I often feel like what I call a 'Mother Island' a small self contained amazing and often rewarding island floating out at sea and I notice most other mothers in the same position. The islands float close to each other on occasions, with groups, play dates and vacations, but ultimately the foundations of the land is still separated. This is the island where I pay for help and need to schedule my island activities to make sure I can get everything completed in a day. This isn't a depressive or resentful island, it is simply the 'I do everything' island. This is the island where a sense of achievement becomes really important and 'doing' overtakes 'being'. Oh, by the way, my island is perfect...
On the flip side, I have friends who have chosen to live communally in San Diego and share their parenting (yes, you may call them hippies). Once a week the mothers in the community take it in turns to make dinner for everyone, this means once a week you don't have to cook, whoo, unless of course, it's your turn. There is always child care which means the couples get time together without having to worry about the cost or availability of a baby sitter. There are always other kids to play with outside, so less entertainment is needed and lots of nature is part of daily life and it really feels like these guys spend a hell of a lot more time on the 'BEING' side of life because they can and have created their village to allow them to. I am not advocating that communal living is the only solution to parenting, it's not, but it sure makes things easier with other people around that you trust with your kids.
I keep reading articles about how 'it takes a village' to raise our kids (which randomly, ends up making me hum 'it only takes a village girl' to Take That) and yet there are fewer and fewer examples of the above and more and more islands, just think of Dubai's ever growing man made islands. The elements of motherhood that were so often taken up by extended families and other women who had children in the neighbourhood are no longer there due to us living far away or being too nervous to talk to our neighbours in case they are lunatics. I just read an article in The Washington Post called 'Lessons from 'The Goonies' and the loss of unsupervised time for kids'. It talks about a kid was watching the Goonies with his dad and was shocked that kids are allowed to go and play by themselves. I found this to be so sad, but so true. Will my kids only be able to play with supervised play dates? I sure hope not. so, where are we headed as a society and where is our parenting taking us as we grow increasingly sedentary, screen based, and fear inflicted? How do we manage Motherhood on our islands in 2016?
I think about this stuff ALL the time, I wonder about my life and how different the raising of my children is to my parents and grandparents generation is and whilst there are many things I am grateful for, like amenities, healthcare, facilities and standard of living, there are some things that make me uncomfortable. Therefore, I am constantly listening to an internal conversation about my desire to be the 'Perfect Mother' without grudge, without malice, just whole heartedly trying to do everything I can for my kids attempting to fill in all the gaps that society, family and the world didn't manage to, or perhaps I don't trust to. In short I am trying to make my Island a 'perfect' village, single handed.
Isn't it time to take a breath from this impossible task? How can I access 'being' perfect?
The desire / search / need to be a 'Perfect Mother' is such a self construct and something that I think is growing progressively more aggressive in today's world. We are bombarded with consumer goods we are told we need, a body we are told we should strive for, lessons we are advised to show our kids, achievements and development goals we are given for our kids and more often than not mothers (working or not working) are thinking, being and breathing their kids 24/7 devoting every moment of their existence to them in the constant strife to be the best Mother we can be, so this abundance of outside noise doesn't help it only feeds our desires and internal struggles floating out islands further out to sea. Amidst the waves... where is the self love for the Mama's? I am often so busy 'doing' perfect in service of my family, I forget to take care of myself, energetically by 'being'. Sure, I go to the gym, but all the while I am there, I am wondering how many kg lighter I might be and have I reached 'pre baby weight'? Sure I go treat myself to a massage or get my nails done which I am very lucky to be able to do, but all the while feeling guilty and thinking about what I have to come home to and that pile of laundry still not folded.
I noticed that this feeling of guilt can be all consuming at times, a bit like that feeling after Christmas lunch, waiting for Eastenders to start, it's comforting but yet so revolting at the same time. As mothers we often feel like we don't have the right to take a break, a real break as what will that make us? It might make us imperfect, we might cease 'doing' for a while. Perhaps this imperfection will make us better mothers, perhaps taking that time away and focusing on 'being not doing' will give us the energy we need to produce more milk, or chase after our toddler or evolve our isolated islands into communities. Perhaps going back to work will allow a break in the brain from 'wheels on the bus' and welcome an engaging conversation that makes you feel valued as a grown up and not just for your boobs.
The truth is, I have had to dig deep to discover that no matter what I do as a mother the pattern that will forever run inside my head is 'it wasn't good enough'. I think this is a quote that runs truth for many many people, actually, with or without kids, it's not personal it just is, and we have to uncover the layers to see where it comes from and set it free. I am practicing mindfulness, that when I hear this little line pop up into my head when the dinner is not ready 'on time' or the house is a mess that 'Mrs You're not good enough, why aren't you a perfect mother' I simply reply to with 'I LOVE that about myself'. If I say that, then it seems to loose it's power, like Bowie (RIP) in the Labyrinth. Stare it straight in the face and say 'yes, I'm not good enough, I'm not perfect but that's OK, I'm an Island and I am 'being' perfect not 'doing' perfect'. Try it - you will feel like a right numpty the first few times, but after a while it really starts to work, perhaps in time we will be able to see that amidst our imperfections we are actually BEING 'The Perfect Mother' all the time.