give some credit here to my husband. He was the one I confided in and divulged my inner thoughts and feelings to, however I wasn’t and am still not a very willing participant. It took him to recognise when I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and coax me to talk about it with him. He made me feel comfortable and secure, I knew he wouldn’t judge or ridicule me and actually sharing things with him allowed us to enter a new phase of our marriage and become closer.

Talk to someone you trust, talk about your thoughts and feelings, talk about your loved one but most importantly don’t bottle things up. If you struggle with talking then you can write it down, make a voice recording or even talk to your lost loved one. I’ve also known others who have used creative ways to express themselves including music and art. Whichever way suits you use it to release some of that pressure and to help you make sense of who you are and your new world.


3. Make a plan.

One thing that absolutely terrified me above all else was being on my own. Not just in terms of the rest of my life without my Mum or after I gave birth, but also when my husband and everyone else went back to their lives and back to work. If in the past I had ever felt lonely I would just get up and go to my Mums. Now that this was no longer an option I had absolutely no idea what to do. I spoke to my husband about this and we agreed to make a plan. We made a list of the things that I wanted to do but had not felt up to doing. This list was a ‘if you feel up to it’ list so there was no pressure if one day I decided not to do a single thing from the list or if I did them all in 20 minutes. The other list was around what I needed to achieve as a minimum everyday including things like getting up, washed and dressed. You don’t realise how difficult the simplest of tasks are when you’re consumed with sadness and despair. Life becomes pointless and purposeless. We agreed that if I accomplished the minimum list and then spent the rest of the day crying that was good enough. Having an initial plan gave me a sense of normality at a time when everything was so far from what was.

Now this may seem slightly contradictory but bear with me. In essence with this I did not plan further than each day. Anything more just seemed insurmountable for me so I took one day at a time. I could just about make it through one day without her. If you can’t contemplate a life without your loved one then don’t, remove that fear and focus on making it through that day only.


4. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

I am not ashamed to say that after my Mum died I did seek professional help and visited my GP. I needed it. Just as I would go to my GP for any physical ailments I did the same for my mental ailment. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and even though I’ve had periods where I have utilised medication alongside other talking therapies, generally I am experienced enough that I am now able to control my panic and function day to day. However after my Mum my anxiety went to a new level and I required some form of intervention in order to help me cope. I went to see my GP who prescribed me the best medication that posed the least amount of risks to my baby and one which I could safely breastfeed with postpartum. I was closely monitored by the midwives ,pre and post natal,and maintained regular check ups with my GP. My daughter suffered no effects from the medication whatsoever. The medication reduced the physical symptoms of my anxiety which meant I could focus on utilising coping strategies and tools. I was referred for mental health support and I completed 12 weeks of high intensity CBT therapy for my anxiety only, not my grief. I am by no way advocating that all those who are grieving need to be on medication or for that matter, need to receive some form of professional help. What I am saying is that if you feel you need additional support then don’t be afraid to visit your GP or seek other professional help.


5. Time

This one is very simple: give yourself the gift of time.

There is no time limit on your grief. Take all the time you need even if it is a life time. There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ or ‘moving on’, grief isn’t a single period of change, it’s a continuous period of change and one which is not governed by time.

11 months on and I am able to smile at the thought of my Mum more often than not when once I would be rendered paralysed. I still have a long way to go but my grief tides are less frequent, less intense and have reduced in duration. Rather than “bad days” and “bad weeks” I have “bad moments” in each day. I can think about the future and get excited. Absolutely my enjoyment of life is forever bittersweet but I am ok with that. My Mum was one of my greatest loves and I’ll always mourn the fact that she is no longer part of my future. Having that tinge of sadness to everything I do means that I still miss her, I want to always miss her and never forget her.

Grief changes us, defines us and ultimately becomes us, but it does not have to take our lives from us.

If anyone has any other ways which they have found helpful when dealing with their grief and you feel comfortable in doing so, please leave a comment on this page so others can possibly find some benefit from it also. We are all in this together. Alternatively you can message me directly or via facebook or instagram and with your permission, share your suggestion on your behalf or anonymously.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional and the information provided above is based solely on my own personal experience of grief and should not be substituted for any medical advice or information. If you or anyone you are supporting have concerns regarding their mental health then seek medical advice.

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