The first twenty months of my firstborn’s life lulled the self-confessed perfectionist in me into a false sense of security.
After a relatively textbook labour (still grim, mind you – what birth isn’t?) I was so grateful to meet my little Zoë – a little rainbow baby after the loss of our first child through ectopic pregnancy. Zoë’s name means ‘the life God gives,’ and I felt so privileged to have been given this little gift that I determined I would work as hard as I possibly could to give her the best start in life.
Many of those early days and long nights were spent lounged on the sofa feeding, watching Netflix series as my selfless hubby brought me countless glasses of water and plates of food. I cuddled my baby as often as I could; sang nursery rhymes to her every every morning; taught her colours, words and letters with great enthusiasm; took endless photographs; and tenaciously noted down every milestone reached.
Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t some kind of Mother Earth Eutopia. I had lip-curling moments of pain, months of sleep deprivation and plenty of times when I felt down or overwhelmed. But all in all, I really enjoyed those first months of being a mum, and I thought, ‘maybe I really am up to this challenge.’
Then our precious little Eden came along, and instead of the peaceful paradise her name would suggest, all too soon my life descended into the chaos of motherhood I had heard about from others.
An unfortunate chain of events began when I became ill with a chest infection after labour, followed by a full year of sickness within the family. There were hospital stays, collapses from physical exhaustion, and weeks of isolation – all undergirded by a horrible sense of guilt that I just didn’t have the energy to lavish the same one-on-one attention upon Eden that I had been able to give first time around.
Feeding on demand alongside an equally demanding toddler pushed my already struggling body to its absolute limit. Then came several months of high anxiety; fears of what would happen when the next illness came along, horrible premonitions of tragedy, topped off by a real loss of confidence.
For the first time ever, I felt completely incapable of holding all my responsibilities together. I struggled when things didn’t go to plan and I had to rearrange and cancel appointments. It had been a long time since I felt I was truly doing a great job.
Over the period of a few months – with lots of prayer and encouragement from loving family, friends and mentors – I came to realise something totally life-changing: ‘good enough’ is actually perfectly good enough. Because while I was constantly worrying about how I was ‘doing’ at parenthood, I was missing the moments right in front of me to be savoured, treasured and enjoyed.
Now, I am so thankful that things are different. Not perfect at all, mind you, but rather perfectly good enough.
Yes, I may be a mum who is frequently late to the school gate, muttering muted threats under her breath of ‘… if you don’t … I will …’
Yes, I may often be seen frantically chasing my eldest, pulling her frizzy golden locks into a half-hearted ponytail, with the little one clinging onto my coat tails to avoid being left behind.
Yes, I may often be seen returning, red-faced from a mixture of exertion and embarrassment, as I buzz the door (again) because I’ve forgotten to bring a coat or permission slip in.
Yes – pretending not to notice the smirks of surrounding eyewitnesses – I do wrestle a protesting daughter number 2 back into her car seat, flop into the driver’s position, take a few breaths, let out a dramatic sigh, and trundle off pathetically to a friend’s house for a coffee – to ‘recover’ from the whole debacle.
And yet, I have the absolute privilege to be around everyday for my children, to take them for play dates, and to soak up their shining smiles when they catch sight of me at pick-ups. Understanding that for both of them, just being present and loving consistently is more than ‘good enough’ and so it should, in turn, be ‘perfect’ for me, has changed everything.
And do you know what the most encouraging thing is? This recovering perfectionist is now increasingly able to laugh at herself when things go wrong, embrace the beauty of the moment for what it is, and be thankful in the midst of it.
Maybe, just maybe, today you need to hear that you are ‘good enough’, and that – all things considered – you are quite simply ‘perfect’ for the family and friends God has gifted you with.