Shame, shouting and self-discovery, by an anonymous mum.
Does it really matter? Who is this benefiting? When I start to lose it with the kids or my husband these are questions I now try and ask myself. Why did it take a global pandemic for this journey of self-discovery to begin?
Maybe the role of home school teacher was one hat too many when I added it to my existing list of ridiculous multi-hat wearing expectations, all of which I needed to excel at, obviously.
Maybe it has been the hermit like leveller of lockdown that helped; no fear of missing out or keeping up with the social media fuelled perfection pretence; the pressure to impress has been lifted allowing my first relief in grooming regime, makeup application and clothing choices I have had since I was 11 years old (yes, sadly that is when I started feeling I needed to focus on my appearance to meet expectations – of peers, of society, of my own doing? Probably a potent cocktail of them all).
My realisation was definitely helped by the huge variety of podcasts and audio books I’ve been listening to on my walks in the last few months.
Like many mums during lockdown, I’ve had good days and bad days as I’ve attempted to keep plates of running a home, working and home educating spinning whilst dealing with outbursts of caged stroppy teens and my increasing resentment of my husband, who still only needs to spin his one big plate of work!
It was one particularly bad day that helped me see the light.
I was feeling rubbish. I’d really out done myself having managed to have a go at every member of my family within the space of ten minutes, and after some shouting and door slamming the house was filled with a toxic negativity that I just had to escape. As I walked alone in nature with my dog listening to ‘I thought it was just me’ it all began to fall into place.
The author Brene Brown shared how most emotional outbursts stem from a place of fear and shame and how it was important to try and understand where that emotion was coming from. When I really soul searched, I found the answers.
I felt like I was failing and I was ashamed. The house was a mess, I hadn’t had time to prepare dinner, I’d missed a call from my boss whilst I was trying to sort out IT problems for my daughter’s lesson and then discovered my son had been on his Xbox for longer than he should have been – AGAIN! I had felt like I wasn’t coping, like I was letting everyone down and my response was to lash out.
Brene went onto highlight that so many women, especially mothers, hold such high expectations of themselves desperate for others to see them as an amazing mum, able to juggle the demands of work and home and she stressed that this simply wasn’t achievable. Could I really be the fun, easy going mum I wanted people to view me as whilst still upholding the strict boundaries that ensured my children realised their full potential? Could I really manage to excel in my demanding career whilst striving for my home, my meals and me to look like the aspirational images in magazines? Something had to give!
I had flashbacks to all the times I had snapped at my kids and husband in the hours leading up to hosting a summer barbecue or Christmas party. I was so desperate for others to see this ideal family with delicious home cooked food, immaculately clean home and well-behaved children that I turned into the shouty, mean mother I would hate to be described as. An all time low was when I lied to a friend when hosting a playdate that I had made the meatballs from scratch – they were all such perfectly round equal balls it must have been obvious that they were shop bought but it was so committed to creating my illusion of perfection that I was willing to abuse the trust of a friend – how ridiculous!
Yet so many women fall into this trap, unable to accept our imperfect self and embrace it with pride! We are wired for connection with others, to fit in and belong, to be accepted, yet all the time we keep up the pretence we are feeding our own insecurities and those of the precious women around us. When we finally accept that ‘good enough’ is as it says on the tin, good enough, only then can we free our authentic self and cut it some slack!
When we judge others for their parenting choices, either alone to ourselves or worse still through gossiping with other mums we are desperately trying to fortify our own fragile parenting esteem, but the reverse happens. If we work hard to be non-judgemental and compassionate to our valued mum tribes perhaps we can also begin to turn that same compassion inwards relieving ourselves of the unnecessary shame induced outbursts. We are all just doing our best and we will never achieve the unrealistic expectation put on us from the media, society and ourselves so why even try?
That’s not to say we stop growing and developing, yes there are things I’d like to improve on, but I need to make sure they are small achievable steps not the giant leap into the fictitious world of perfection. For now, for me this means trying to answer the questions I mentioned at the start;
Does it really matter that we ate pizza again for dinner / I didn’t send that email / my kids have had too much screen time today? Who is it really benefiting if my house is spotless and my kids are impeccably behaved when people come over? Certainly not my friends – I’d be doing them a favour by reassuring them that I have given up searching for that impossible domestic unicorn and releasing them to do the same. Certainly not my kids either, who wants a stressy, self-punishing perfectionist for a mother? I want to be a role model that shows my kids that it’s okay to be you, to be just ‘good enough’ and never in life is it worth lying about making meatballs from scratch!
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