I’m a hot mess Mum. There. I’ve said it. I admit it. I may not look like it on the outside, but I am. But you know what? That’s okay. I just needed to accept it through myself.
I never planned to be a hot mess mum
I had big plans to be a great mum. Not quite the 60s television series kind, but close. You know, the kind that has it all together, whose house is always immaculate and who always looks well dressed. Her children are happy and healthy and her husband thinks she is fantastic. She is on the right fundraisers, can cook up a gourmet storm without raising a sweat, would do anything for her family and always knows just what to say. Not that I wanted to be June Cleaver…
The perfect mum today is a little different. She manages a high profile job with ease and is still there to collect her child from school and go to all the ballet recitals. Her child’s lunchbox is always filled with fresh, organic, picture-perfect lunches that belong on Pinterest or Instagram. She is always well turned out, without a wrinkle or stain, has a glowing complexion and their children are always gorgeous little angels. Her house is immaculate, even without a housekeeper, and she has neither an alcohol addiction nor a coffee addiction.
I am neither of those Mums.
I mistakenly thought that the fact that I used to work a high-profile job and was a good project manager and lawyer would make it easy to be the perfect mum now that I worked for myself. Hahahaha.
I had good intentions.
I kept comparing myself to other mums
Prior to Miss M’s birth, Peter and I went to a pre-natal course (German health insurance pays for it so it was only a question of finding the time). Our group was all made up of lawyers, doctors, teachers and consultants. Even at that stage, they all seemed to have it more together than me.
We all lived in Düsseldorf, one of the more affluent cities in Germany. I don’t think any of us were struggling for money and some had obviously spent too much time finding out the “right” brands to buy for things like a pram and baby carriers. I was packing boxes to prepare to move house and had not gotten to all of that yet.
After our course, and after all the little ones were there, we met as a group of mums and bubs a few times. I remember one Mum being annoyed because Miss M decided to arrive early and upset the order.
What started as a great way to check in on one another and see how things were going became a regular game of oneupmanship, with me left feeling like I wasn’t doing anything right.
Miss M was in hand-me-downs and not the latest designer tot wear. If it was branded jeans, I hadn’t realized it. I hadn’t been to the post-natal courses yet and hadn’t already signed up for baby swimming, baby massages, early weaning, sleep therapy or playgroup, nor had I thought about a nanny or daycare. I didn’t even know some of the courses existed.
I didn’t have all the right brands and things that the experts and stars recommended. Miss M didn’t care whether it was the most expensive brand of pacifier that there was, she still did not want one. We had a simple fabric sling carrier and not the branded carrier that was ‘the one’ you had to have (which again, Miss M hated). Our pram came from a friend and was definitely not the one all the yummy mummies in Düsseldorf HAD to have (but our car carrier was the one that won the safety prizes).
We were perpetually late, I always had too little or too much (of the wrong stuff) in my bag, I hadn’t frequented the hip baby places in Düsseldorf and didn’t shop exclusively at the organic supermarket – I hadn’t ever shopped there.
I was the hot mess mum in the group, and I felt it.
I was the hot mess mum in the other groups, too
Later, Miss M and I started going to an early development class. Again, it was in one of the more affluent areas of Düsseldorf. I probably would not have gone if the instructor was not a personal friend.
We were perpetually late. Miss M was frequently hungry (she would fall asleep during the 30-minute drive to get there and wake up hungry). I was the Mum with the thin blanket to lay my child on rather than the decadent plush blanket that we could both sit on. I didn’t know the kids’ songs – they were in German and I had never heard them before. I didn’t already know most of the class either because I had not done prenatal yoga or the postnatal courses to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles with them. I was the hot mess mum beside all the yummy mummies.
When I swapped to a mummies and toddlers course in Solingen, I didn’t know anyone and was the odd duck out again.
Miss M has never been an early riser and we were always running late. I didn’t have organic food for my child as a snack and had not spent the morning cutting Miss M’s vegetables into certain shapes – Miss M still will not eat raw vegetables. I had not spent the week making matching mummy and baby outfits (out of organic cotton!) and did not know how to use a sewing machine. Again, I did not know the songs in German.
Our house often looked like a bomb exploded. I had a to do list a mile long and some things – like the dirty finger marks on the door – I just didn’t get to one week. And probably didn’t the week after either. I was struggling and housekeeping was much further down on my list of priorities.
Did I make a good first impression?
I think the last straw was the start of kindergarten.
I wanted to make a good impression – I am not good at meeting new people, so wanted to try and at least start on the right foot.
I ironed the dress Miss M wore on the first day. Her hair was perfect. Her shoes shined. I had packed her bag with everything I could think of – I did not have a list from the kindergarten to know what she would need.
I think the good intentions lasted 2 days. What she should be eating was replaced by what she would eat in her lunch box. Ironing was a thing of the past. I was the Mum that would forget to pack her wet weather gear when rain was forecast.
I was still the hot mess compared to all the other mums who seemed to have it all together.
Away with the comparisons and the guilt
I felt guilty. If I was such a hot mess mum, surely I was hindering Miss M’s development.
I wasn’t constantly comparing her to other kids and where she was on any official development charts, but surely my mess was spilling over onto her?
I needed to up my game and be more like some of the other mums, like the ideals I had admired before coming a mum.
I was about then that I stopped being hard on myself.
No one’s path is the same
I stopped trying to be the perfect modern June Cleaver and started being more me. It made all the difference.
I had just lost my Mum and was dealing with a whole lot of emotions that I know the other Mums were not facing. I didn’t need the extra pressure.
I didn’t have a nice cushy job, but I was working for myself and had work to do at short notice.
My child enjoyed her strawberries and peanut butter white-bread toast and it didn’t matter if it was not organic or cut into flowers
I don’t have time to read a lot of self-help books on how to raise my child better or even how to improve my time management. My time management is fine, I can bill you in six-minute increments. That does not mean that my windows will be washed this week.
The other mums were not trying to find the best path through the more strict, rule-based German approach and the more relaxed Australian approach. When I started to embrace my Australian side, I was much more relaxed and confident as a mum. I was still not perfect, but I was okay with that.
I was still a hot mess mum, but that was alright. I was not like the other mums and I would never be. I just needed to stop trying to be them and instead be true to myself.
The other ‘more perfect’ mums were a mess too
The Mum from our prenatal course who was so interested in getting in to all the right courses was wound so tight that her child did not sleep at night.
The branded products that other mums were gushing about did not seem to make their lives easier and their child still decorated their designer digs – and they did not wash as easily as the cheap and cheerful Miss M wore.
It seems even perfect is not perfect.
I still haven’t been to the organic supermarket, but I do buy organic where I can. Not that it makes much difference – Miss M still will not eat vegetables. I haven’t seen any other mothers cutting their child’s food into shapes for a while yet either.
I properly embraced bilingualism and learnt the German songs (well, some of them). Now Miss M knows them in both languages. And now I teach the kids at the kindergarten English, so that they can learn some of the English songs.
I am a good cook and a better baker, but my child does not always like what I make. Sometimes it comes out of a packet and sometimes I burn the toast. We have those days and move on.
I still cannot sew and I gave up ironing. No one has time for that. Miss M has a great selection of hand-me-downs, cheap and cheerful clothing and things that you can only find in Australia, so she will always look unique.
I am not alone, but I don’t need to compare
Most mums have felt like they are the hot mess mum at some stage. We all struggle. And, if you meet one who tells you she hasn’t, she’s lying to you.
But we all need to stop the comparisons, lift each other up and help each other be the best mums we can be.
When I stopped the comparisons, I was happier
When I learnt to stop comparing myself to the other Mums, I was a lot happier. Comparison only adds additional stress and is not sustainable – the other Mums did not have their Mum dying in the background, for example, and I didn’t know what they were dealing with. I was never going to win the comparison contest, but I had other more important things to worry about.
We will always be a little different. The fact that I am not German and we are raising Miss M to be bilingual will always mean that we are different. Iill not know the words to all the traditional songs, I did not make lanterns for St Martins as a child and bake all the Christmas biscuits on my Oma’s knee. I had two Grandma’s, not an Oma.
I work for myself. Yes, this gives me some flexibility, but I don’t have the stability of a 9 to 5 job (or even a part-time one while Miss M is young). I often have very tight deadlines and work late into the night to get a job done. I think many will now realize that working from home has its advantages and drawbacks.
I blog. As I have explained before, I started blogging mostly to heal myself and am yet to make any money. I am improving all the time. I don’t ever want this blog to make it seem like I am the perfect, got-it-all-together mum, when I know I am a hot mess mum.
I still hate ironing and don’t know why I thought ironing would help make a good first day impression.
I am still perpetually late, mostly because on time is late for Germans.
I still don’t cut Miss M’s meals into shapes and may peel her apples if it means she will eat them. I have
I have overflowing to do lists and often don’t know what day it is without my printable calendar. I may be up late baking biscuits because I got my dates wrong, but I haven’t forgotten anything yet (touch wood).
Our windows need cleaning, our washing basket is overflowing and there is something funky in the fridge that I need to investigate. It will all happen at some stage.
I have my priorities and that is my family, my work, others and then my home. My home is often a mess and the degree to which the rest is also a mess depends on what I have going on at that point in time. But we are happier focusing on the priorities and cutting the comparisons.
I am a hot mess mum, even if I don’t look like it on the outside. And I am okay with that.
My child is healthy, my family is happy. My life is somewhat chaotic, work gets done and we have fun. I may not get everything right, I may rarely be on time and I may burn the toast occasionally. And I’ve basically given up ironing.
I have stopped comparing myself to other mums and am better off for it. Happier even.
I’m a hot mess mum, and that’s okay
We each have our own path to walk and no-one parenting style is right for all. Instead of comparing ourselves to other mums, we need to focus on finding our own path.
If you, like me, are a hot mess mum, that is okay.
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