It didn’t take the counsellor very long to work out that I’m a perfectionist. About 20 minutes. But it also didn’t take her long to point out that this is a big part of why I’m finding this so hard.
The rational, thinking part of my brain knows that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’. That the thing I am striving for is mythical, yet the irrational, non-thinking, judgemental part of my brain tells me that I need to keep striving for it.
‘Perfect parenting’ does not exist. What works for one doesn’t work for another. What doesn’t work for one, might work for another. But the pressure that I feel to be ‘perfect’ for my girls is immense. I can’t help but feel that it’s already gone so wrong for them, that I can’t do anything else to mess it up.
For me, this feeling is partly exacerbated by not being at work. If I’m not working then I should be able to look after the girls, keep the house tidy, make the meals and all the other stuff that goes on day to day.
Now, my rational thinking brain knows that having a tidy house is a) not the be all and end all and b) almost impossible with two small children in it all the time. But my non-thinking, irrational brain says, ‘But what are you doing all day if you’re not keeping it tidy?’
My rational, thinking brain knows that if we eat cheese sandwiches for lunch everyday and chicken nuggets and chips for tea everyday for a week, nothing bad will happen. But my non-thinking, irrational brain says ‘You’re not at work, what are you doing all day. Of course your children can’t eat that everyday, they’ve already started off their lives not eating the ‘right’ things, you can’t add to that.’
A part of this of course, is that my relationship with one of my children is so far from ‘perfect’, it’s almost at the other end of the scale. By the time I go back (if I do), I’ll have had three years off work, trying to give my children, but especially my eldest, some of what they need. And it currently feels that we’re very far away from achieving this. If this had been my work for the last 20 months, I would have been asked into my Headteacher’s office to see why one of my children was struggling so much. How I have had all this time with her and not helped her to even identify her emotions? How have I had all this time with her and not even got her to a point where she says good morning to me?
So, while I know I don’t have to be perfect, I don’t know how to stop trying. Maybe this is the thing that will get me through. Maybe it is the thing that will get in the way. I don’t know. I do know that I need to find a way to feel okay about how things are. Because as I said, and as everyone knows, there’s no such thing as perfect.
The best bits
I always feel at this point that I could tell you a million things about Little because she lights up my life. But I’ll just tell you this. Last week she set off for playgroup with her ‘underbrella’. It wasn’t raining. She carried it all the way, twirling it and singing. I think she made everyone’s day. Later that afternoon I found her on the toilet with her underbrella up. ‘I just putted it up in cased it rains mummy’!
We went for a walk on Sunday. Big took my hand for about 5 seconds, voluntarily. Not perfect, but pretty close.