The pain of the perfectionist who became a parent

The pain of the perfectionist who became a parent

The first time I dared venture out of the house with my newborn son was around the corner to the supermarket. It was a big deal. I had washed my hair, put make up on, put actual clothes on. I was almost dressed up. I’d even put my boobs away. The baby was dressed in one of those perfect white all in ones with matching white mittens and hat and he lay in our brand new black pram wrapped in a white shawl.

I walked down the road towards the supermarket exhilarated to be out of the house, terrified at being out of the house, feeling like there should be a fanfare. I welcomed the many coos and sighs from passer’s by at the newborn feeling so incredibly proud and then I saw two mums walking my way with two buggies. They acknowledged me and smiled as if to say “welcome to the club”, then they glanced at the pram and laughed before one said “it won’t stay like that!”

I smiled and wondered what they meant. I glanced at their buggies, worn and heaving with the weight of several coats and shopping bags. I felt absolutely convinced that it would stay like that – why wouldn’t it?

Three years on I still have that pram. It’s in the hallway, covered in biscuit, bread roll and fruit juice. The bottom is smeared with mud and the container at the bottom is full of crumbs, a used, dried out wipe and an empty juice carton. The rain cover doesn’t fit anymore because the sides broke. It’s no longer black. It’s no longer perfect.

Now you can let go of things like that! Of course the pram isn’t going to stay that way.

You can let go of other things too – no longer being perfect, however much it might hurt – especially to a perfectionist:

A tidy and clean home for example. Clutter and mess actually hurts my mental health. I can’t cope with a house that looks like a squatter’s hovel. But after a while you just have to accept that some days you will not get any tidying done. You just can’t. Your home doesn’t look great anymore.

Then there’s my appearance. Long gone are the days of spending hours straightening my curly hair and perfectly applying make up. Long gone are the days of wearing heels and choosing matching outfits. This is how I look now, casual and exhausted with under eye concealer heavily applied. It’s not perfect but that’s ok.

Then there’s the body – ok my tummy will always be a bit saggy, a bit larger than it was before and will always bear a scar. But it was never perfect before – or it might have been at some point but I never appreciated it.

The thing that really hurts, that you can’t come to terms with, is the difference between the perfect parent you were convinced you would be – and the imperfect parent you have become.

Because I had a very specific version of the parent I would be. I thought I would excel at it like I excel at anything I put my mind to (and if I don’t I tend not to do it – driving for example, or pole dancing). As a teacher I am graded with the highest being ‘outstanding’ and the lowest being ‘inadequate’ (how nice!).

I presumed I would be graded 1 (outstanding) at pregnancy (nope) at labour (no….) at breastfeeding (good Lord no) and then being a mum. Well I would be the best mum in the history of parenting – obviously! It looked piss easy and I seemed to see so many other people who were obviously rubbish at it. (Hangs head in shame).

But I’m far from perfect. Far, far from perfect. More days than most I would rate myself as inadequate or satisfactory. It hurts. For a perfectionist in particular this dawning realisation that hits you little by little, day by day that you’re just not the perfect parent – it’s painful.

It was painful when the health visitor didn’t throw down her pen and scream “you’re the best! better than all the rest!” It hurt when the maternity support officer didn’t belt out “We have found her! Finally, call off the search – THIS is the perfect mum” It was a kick in the teeth when the breastfeeding support lady didn’t want to live stream me on Facebook as a perfect example of how to get the baby to latch. It stung when the midwives didn’t do a little dance and high five me at how well I took the contractions and my pushing power. Why aren’t I bloody outstanding at all this? Where are my awards? I got a bloody distinction in my Post Graduate Diploma! Don’t they know who I am?

So here I am, an imperfect parent, in an imperfect house, with an imperfect appearance and my report card stamped ‘satisfactory’ with elements of ‘good’.

All I can do is remember that although I’m far from the perfect parent – I am the perfect parent for my boys. In their eyes – hopefully I am perfect.


Note the imperfect picture to accompany the post




The Slow Clap


Yesterday evening, thirteen hours into my day with my two young sons, I sat, slumped on the closed toilet lid watching them in the bath together. The three year old, long and slender, pale, the water only covering his bent knees; The ten month old sitting stoutly, portly and stocky, his two lone teeth shining in a goofy grin, the water rippling around his Buddha stomach. The baby smacked the surface of the water with his sausage like paws a few times and looked shocked at the water hitting his face – and repeat. The eldest talked his younger brother through the bath process – showed him the sponge, talked about the temperature of the water etc.

I sat half coma-like, half in panic attack alertness to ensure that both of their heads were kept above water – the same state I spend most days of motherhood.

It’s been pretty bleak lately in our household. Depression and anxiety has drawn in and I’ve not really been treasuring too many moments of being a mummy. To be perfectly honest I have been fantasising about working, about being away from home; home which lately feels so far from the word. My house feels like a prison, a trap. Four walls with me trapped inside for twenty four hours just trying to keep plodding along, keeping the boys alive, clean, changed, fed. And again. And again. And again.

In my dirty tracksuit, my hair undone, no make up, looking utterly shocking I ran the bath, carried through the motions: “keep them clean, keep them fed, keep them happy.” I slumped on the toilet seat and thought about what next. How many hours till the next thing?

Suddenly my baby boy stood upright on the bath mat, he let go of the side of the bath, looked me square in the face and very surely but slowly clapped his hands together. He had never clapped before.

I let out a shocked squeak alerting me I was there. “That’s it! Well done!” I laughed. This spurred him on and he continued with more excitement. I clapped back to show him he was doing it correctly. The eldest stood upright too, trying to get in on the action. “Look mummy!” he shouted as he clapped maniacally at me. “Yes darling, wow! Well done!” I said back, playing along, mustn’t play favourites – even though he’s been able to clap for a fair few years now.

So there my two sons stood, upright, bare, in all their glory, staring at me with dancing joyous eyes, clapping enthusiastically, and there I sat clapping back at them, grinning, beaming, us all laughing goofily. We laughed harder and harder and clapped longer and I felt a little sun crack through the clouds.

In a stage of life where there are no appraisals, no promotions, no one there to reassure me I’m doing a good job – I’ll take my sons’ slow clap. A bit of me felt it was my youngest telling me he really loved having a bath with his big brother. I’ll take their praise of me – at the end of the day, all that matters is their approval; their slow clap.



Tiny New Toes: Antenatal Depression

Mummy's Writing Darling

Tiny New Toes, opening up about antenatal depression and the Seraphine Mum’s Voice Awards for Tommy’s.


The Seraphine  Mum’s Voice Awards for Tommy’s

Writing about the hilarity of pregnancy and parenting comes very easily to me and 90% of what I write is intended to make people laugh. However, during my second pregnancy earlier this year it became increasingly difficult to find the funny side.

No one was more surprised than me to find out I was suffering with antenatal depression.

Though I had heard lots about post natal depression – antenatal depression was not something I had heard about or foreseen. And it suddenly seemed impossible not to write about it.

I wrote a post called How to cope with antenatal depression and another about my birth trauma – which, through talking to a specialist midwife support officer, I realised was linked to my depression.

I wrote a post for Mothercare on the subject called “you’re supposed to” about the expectation that being pregnant will be the happiest time of your life.  But the best response I got was after I wrote a poem about my feelings : Tiny New Toes”.

Through these posts I connected with Tommy’s – the baby charity and also took part in their Talk to someone campaign.

Writing about my feelings so honestly was terrifying – especially without my usual jokes and punchlines – but I’m very glad I did.

I was overwhelmed to find out this week that I have been longlisted for the Tommy’s Mum’s Voice award sponsored by Seraphine.

If you have enjoyed my writing or anything I have written has helped you, you can help me get shortlisted for the Seraphine Mum’s voice award at the Tommy’s awards :

please email with Mummy’s Writing Darling in the subject title and a few words about why I should be shortlisted.

Thank you – and remember to keep on talking.


Tiny New Toes

Depression came a’drummin on my door.
She’s no stranger. I’ve seen her before.
I asked her in for a spot of tea,
she bounced my toddler on her knee.

you can stay for one,” I politely pressed
but I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong address,
there’s far more than cake on my expanding plate,
and I’m pretty certain you’ve got the wrong date

My two year old keeps me on my toes
and I’ve exciting news, everyone knows
makes you bundle with joy, bloom, glow, shine
we’re having a baby! In four months’ time.

we tried for this, the best part of a year
so I’m pretty certain this is a time for cheer!
our second miracle is on its way
so as I said, you truly can’t stay.”

She put down her cup and shook her head
“If that’s what you think, you’ve been misled,
I’ve a blatant disregard for all of the facts
frankly my love, I don’t give a rats

Baby or no baby, I’m here to stay
Spread the word mamma, I’m wired that way.”

Now as I sit in the dark, the dark sits in me
and I weep, as I rock my toddler on my knee

when the house is still, I wonder at it all
as tiny new toes come tapping on my inside wall.