Do you ever have that moment when you realize that some people’s perception on you is so different from reality or the way you see yourself? Two incidences recently made me see how dangerous perceptions can be.
I have been called an Earth Mother, and I guess it is understandable, we are doing the sustainability drive, I use cloth nappies and home school. It is not a title that I would give myself. I am very normal in most aspects, and to me an Earth Mother is so different, she wears tie dye, and only organic flowing clothes, she feeds her kids vegan organic food and colourants are evil, they don’t drink coffee and are even more conscious of their footprint on the earth than I am. They wear crystals, meditate and have no TV. That is just the stereotype picture in my mind of an Earth Mother. I think I am just a regular person trying to find easy ways to be greener.
And while I don’t mind being called an Earth Mom, what I learnt is that people have this idea that because I am more natural, that somehow I am a perfect mom. That being earth conscious makes you calm and never loose your cool. That you have a peaceful home and that somehow parenting is easy for you.
When I admitted to some friends awhile ago that I was having a tough time and just felt like getting in my car and driving far away, the response was not what I expected. There was no empathy or nodding agreement of how tough parenting can be. No, there was joy. Delight, that I am normal and have moments of not coping. They had this picture in their minds that somehow me being natural meant being perfect or always calm. I understand their reaction, because when we perceive others as perfect it highlights to us how much we are failing. We know we are not achieving these same levels of perfection. The problem is that we set them and ourselves up for heartache with these perceptions.
I know my friends did not mean to be unkind and they were just relieved that I was normal too, but in this laughing and joking about their perception of me they forgot that I was sharing something painful, my own feelings of failure as a mother. My own frustrations. The moment past and no one ask how I was. It was just enough I was normal, no one needed or wanted to know any more than that. It was a lesson to me that people’s perception of you can sometimes stand in their way of being able to empathize with you.
The second incident was when I met someone at a home school meet up and she made a passing comment about never having had a moment of not loving being a parent, it was such a blessing to her. My reaction was to politely smile and nod and inside I thought ‘gosh how does she love parenting so much all the time with 3 kids’ It made me feel hugely inadequate as I knew there were time I did not love it.
A few days later however I was angry. I am sure she did not mean to sound perfect and just wanted to convey that she loved motherhood. But to say you love every moment is a lie. I thought either she has some great drugs and I want some of those, or she drugs her kids, or she was trying to compensate for not always being perfect. She was more religious than me ( well more is a silly word to put in there as you can’t get any less religious than me, but you know what I mean) maybe she thought that admitting there are tough times is somehow detraction from the gift and ‘blessing’ that kids are supposed to be. But whatever her reason it was unkind to make yourself sound so perfect.
As mothers we need to think a little before we say these things, trying to convince ourselves that we are perfect means you miss that chance to get support when times are hard. Telling others you love parenting all the times makes them feel bad and you stop them sharing with you if they are finding it hard. And times will be hard, there is no one who can tell me that parenting is wonderful all the time. I don’t believe you. And if you think someone is getting it right and a perfect parent, chances are your perception is wrong and they have moments they mess up just like you do.
I think we can learn a great deal from other parents and the way others do things if we are open to admitting our failures and sharing our sucesses honestly and openly.
So here is my introduction. Hi I am Sally-Jane and I am not a perfect parent.
- I loose my temper, more frequently than I would like.
- My kids eat sweets.
- There are days when I hate being a mom, I don’t stop loving my kids but I hate how hard and frustrating and difficult some days can be.
- I don’t really like the baby stage at all.
- My kids are not always polite
- Somedays they go to be dirty and I forget to brush their teeth
- I swore I would never smack them and I try very very hard not to but I have. And then I have said sorry
- I apologies to my kids and tell them when I mess up, they need to know I am no more perfect than they are
- I swear more than I should
- There are days when I just want to send them all to school
There are list of other things that I do wrong but to balance these are times of fun, laughter and love than you will never find any other way than having kids. The bad moments pass, but the times that you are living through them are difficult and we need to support each other, not isolate ourselves with ideals of perfection.
Are there times that you have felt inadequate looking at someone else parent?
Or moments you have had where parenting was hard?