Long before I was pregnant, I imagined the kind of parent I would be. It's only natural, after all, to think about your own childhood and all the good parts you want to adopt, and all the not-so-good bits you'd leave behind (although I'll bet there are plenty of parents out there who have vowed not to repeat the 'mistakes' of their parents and find themselves doing the exact same thing just a few years later...).
There are plenty of models for motherhood out there, some of them stereotypes like the yummy mummy (or the slummy mummy) and some of them real life examples, people we know in real life or who we follow on Instagram (although always take those with a pinch of salt). Not counting the endless depictions of motherhood, good and bad, on screen and in books. So, there are also plenty of opportunities to imagine the kind of mother you want, or expect, to be, even before you hold your baby in your arms.
I think we all want to be what we envision to be the 'perfect' mother; that probably looks different for everyone, with a few common threads, depending on your values and lifestyle, but as it's such an important role, I can't imagine there are many who wouldn't do it 'perfectly' if they could. And, as a perfectionist and overachiever in so many areas of my life, I expected to be striving to be that perfect mother even more once Benjamin was born.
But instead, as I have spoken about before, I am a lot more relaxed and less anxious than I expected. I am also a lot less fussed about things that I thought I would be. Case in point: weaning. I love food, and I am pretty dedicated to making as much food as I can from scratch - so I thought I would be whipping up all sorts of meals for Benjamin right from the get go. But, right now, he's not all that interested and do you know what he likes best? An Ella's Kitchen pouch of puree - regardless of the flavour. So, whilst it isn't a permanent solution (too expensive), why beat myself up about not really wanting to spend time steaming and blending and cooking and freezing? The perfect mother may have endless supplies of home-made baby food on hand, but I am choosing to let go of my perfectionism and focus on the baby that's in front of me, who's happy as long as he has a carrot snack in one hand and a spoon of puree in the other.
I was listening to the Dear Sugar podcast earlier this week (I know, shocker, right? Amy listens to a podcast and wants to tell you about it...) and they spoke to a mother who said she didn't want perfectionism to get in the way of her relationship with her children. And that hit me straight in the heart. It summed up exactly how I'm feeling about the distance between the mother I thought I would be, nurturing and present and, well, perfect and the mother that I am, which is loving but cultivating an air of what in my family we call healthy neglect. It's working for us, and ultimately it is my relationship with Benjamin which matters most - not whether all his food is organic, or all of his clothes are ironed (none of them are...).
I know we are only at the first hurdle of parenthood, with so much of the race still out in front of us. There are plenty of opportunities to stumble to come, and stumble we undoubtedly shall. But, I want to carry this feeling forward - the knowledge that I *am* a good mother, and doing everything 'perfectly' isn't necessarily what Benjamin, or I, need or even want. A friend of mine recently lost her mother, and the stories she told at the funeral were not about perfect packed lunches or a finished laundry pile, but about the chaotic, silly and *fun* times that bonded them together. She was a perfect mother for her children - perfect, but not a perfectionist. And isn't that what we would all like to be?