2015: Year of the anti-Superwoman{2}

Thank God 2014 is over.  Seriously, I was counting down the days until I could usher in 2015.

My friends can’t understand why I feel like this.  Looking at achievements – those things that are most measurable – it was a great year.  I got a fantastic job that is going well, I published a book that I had laboured over for two years (have you bought it yet?  If not, here’s why Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding should be your next reading purchase!)  I had a holiday to Italy, my husband and I painted and decorated our house, our three year-old continues to be divine – healthy, curious, hugely loving.

By any reasonable measure that adds up to a fairly amazing year.  So what have I got to complain about, dammit?!!

Well, there was our friend dying of cancer before he was forty.   I had two miscarriages, one particularly traumatic.  Book sales have been disappointing.  And there were the downsides of the upsides:  I have a great job and published a book, but I worked my arse off all year, missing out on family time, daughter time and sleep time to keep both jobs (relatively) on track.  I spread myself too thinly, stretching myself in a hundred different directions in any one day, giving too little time to everything – work, family, friends, my health and myself.

The overall effect was that for the last three months of the year I now realise I was likely mildly depressed, certainly very unhappy and stressed.  Picking up the pieces and getting myself happy and healthy again is going to take months.  That’s okay – I’ve started the process.

But it’s made me realise how precarious our health and happiness can be when we are trying to be everything to everyone.  This is especially the case when we have children.

In my case my mission impossible this past year has been trying to work a couple of jobs, balance family, a marriage and friends.  At different stages of motherhood, though, it can be about different things: feeding a baby while caring for a demanding toddler; making homemade purees, pumping, handling daycare drop-offs and working part-time; simply getting through the first baffling, thrilling, exhausting months of a new baby.

Because we live in a high-achieving society where women and mothers expect themselves to be perfect if they just work hard enough, sleep little enough, try ever harder, accepting that we can’t be perfect is seen as the equivalent of failure.  We didn’t succeed because we didn’t give it our all.   When we’re repeatedly told that we can be whatever we want to be if we just put our mind to it, that makes failure not a function of not having enough hours in the day, or simple lack of physical capability, but our fault.

But this past year, trying to be perfect has cost me dearly.  So this is my resolution for 2015:  I am not going to be perfect.  I am not going to be the superwoman that my mother-in-law well-meaningly told my daughter I was yesterday (as she reeled off the list of everything I did in a day all I could think of was how most of those things I did badly, or late or at the expense of something else, and how anxious trying to do all these things has made me).  This year I am going to not do everything, I am going to concentrate on a few things that I can do well, and let the rest fall by the wayside.

In my case my priorities this year are being a more present mum to my daughter, and a more present wife to my husband.  I want to concentrate on doing my day-job well, rather than juggling a full-time gig, writing a book and dozens of other little extras.  For every person though, priorities will be different.  Perhaps this year is the year you need to concentrate on work, and hand over some of the child caring responsibilities to someone else.  That may mean stopping breastfeeding, or letting other people do bottle-feeds.  It could mean stopping trying to do everything at home – the made-from-scratch meals, the craft activities – and recognising that if the kids eat baked beans three nights one week they will be okay.

Because this is something else that I’ve learned this year – throughout this entire time that I have been twisting myself in knots because I wasn’t at home three or more nights a week for bath time with my daughter, she was fine.  She was very happy to see me when she did, but my husband, who had stepped up to do pickups when I returned to work full-time, did an awesome job.  My daughter was happy on her nanny days, and happy on her daycare days.  While I was slowly pushing myself into a guilty mess, she was just cruising on through.

A lot of the guilt I was feeling was purely about my expectations of what I should be, rather than accepting what I can be.  So along with not trying to be everything to everyone, my year of the anti-Superwoman means accepting that others are capable and willing, and accepting and appreciating help.

Whatever your stage of motherhood, whatever particular challenges you are facing at the moment be they feeding-related or not, my 2015 wish for you is that you give yourself a break.  You’re undoubtedly doing the best you can.  Your child is undoubtedly tougher than you realise, and you undoubtedly deserve a bit of self love and appreciation.

Here’s to 2015.