Perfectly imperfect: redefining what it means to be a good mum

We all know that nobody is perfect. Why is it then, that we mums feel so much pressure to be the perfect parent?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because we have expectations coming at us from all angles: from society, social media, other mums, and even from our own preconceptions. It’s no wonder that we feel stress and guilt of not living up to the ideal image of motherhood, even when we are doing our utmost to be the perfect mum.

The irony in all of this, is that pursuit of perfection is not only stressful for us, it can have negative consequences on our little ones.

I think it’s time to flip the script and redefine what it means to be a perfect mum.

Instead of striving for some impossible standard, let’s focus on being the best we can be while embracing our imperfections. Let’s give ourselves permission to make mistakes, and most importantly, learn from them. Because when we do, we’ll create a more relaxed and positive atmosphere for ourselves and our children.

What’s wrong with striving to be the perfect mum?

Let’s talk about being the perfect mum. First off, let me tell you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying your best to be a good mother. But here’s the thing – when we start believing that it’s possible to be perfect in an imperfect world, that’s when we run into problems. It’s like trying to bake a cake without any flour – it’s just not going to work out.

I get it – we all want to be in control, and we want our kids to have the best possible life. But not allowing yourself to fail, not accepting the messiness of daily life, or constantly trying to avoid imperfection can turn you into a control freak, and an overprotective stifling parent (and nobody wants that).

And here’s another thing to keep in mind – feeling guilty all the time? Your kids can sense it too, and they might just take advantage of your parental guilt. 

The truth is, we cannot control circumstances. Life is complicated, and we don’t have control over what happens to us. That’s actually okay. We want our kids to learn that too. They need to learn that the world is not perfect, everyone has flaws, and that we cannot control circumstances. So let’s all take a deep breath, embrace our imperfections, and just do our best.

Changing your perspective on perfectionism

There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to be a good one.

Jill Churchill

Parents can do 99 things right in a day and that one thing out of 100 they didn’t do perfectly, means their day was a failure. Does this sound like you?

That one thing you did ‘wrong’ or didn’t do, cancelled out the 99 positive things you did do? What kind of craziness is that? There’s not an exam in the world with a high pass mark like this. 

Instead of beating yourself up, how about giving yourself a massive congratulations for passing with first-class honours?

I know… between the sleepless nights, the endless laundry, and the never-ending responsibilities, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough. So how about a little assessment at the end of each day? Think through all the parental things you did, from making the breakfast to putting the kids to bed. Every single thing you do should ring the bell of success. 

Who’ll be the judge?

We all want to do right by our kids and ensure they grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults. But let me tell you, that fear can really mess with your head and lead to some serious overreactive parenting where you’re hovering over your little ones like a helicopter, ready to swoop in at any moment. And why do we do this? Well, partly it’s because we fear being judged and labelled as a bad mum.

And the worst part is, that fear of being judged is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Criticism from others can amplify those feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, making you feel like you are failing as a parent. You start to believe that you have to be perfect to avoid being labelled a bad mum, and before you know it, you’re stuck in a cycle of anxiety and perfectionism.

But let me drop a truth bomb on you: People are going to judge you no matter what you do. You could be Mary Poppins herself and someone out there will still find fault with your parenting. So why waste your time and energy trying to please everyone else? It’s just not worth it.

Of course, I’m not saying you should ignore all criticism or never take feedback on board. It’s important to recognise when something is an actual criticism and when you’re just perceiving it as such. 

Sometimes, we can take things personally that weren’t meant that way, so it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the situation objectively. But at the end of the day, you can’t control what other people think or say.

What you can control is how you communicate confidently with others when your parental choices come into the conversation. Stand your ground and own your decisions, even if they’re not popular or mainstream. After all, you know your kids better than anyone else.

So let’s all pause for a moment to recognise that being a parent is tough enough without the added pressure of worrying about what other people think. We’re all just doing our best, and that’s all anyone can ask of us.

When push comes to shove 

The pressure to be perfect can easily turn us into one of those pushy parents. We want our kids to excel, but sometimes we can go overboard and cause them undue stress. And let’s not forget the damage it can do to the relationship when they feel like they can’t trust us. Plus, when we’re constantly pushing them, we might actually be hindering their ability to develop important life skills and decision-making abilities.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t encourage our kids to do their best. Of course, we want to see them succeed! It’s about finding a healthy balance between encouraging them to do their best and respecting their individuality.

This is easier said than done, but I am giving myself time to find that balance.

As a parent, I want my son in Junior Infants to excel in school, but I struggle to hold back on the perfectionism when he is doing homework. On one hand, I don’t want to push him too hard, but on the other, I want him to keep up with his class. It can be frustrating when he struggles with simple words, but I try to approach the situation with curiosity and patience. Damn, it’s hard! But I aiming for a balance between encouraging him and not being too competitive or perfectionist. 

Ultimately, I want our interactions to be positive, so he enjoys learning and doesn’t feel stressed or anxious. I know it’s challenging, but I focus on supporting him in a loving and considerate way, even if he’s a little behind. It’s crucial to remember that children learn at different rates, and we shouldn’t expect them to be perfect (there’s that word again!). We need to accept their pace and provide them with a happy, light, and calm environment to thrive in.

So, at the end of the day, being a good parent is not about being perfect, my friends.

It’s about keeping calm and carrying on, trusting in ourselves that we are doing the right thing, recognising all the good stuff we do for our kids day in and day out, and being kind to ourselves in the process. 

Photo: Elina Sazonova

Alice Chepeau
Verified Coach
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Alice Chepeau is a certified transformational life coach helping parents to flourish without sacrificing themselves. Focus on you first and the rest will follow. Find out how; email or book a free consultation here.

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