Less Than Perfect – And Proud!

We are always complaining about the pressure we are under as busy modern parents, and unfortunately the majority of that pressure comes from within.

We are all guilty of it; measuring ourselves against an imaginary yardstick, or worse, an imaginary Perfect Parent who never shouts, swears without thinking, loses their temper, puts the TV on to get a break from the insanity or gives their kids chocolate to bribe them to cooperate on occasion.

In addition to this, I find that there can be a general tone of competition amongst the online attachment parenting/crunchy mama community. It’s almost like we don’t feel like we are good enough if we don’t tick every box, so it becomes a fight to be the ‘most crunchy’, lest we be judged for not doing the perceived absolute best for our kids. As one lovely Alternative Mama reader Melissa recently discussed on her facebook page, we can find ourselves asking “what’s the most AP way of doing X/Y/Z?” rather than “what can I do that is respectful, loving and meets BOTH our needs?”
Less Than Perfect

Believe it or not, parenting is not an exact science. However much some of us would like to believe that we could just check ourselves against the Ideal Parent List to see how we measure up, it doesn’t really tell us anything. Somebody can breastfeed, co-sleep, practice elimination communication and babywear and it won’t necessarily make them a good parent. Similarly, a parent can formula-feed from birth, use a pushchair exclusively, never share a bed with their baby and still be a loving, gentle and respectful caregiver.

I am sick of the undercurrent of the Crunchy Mama World, especially online, so in protest I have compiled a list. A list of all of the things that we do, have done or don’t do that would exclude me from The Perfect And Amazing Attached Crunchy Parent Club. This isn’t supposed to make anybody feel bad – in fact its intentions are quite the opposite.

1. We don’t do EC. I love the idea of it, and I know there are lots of people who reckon they have done it successfully without it being a complete pain in the ass, but I just can’t see it happening that way for us. I’m pretty sure that nappies aren’t emotionally scarring, anyway. And we use mostly cloth.
2. We have a TV, and we watch it. We watch it quite a lot. Monkey is limited to an absolute maximum of 2 hours daily (in short bursts), and Squish, although I do my best to see that his viewing time is minimal, usually catches a little here and there whilst I race upstairs for dirty laundry or quickly put the dishwasher on. Which leads me nicely onto…
3. We have appliances – and I LOVE them. We have a tumble dryer, washing machine, and a small dishwasher and they all get used a lot. They make my life easier and give me the gift of more time with my gorgeous kids.
4. Neither of my kids were exclusively breastfed until 6 months. Monkey, our oldest, was supplemented with formula for non-medical reasons from the age of 4 months. He is strong, incredibly healthy and was successfully breastfed until 26 months of age when he weaned himself. Squishy-Man hasn’t had a drop of formula, but started the process of baby-led weaning at 5 months old. Not much goes down but he loves what does. 6 months isn’t a magical age by which all children are suddenly ready for food – it’s just a guide and all kids are different. So there.
5. I like to have a life away from my family. I love my babies to death, but being a full-time-always-there-at-home parent drains the hell out of me. I need a break sometimes! I thoroughly enjoy a occasional night out, once a month if finances allow, and yes I drink and yes I get drunk. Not so drunk that I am incapable of looking after my kids but drunk enough to have a damn good time and be silly for a while. I also make time every 6 weeks or so to go to the hairdressers. These trips away from the kiddos make me a better mum, as they stop me from feeling as harassed and drained as I would otherwise.
6. I don’t always let my son choose what to wear. Well, I do, as in I will give him choices of two or three different outfits. If I allowed him to choose completely for himself, he would wear jammies to toddler group. I guess that doesn’t matter, but y’know, I don’t wear jammies to toddler group either.
7. We don’t bedshare full-time. To be honest, this is more circumstantial than an active choice – I am still suffering from SPD, which makes it very painful for me to lie in bed. I sleep on the sofa because it’s squashy enough to put zero pressure on my pelvis. Since it’s not safe to co-sleep on a sofa, the Squishmeister sleeps in a crib (although he does come sleep on my chest in the early hours of the morning).
8. I like my kids to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Monkey goes to bed at 7pm and I love that. Squish still hangs out downstairs with us; there’s no point in him going to bed upstairs seeing as I must sleep on the sofa. Although to be honest? I would totally miss him if he did. When he gets older, he will have an early bedtime (in his own bed) like his brother because having adult time in the evenings is important.
9. I am a crap gardener. Even if we could afford our own little farm, we could probably never be able to feed ourselves properly because I have the Non-Green Fingers of Death.
10. We eat shit food. Yeah, we make the effort to eat mostly healthy wholesome stuff but, barring hydrogenated fat and fizzy drinks, there is very little that my son isn’t allowed to eat. I grew up in a household where junk food was very much frowned upon so as soon as I was old enough to get it for myself, I would eat as much of that junk as my pocket money would buy. I don’t want my kids having any kind of emotional attachment to food like I did/have, therefore nothing is out of bounds. I believe in the rule of Everything In Moderation.
11. I bribe Monkey on occasion. Yes, I know it’s a form of coercion. Yes, I know it’s wrong. But hell, I’m only human, and sometimes telling him that if we leave the park right now we can go get ice cream is better than having to somehow walk a screaming kicking crying child half a mile to the bus stop. It’s not ideal, and it is a cop out, but if you can show me one mother who has never ever done it I’ll tattoo “Bad Mama” on my forehead with a needle and Biro ink.

What Cardinal Sins of Parenting and Crunchy Living do you commit? I would love to hear! Be honest ladies, it’s so liberating! Trying to fit the bill all of the time is exhausting and pointless. Instead of trying to tick all of the boxes, do what feels right for your kids, your family and yourself. You are a wonderful mama.

 

Image courtesy of MelvinSchlubman @ flickr

Comments

  1. Becki says

    Id like to add ‘Forgetting there is a child in the room and inadvertently teaching a littley a swear’. (including ‘gobshite’, ‘bugger’ and ‘for goodness sake!’)

    Brilliant post. i must admit the title made me hesitate but im glad i read. There will always be times we dont represent our best choices or decisions because, as you said, we are human. But it think it is always important to try.

    I guess i need to read back (im pretty new) i didnt know you have SPD, im do too. I hope it gets better for you i really do x

    • says

      Ah yes, ‘for goodness sake’ is one that’s been repeated in our house a few times… And I have to say I am giggling at the thought of my 3 year old saying ‘gobshite’!

      You’re absolutely right, we just can’t represent our ideals perfectly all of the time – hence the title. The mark of a good mum is the consistent striving to improve, not how many times we actually succeed, if you get what I mean.

      Sorry to hear you suffer from the dreaded SPD too. It’s got to be one of the suckiest pregnancy-related conditions there is, seeing as it doesn’t bugger off when the baby comes out, lol. And thank you for the well-wishes :) I reckon I’ll be stuck with it for a while yet :(

      • Becki says

        Its amazing how many people assume the SPD will just magically disappear when the baby is born. The front of my pelvis has majorly overlapped twice. The first time resulting in an early c-section delivery for my baby (which broke my heart after i spent the entire pregnancy fighting for a vba2c) and the second time saw me reduced to using a wheelchair and being stuck on bedrest, where i am now.
        The SPD has also caused some damage to my spine which is still being investigated. Sounds cheerful no?

        Still, i wouldnt change having my baby for being back to normal xxx

        Oh and for some reason hubby find hilarious (though i dont think it counts as a swear) dd2 also says (shouts) ‘crusty badger’ at random moments!

        • says

          Oh my goodness, you poor thing!! :( I certainly won’t be complaining about mine after reading about yours!! I really hope you recover soon, what kind of treatment are you having at present?

          • says

            Samantha, it’s Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, although it is known also as PGP – Pelvic Girdle Pain. It’s when the pelvis moves out of alignment during pregnancy (due to the hormones). sometimes it goes as soon as baby is born but for some (like Becki and I) it hangs around. They say it’s usually gone by a year post partum but it can take longer for breastfeeding mums, and some mums find they always get recurrent pain from it at certain times of the month due to hormonal fluctuation.

          • Becki says

            No no please dont feel that way! You pain and discomfort is just as valid as mine – i would never want someone to feel they couldnt or shouldnt complain about a tough time just because they felt mine was worse xxx

            At the moment im waiting to go to the pain clinic (who cant see me til May!) to try to get my pain under control so i can start physio. Thats all they can do really – im (thankfully) not eligible for the plating surgery.

            How are you finding the spd?

          • says

            Oh goodness, that’s a long wait. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be trying to care for your kids whilst dealing with that kind of pain. ((hugs)) How do you manage? Yes, i hear the surgery is brutal…

            For me it is bearable now, i can walk around and generally get on with life. I still can’t run and i find getting up from sitting or from the floor hard, but it’s manageable now. I am unable to lay in bed which is a real pain in the butt but it’s very slowly improving so i’m hoping ill be able to stop sleeping on the couch in a few months. Have had physio and chiropractic but nothing really seems to make much difference.

          • Becki says

            Im lucky that my husband stepped up. He has taken over the physical day to day running of our home, does the school runs etc.
            I can just about make it to the bathroom on my crutches and i struggle down the stairs every week or so, pain and stiffness permitting. For anything else i have to be pushed in a wheelchair which means i dont really go out anymore (hubby only has one pair of hands and cant push a double buggy and me!).

            But dont feel bad for me, there have been upsides. Thanks to being stuck in bed with the computer for company ive discovered gentle, natural parenting! I am about to enter month 6 of breastfeeding a baby who will wean himself, whenever he is ready. The change in my parenting (and as a result, in hubbys) has made a huge difference to our children who are now more confident and really enjoy the affection and closeness we now have.

            Also, im very lucky because while other Mums are cleaning or cooking dinner i get to read or play games or make up stories or do cutting and sticking with my children (you should have seen the state of my bed at the weekend – lets just say im glad pva is water soluable!). xx

          • says

            You really are an inspiration Becki, to be able to find a silver lining in such a difficult stage in your life. Next time I feel like whining about not being able to get around as normal I will think of you and your strength, and find that silver lining myself :) It certainly is a blessing in disguise to be forced to slow down and really enjoy your babies. If i didn’t have to sleep downstairs, Squish would almost certainly be put upstairs in the crib when he falls asleep for the night, which means i would miss out on those glorious hours of snuggle time with him. You just don’t get that time back.
            xoxox

  2. Samantha says

    I LOVE this!

    When I was pregnant, I had these grand ideas of how I was going to be the perfect parent and do everything right and suddenly change lots of myself….how foolish of me!

    Boo was about a few weeks old when I realized I am good just the way I am! I TRY do do all the right things and actively think about my son first, but I can’t change ME. And me is who he is going to love, not me pretending to be perfect!

    I think this realization will make me a better person and a better parent. I don’t want my son to have the stress of being a perfectionist. By seeing mummy isn’t perfect and I don’t expect perfection from him, he will have a healthier more carefree childhood.

    We all are doing our best for our families and children. And we all have our own ways of doing it! :)

    • says

      ah yes, i remember thinking much the same myself before the kidlets came along. Youre so right, it’s much healthier for our kids to realise that we’re all flawed and that’s okay.

  3. Laura says

    I lose my temper with my kids – I shout at them, but I love them too and they know that. Mother does not have an infinite supply of patience, and the sooner they learn what my limits are the better. There is always a warning first, and I ask nicely two or three times…..but I do lose my nut especially at my three and a half year old, who is going on thirty!

    • says

      Ah yes, my three year old is much the same… it’s refreshing to read your comment; sometimes i feel like everybody else is endlessly calm and patient (even in the face of a three year old’s idea of ‘help’, lol)

  4. says

    Oh I just agree with EVERYTHING you wrote LOL My tumbledryer is down ATM and it’s killing me and my newly found cloth obsession… Saraya has taken to asking for chocolate and sweets for breakfast… she doesn’t get it but she does enjoy a piece or two if she uses the toilet or just because I love her so much I can’t say no to her little face after dinner. I am a super bad mama because she has also been to Burger King AND McDonalds… not in the same sitting I might add [but it's like once a month at most!]
    I love you!! You are a Super Mama in my eyes :]

      • says

        I’m a hard mama, people always used to tell me she was too young to be disciplined… I didn’t think so, she understood. Watching her now, seeing how well behaved she is. I can take her anywhere and not worry about her behaviour, I tell her to do something once and she knows by my tone not to push it. I would say a lot of Crunchys wouldn’t agree with my way of parenting!

          • says

            The nice thing is I don’t really have to do anything anymore, aside from the odd occasion, because Saraya knows my looks and tone of voice – it’s like I’ve already instilled that in her so she just behaves. Although I’m dreading if she hits the “terrible twos” lol so far I’ve avoided it!!

  5. Laura says

    McDonalds once a month? Once a week more like, like when we have hit lunchtime and we are out and everywhere is busy and the kids are hungry…..organisation was never my thing, but denial in my view just pushes them later on in life to excess. And anyway it is only ever Chicken Nuggets…..am I convincing myself????It may be a little bad, but far better than beating your child or starving them which is what some people think is acceptible (and itsn’t. At all, In any way shape or form!)

    • says

      Saraya likes the fish fingers – that’s totally healthy right?? LOL I only have 1 so far so many when I have 2 kidlings to feed it’ll be a different story :]

  6. Carolyn says

    I love your article I was worried my friends would think I am crazy my baby boy Is 7 weeks old and has never slept in a crib or away from me I find it very special the bond that we have I learned within a week his cries as how I can sooth him by just touching him it’s amazing my son was born in a birthing center and I love it no complications or anything he was born within 30 min of pushing
    I feels sad for some of the moms that try so hard and then in the end they have to have a csection but honestly having your vjj stretched to the limit isn’t really all that fun just saying I am so happy you posted this in here thank you :)

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