One of my favourite people who remind me of this is Constance Hall. Her crusade is to share her “failures” in order to debunk the myths of motherhood for women who feel tyrannised by their own (and the media’s) expectations. Constance has taught me that many mums are making themselves sick with expectations of perfection. This can be the result of hard-driving, high achieving parents, or it can be a personality type. It can stem from an underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder, or it can be the product of societal demands.
A recent report found that more than nine in 10 Aussie mums risk their health trying to be “super mums” with 86% feeling like they were a bad mum based on comments from family and friends. In addition to this, the ever-constant judgment of mums from online social media continues to set impossibly high standards. It seems that, for mums, everything has to be perfect; make organic, healthy food at all times, go to the gym, pay bills, hair, teeth and medical appointments, and the never-ending washing, just to name a few.
This doesn’t even begin to consider the added expectations from husbands and partners! Mums today confront many conflicting demands: they must be nurturing and unselfish while engaged in raising their son but competitive and ambitious at work. Many mums are letting their lives be poisoned by guilt because their expectations can’t be met, and because there is a divide between what they know to be right for themselves and what they’re told is right for their children.
Whilst there will always be disagreement on every issue from sleep routines to screen time being a “good” mum (or dad or teacher) has a lot more to do with the “how” than the “what.” The mums who set their sons up for success are the ones who are “in tune” with their sons such that they are able to adjust their parenting as their son develops and desires greater independence.
Boys thrive when mums (and dads) are consistent, warm, hold high expectations for their behaviour, explain the reasons behind their rules and negotiate when appropriate. If mums are stressed and anxious regarding their expectations of themselves, it is hard to be sensitive, warm and consistent when their son needs them most.
In the lead up to Mother’s Day, don’t sweat the small stuff. Today – and every day – the best gift you can give yourself and your son is the permission to fail as failing only makes better mums (and sons).
Conor Finn, Dean of Formation