It feels like Mother’s Day is becoming just another day of enforced merriment. A day when social media bombards you with a steady stream of seemingly perfect glimpses into other people’s lives.
I’ll admit to being a sucker for homemade cards and soggy cereal breakfast-in-bed posts. But let’s please resist the temptation to make this yet another day where the vast majority of us feel like we don’t measure up.
Let’s instead celebrate the women and mothers that we are, warts and all, and tell ourselves (again and again) that we are enough (until we believe it)!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the unrealistic expectations that we and society put on ourselves as women and mothers. I dread my two young daughters reaching an age where they might become self-conscious and self-critical.
However much I avoid comments about weight, appearance and other superficialities, I have already heard my eight-year-old say she has a fat tummy! ‘Your tummy is perfect!’ I tell her. ‘You are perfect!’ But will she listen?
As a 41-year-old woman I’d love to say these feelings of inadequacy disappear with age and wisdom.
Let’s celebrate the women and mothers that we are, warts and all, and tell ourselves (again and again) that we are enough (until we believe it)!
That vanity takes a backseat. That you no longer care whether you’re successful professionally, accepted by the “popular” clique or a natural earth mother.
That you no longer think life might be just that little bit better if you lost ten pounds or had a few less wrinkles! If you lived in a bigger house and drove a better car.
But I don’t think they do. Far too many of us are our own worst enemies, criticising ourselves for perceived failings, focusing on everything we get wrong rather than celebrating our many small everyday triumphs.
We strive for a kind of perfection that A. Isn’t real and B. Is probably unattainable.
If anything, the standards we set ourselves seem to get higher the more that we do. And it’s making us unhappy!
As usual there are plenty of studies to back this up. Working/breadwinner mothers are most likely to feel they do not meet either the high standards they set themselves at home and at work. This can lead to extreme unhappiness.
“Some women think that ‘good enough’ is not acceptable, because it sounds like settling,” writes Alexandra Sacks, MD, in the New York Times. “But striving for perfection sets women up to feel shame and guilt.”
Certain symptoms of depression can be stronger in perfectionists, according to Gordon Flett, a professor of psychology at York University in Canada, because of their tendency toward self-criticism.
Moreover, this form of depression often falls in the category of high-functioning (or smiling) depression, where their inner pain is hidden away.
It often starts when we become mothers. When too many of us believe we must put the needs of our small humans above our own at all times. But this is both totally unrealistic and deeply unhealthy.
Such pressure – when we are already undergoing a massive (oftentimes unpleasant) transition – along with women’s ever-present fear of being judged, is destined to lead to unhappiness and potentially trigger post-natal depression.
I met an expectant mother at the park the other day. My friends asked her if she was excited and said how amazing it was all going to be. “Some days will be utterly shit,” I had to add.
Far too many of us are our own worst enemies, focusing on everything we get wrong rather than celebrating our many small everyday triumphs
I look around me and I’m convinced that so many of the wonderful mothers I know don’t recognise how amazing they are. Too many are lacking in self confidence and care far too much about keeping up with the Joneses.
Who wants to be the Joneses anyway? Let’s be honest: Those guys are fucking annoying!
I love my friends for their imperfections and honesty. I love laughing about the ridiculousness of life and motherhood.
Sharing our war stories about giving birth and trying to outdo each other on how disgusting our houses have become, hairy our legs are, annoying our husbands/ex-husbands are and the struggle (and it’s real) to tolerate our children when it’s that time of the month.
The more real the person, the more I like them. And I don’t think I’m alone.
There’s a reason for the intense popularity of blogs like Peter and Jane and Hurrah for Gin, TV programmes like Motherland (which is returning for a second series – whoop!) and movies like Bad Moms and Tully (which launches in April and stars a brilliantly frazzled Charlize Theron as an overwhelmed and exhausted mother-of-three). It’s because we can all relate to them and laugh at their brutal honesty.
If I had one wish for all my amazing mummy friends it would be for Mother’s Day to become a day when we collectively say “I am enough”, and really believe it. (Lie-ins, homemade cards and Sunday lunches will continue to be gratefully received).
As women we need to do so much more to build each other up. To champion one another, whatever our choices.
To demonstrate through our attitude, words and behaviours that life is not one long competition. That we are allies, not opponents.
And we need to show this to our children. To be kinder and more generous towards one another. To break the cycle and collectively reject society’s expectations of the kind of mothers and women we should be.
Otherwise we risk bringing up another generation of women with negative and self-critical inner voices who feel they don’t measure up and set themselves unattainable standards. And that would be a tragedy!
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them