I am pregnant with my third child. Someday soon, the wriggling babe in my belly will be in my arms. In the days, nights and months that follow, my already full hands will fill up further. But as I look ahead, I have a new peace that was not there when I first fell headfirst into mummy-hood.
I don’t think the change is down to arrogance, misplaced confidence or plain naivety. I think it’s because life, and particularly life with two under three, has taught me an important and liberating lesson: Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
My name is Lindsay and I am a Good Enough mummy.
But I wasn’t always comfortable with imperfection.
I was an All Round Perfectionist. But I found that role absolutely exhausting.
- I was the teenager who hated the way she looked because her tummy wasn’t flat enough, arms weren’t skinny enough, legs weren’t long enough.
- I was the gym-aholic who tried every diet, exercise regime and laxative out there to achieve the perfect size and shape, a shape that was always just out of my reach.
- I was the grade obsessed uni student who would re-write team mates’ input because they weren’t quite up to scratch.
- I evolved into the twenty-something who agonised over every decision for fear of missing out on the all important “perfect choice”.
- I then became the itchy newlywed who couldn’t relax at the end of an evening until the kitchen was spotless and living room was perfectly tidy.
- And when my first child came along, I was the mummy who wore herself to the ground trying to tick all the right boxes from bump through birth and babyhood. I was also the mummy wrestling with disappointment and feelings of abject failure when my child and experience was anything short of textbook perfect.
In a nutshell, I was an unsatisfied, exhausted me who could never quite live up to the unattainable benchmarks I set myself. I was, I now realise, my own worst enemy.
Then my second child came along. By emergency c-section no less. And my keeping up with appearances approach and slave driver mentality started crumbling down. Because my hands were so full that I needed help, so I had to get over myself and ask for it. And my healing stomach forced me to slow down and only focus on one thing – be at home with my girls for six whole weeks, and look after them as best I can. All of the militant routines I had so carefully crafted around life with one little one came crumbling down when juggling my newborn’s needs alongside my toddler’s. My own expectations of what I could achieve in any given day had to be paired back.
In the midst of it all, I remembered something my former boss at WeSeeHope often reminded me when I worked for him there (pre-babies), “Sometimes good enough is good enough.”
As the days rolled into weeks, I found myself letting go of anything but the essential, doing my best, and trusting God with the rest. To my surprise, the world continued spinning as it should. Slowly but surely, I found myself enjoying the new rhythm, and the grace that I got used to extending to myself. Hairy moments came and went. Wonderful moments filled my heart and eclipsed any clouds. And a deep revelation began to unfold – storms and mess and organised chaos are inevitable, but woven through all the imperfection are threads and of wonder and beauty and pure joy that make it all worth while and then some.
My littlest is now 18 months old, and I am well and truly at home in my Good Enough shoes. I’ve realised that it is possible pursue excellence, but go easy on yourself if you fall short of the ideal.
I’ve been surprised to realise that, “Good Enough” does not mean settling for second best or half hearted attempts. It just means learning to do the best that you can, with the resources at your disposal, in the context of your current limitations and life circumstances.
It means, as Myquillyn Smith summed up so perfectly, finding “rest in the undone and imperfect.” Or as Crystal Paine from moneysavingmom.com puts it, “Doing what only you can do.”
Here’s what Good Enough looks like in my life right now:
- Pragmatic productivity: Reducing my to do list from 10 items to 5-6 a day now that I’m in the last leg of my pregnancy. Picking three goals for this season, and saying no to anything that doesn’t fit with them for now.
- Prioritising rest: listening to my body, or my emotions, and ignoring said list on days when I just need to take it easy. Embracing slow afternoons at home with the girls instead of rushing about to play dates or toddler activities.
- Manageable memory making: Chucking our best photos from the last two years into albums, uploading them to a photo site, and pressing “auto flow” (horrors!) instead of painstakingly selecting each photo and page layout. It’s a tip I picked up online somewhere recently, and I’ve been amazed at how quick and easy it is to get the job done and break out of the photo-book inertia I’ve found myself trapped in for years.
- Manageable meal-times: feeding my little ones frozen fish fingers instead of the preferred home-made variety. Relying on easier meals like baked beans and spag bol as I progress through my pregnancy. Remembering that my capacity to be more creative in the kitchen will increase as seasons change.
- Nursery run cheat: Driving to pick up our girl from nursery. The 20 minute walk there might good for me and the girls, but it’s a 40 minute round trip too far at this stage in my pregnancy. I recognise that a tired, frazzled mummy makes for a grumpy trip back for all of us. So to the car it is, Jeeves.
- Finding creative outlets: launching an utterly imperfect blog, without overthinking every word or image it includes.
- Being kind to myself: Not comparing myself to anyone else as I navigate this road as wife and mother.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
Do you have any Good Enough strategies that work for you? Do share them below, I’d love to hear them.