I’m not a perfect mother. Here’s why that’s okay

Don’t expect to be a perfect mother – instead learn how to manage your motherly expectations.

Being a mother is a tricky job. Just when you think you know how to handle a stage in your child’s development, they change the rules on you. Managing your expectations is a good way of surviving the journey through motherhood with your sanity intact.

No, who am I kidding? Not intact. That’s the first expectation that needs managing: your children will drive you crazy at times. Crazy with worry, crazy with frustration, crazy with craziness. It’s their mission in life.

Don’t expect to be a perfect mother. In fact, don’t expect to be a good mother at all. Most mothers feel – from time to time – that they:

  • Are bad mothers doing an awful job.
  • Are too selfish.
  • Don’t spend enough time reading poetry to their children.
  • Shout too much.
  • Compromise their principles.
  • Are too strict.
  • Spoil their children.

The pregnancy scene

“Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” You’d better prepare yourself for a lot of that. It’s as though you’ve managed to solve a complex maths problem or paint a masterpiece. Suddenly your body’s not your own and every stranger has the right to ask about the due date and whether you’ve chosen a name yet.

In the first trimester expect to:

•  Be sleepy – not as in yawning but as in falling asleep at your desk at lunchtime and crawling into bed without dinner as soon as you get home.
•  Want to wear your pregnancy clothes from the moment the test comes back positive.
•  Spend a lot of time figuring out what you’re allowed to eat and what sports you’re allowed to play.

In the second trimester, expect a burst of energy. While it may still be early days, this is a good time to sort out the baby’s room.

The last trimester is for slowing down. You will feel exhausted, hot and slow. You will put on more weight and your glowing looks of trimester two will most likely disappear.

When the baby arrives

Expect to be able to do nothing but look after your newborn, and I mean that literally. You won’t have a chance to shower or have a meal and you will spend all your time breastfeeding or expressing, so don’t feel guilty about the washing in the laundry basket or about the unvacuumed carpet. And if by some miracle you do manage to brush your teeth and glance at your emails before noon, expect to be pleasantly surprised.

Expect not to fall in love with your baby right away. Bonding takes time. Even when you’ve bonded, expect to want to hand over your baby as soon as a willing pair of hands appears in the doorway. It’s not a sign you’re a bad mum, just a tired one who would really, really like to have five minutes to herself in the bathroom.

Expect, also, that things will get better. The first three months are tough and they seem to drag minute by long minute. But, looking back, you’ll be surprised how quickly it’s all over.

Mothering a toddler

A toddler will:
•    Throw temper tantrums.
•    Run away.
•    Be more active than you.
•    Not listen – ever.

Expect to learn how to bribe your child, even though it’s against your rules, against your better judgement and against everything you’ve ever read in helpful magazine articles. Expect to feel like an utter failure as the result.

Three cheers for a preschooler

When your toddler grows into a preschooler, expect to discover that they CAN dress themselves and choose their own clothes, even if it’s within the preset rules (“long pants and long sleeves today, because it’s cold”).

Expect them to be able to argue their case: “But, Mum, Teddy will feel lonely if I leave him at home.”

If this is the first time they’re off to daycare or kindy, expect a sense of relief (hurray, me-time!) as well as a sense of loss: suddenly you miss out on crucial things in your child’s schedule, like how much they ate, with whom they played, and what book was read to them at storytime.

Primary school blues

When your child starts school, you can expect behaviour you don’t approve of and friends you wish would move to another school. You can expect the teacher to be always right and your goodbye kisses to turn from essential to embarrassing literally overnight.

Expect the empty nest syndrome when your children are away from home six hours every weekday. And, at the end of the day, expect there to be not enough time for everything that needs to happen, like homework, piano, play dates, dinner and family time.

Tweens and teens

You can confidently expect:
•    Confusion, tears, accusations and silences.
•    To be wrong, all the time, every time.
•    To not know who their friends are.
•    To become a cash cow, a cook and a cab driver.

Most of all, expect to love your children through it, pimples and all.

The most important rule

Whenever motherhood gets too much, whenever a particular aspect of raising your child seems insurmountable, take a deep breath, put yourself in time-out with a cup of coffee and repeat the mantra: “This too shall pass.” And it will. Before you know it.

At the end of the day, expect there to be not enough time for everything that needs to happen, like homework, piano, play dates, dinner and family time.

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