“On my way home, stuck in traffic. Won’t be long darling”
Even as I write the text, I feel that familiar tug of guilt, the one that comes from the pit of your stomach and tweaks on your heart strings. Yep if you are a parent, you know this feeling well.
After I have re-assured myself that I totally should be a better parent than this, but I am most certainly failing, I stare ahead at the endless stream of brake lights distorted by the sheets of rain hammering my windscreen. I settle into my seat ready to indulge in another 45 minutes of self-loathing, sure that my children must feel abandoned and unloved because I am late home from work, again.
I arrive home, not even bothering with the garden path, I cut the corner across the flower bed, stumble in the door, fall over the dog, track muddy footprints through the hallway still holding my bag, and my keys, wearing my soaked coat, heading straight to the lounge where I know I will find them watching tv. I go in, soggy and disheveled without breaking my stride, awkwardly upbeat to make up for my failing as a parent, petrified of the inevitable rejection, ready to re-assert my undying love for my children with total unashamed overcompensation.
I am rewarded with shouts of “Mummy!” no holds barred, launched from the sofa hugs, sticky kisses, and instant jabbering about their day. They are oblivious to the inner turmoil I have subjected upon myself and I start to feel a tiny bit better that I may have just got away with it. My inner goddess begins to celebrate, high fives all round, “yeah I have totally got this, they are happy to see me, at least I am home, right!” until…. “What’s for tea Mum?”
Those dreaded words…. the ones that every busy working parent knows are going to be casually thrown in their direction at 5pm every weekday, and yet they still manage to side swipe us and make us freeze, incoherent and unable to form a sentence…… my inner goddess freezes mid celebration dance, uh oh… think, say something. Oh wow! Come on say anything, just form some words, any words, they are staring at you waiting for you to be a ‘real’ parent, who should have stopped in the shop on the way home.
Jump a few hours and one overpriced, half eaten takeaway later, the kids are tucked up in bed, I am outside drinking coffee, chain smoking, halfheartedly scrolling Pinterest looking at the images of these ‘Pinterest Perfect’ parents making homemade Playdoh, and damn unicorn cookies. I actually hate myself in this moment, again. I trudge up the stairs and fall into bed feeling like a failure.
Yes, for real, this was my life. A daily routine of genuine hugs, gooey kisses and perfect moments that I was missing because I was so focused on how I was failing to be that perfect parent that I thought they needed. When I look back on that day which was like so many others, now I can see the beauty in it. I can see the perfection in my life, it was always there I was just looking the wrong way.
I only have one wish. I wish that back then when it felt like everything I did was wrong, someone had said; Damn girl, don’t sweat the small stuff. None of it matters.
Now I am on the other side, my kids have grown up and I can reflect. I can draw out what is important and what is not. I can pat myself on the back for sticking through it and providing, while parenting with pride. I see the value in showing my children that you have to put in the work if you want something, that there will always be someone you think is doing it better but don’t let it sway you, focus on your path and just do you!
So, when you feel like you are failing to do it all, just remember - Don’t sweat, the small stuff. Providing and parenting will always trump Pinterest Perfection.
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