Just days ago, walking out of a university lecture, my friend Laura looked tired, beaten. ‘I’m exhausted.’ She said, tears glistening in her eyes and her lip quivering. ‘I almost dropped out last week. I’m tired; my kids hate me because I’m a total bitch. I’m failing at being a mother. I don’t know how other people actually do this.’ She trailed off, looking defeated.
‘What? You can’t work, raise kids, keep house, maintain a relationship, friendships, have a job AND a juggle a university degree? What’s wrong with you?’ I laughed, shaking my head. She looked at me with that knowing look and a slight smile.
No wonder we are all so tired. Why do we expect so much of ourselves?
Recently I was chatting to lady in her mid seventies. She’s both old fashioned and an open-minded, straight shooter and I respect that. We discussed women’s roles 50 years ago and modern times and her thoughts blew me away.
‘I don’t know how you do it love. I raised 3 boys and looked after the home while my husband worked and that was hard; but you girls today, you’ve always got so much going on at once. Times have changed and so has what is expected of a lady. Though, I wonder if you all do it to yourselves sometimes.’
Damn. She was right.
We are so busy fighting the patriarchy for the advancement of women; but wonder sometimes if women are their own worst enemies when it comes to our own expectations- of both ourselves and of other women.
The thing about us independent, free-thinking, modern super women is that we want it all. Far more than just wives and homemakers and we have stuff we want to contribute to this world.
Yes, I’ve felt the pressure of motherhood often; juggling a career, raising kids and trying to making it look effortless.
Then there’s the ‘mumpetition war’, where mothers battle against each other, trying to win the Pinterest war for the picture perfect life and the motherhood crown. The images of expensive children’s birthday parties, clothes and toys that are so over the top, that I often wonder if it’s more for the benefit of child or their parents. I am also guilty of this. We can be invested in selling a story of perfectionism that can feel impossible to keep up with.
Gone are the days where your achievement was in how you kept house, and raised babies. And while I’m a feminist- I’m sorry- but some days the domestic drudgery of the 50’s and its cookie baking, floor scrubbing existence sounds like a sweet gig. Hell yes, If that’s the total of my responsibilities, Where do I sign up?
Several years ago, at a busy time in my life, I was juggling a degree, a job and various other responsibilities on my own while raising the kids. I was tired and hanging on by a thread.
My only ambition was to get the kids to school on time, myself to work, pick up the kids, dance lessons, homework, dinner, shower, kids to bed, study. The same mundane Groundhog Day routine; day in, day out. The kids were happy, I was exhausted- you know the drill. It was a soul destroying existence some days. I was depleted and had nothing else to give.
So, one day I decided I was going to be kinder to myself and stop being such a martyr.
I hired a cleaner to come fortnightly to help me with the house. I decided to take better care of me and to actually spend money on small things getting my hair done instead of taking the kids to theme parks. Instead, we went to actual parks and they loved it just as much.
I also signed up to school lunch orders online a few days a week. This felt like a win/win scenario. The kids were getting fresh sandwiches, fruit and snacks and I wouldn’t have to brush my hair at the traffic lights anymore.
Then one day, I was informed, I had it all wrong.
The women in one online mothers group descended on a mum who had dared share that she had done the same. Apparently those lunch orders made her a lazy, terrible mother and a shitty human being.
They filled the thread with pictures of their beautifully packed, colourful, bento lunch boxes, to show her how motherhood was supposed to be done. That was the day that I opted out of the ‘motherhood race’. I was done. I knew it was a race I was never going to win and I refused to exhaust myself trying to compete with other women.
Since then, it seems there’s been a revolution. I realised more and more women have felt exactly the same and jumped ship, sparking a movement.
There's Queen Mums leading the anti-perfectionism rebellion like Constance Hall and Kristy Vellely; women who also got tired of the expectation to be perfect and have accepted that they are imperfect humans with a hell of a lot of responsibility and even less time. They call for women to be more about ‘more love, less judgement’. And that includes loving ourselves as women and mums. And women have joined them in droves.
The critics ask ‘is good enough really good enough?’.
Valid question. And one that I pondered just this morning.
On the phone to my daughter’s teacher, upset after sitting for hours helping her write a speech on famous explorers; I discovered that she had already delivered the said speech to her class- in typical wing-it-like-her-mother style and unprepared- YESTERDAY.
When explaining my fatigue, my guilt and my want to be able to best support my daughter, she stopped me short.
‘She comes to school clean, fed, happy. You are doing a good job.’
And just like that, all was good in the world.
And when my daughter Emily was born, I sat struggling to breastfeed and balled my eyes out. I had not slept in days and had hit the point of sheer exhaustion. A young midwife, (who I will be eternally grateful to for this gold nugget of a life lesson) sat with me said something that I will always remember. ‘Sometimes what’s best for the child is what is best for their mother’.
I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that in looking after ourselves as women and in learning to better love ourselves; that we have more in the ‘tank’ and therefore, more energy and love to give our children and significant others.
This is a revolution I could get behind. One not where we give less to our children, but one where we value ourselves, leaving more for us to give as mothers, wives and partners and women who have something meaningful to contribute to a world that our daughters and sons will someday go out into.
Good enough IS good enough.