Skirting the Issue - Perfect? I’d prefer to be happy

It’s not often I hit the delete button on a column when it is just about to go to print. Some weeks writing a column can feel like pulling teeth, especially nine years down the line.

This week I had been prompted by an article in the Daily Mail (I know, I shouldn’t read it... but it’s a bit like picking a scab... you have to keep going back for more even though you know it does you more harm than good) to write (once again) about the hardships facing working mammies.

Research showed that modern mums think the previous generation had it so much easier - with the average working mum managing just 23 minutes to herself in day. Personally I’d say that’s generous - unless you are counting toilet breaks.

The modern mum also feels, the report said, torn between trying to be a good employee and a good mammy and feels just about ready to explode.

Having had a particularly trying week, with tighter deadlines in the Journal, increased demands on my time for extra-curricular activities with the boy and a book on deadline I sympathised.

And yes, I admit, I had settled myself down to write a “woe is me” column about how life is extremely very tough and I was exhausted yadda yadda.

Then, on Tuesday, I went out to meet the McColgan family whose son Travis, just a few months younger than my son, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. (You can read their story on page 2).

The first thing they said to me (after hello and after I met Travis and his big brother Evan) was that they didn’t want their story to be a hard luck story. They categorically and emphatically told me they don’t feel hard done by. They feel blessed.

Now Travis is very much like my wee boy. He loves Mario and Luigi, is a fan of Phineas and Ferb and he loves Jaffa Cakes. He has that infectious cheekiness that all six year-old boys have - and exceptionally handsome big brown eyes.

He, and his brother, are clearly the apple of their parents’ eyes.

But Travis and his family face a long road. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a life limiting illness - unless research garners some pretty amazing results, Travis is unlikely to reach his 21st birthday.

I watched him flit around his parents, hugging them and laughing with them, and I suddenly realised that they have the right attitude and I’m nothing short of a moaning minny to complain about how tired I feel after a day at work or when I’m sitting at the kitchen table wading through the horror that is Primary 3 homework (yes, I know P3 homework is easy peasy compared with what is to come... but still).

At the end of every day I am coming home to two lovely wee (if messy and noisy) blessings in my house and that is worth its weight in gold.

Recently it feels as if the world is trying to get a message to me - a message to slow down, to enjoy what I have and more than that to appreciate it.

I realise that, just like those poor mothers trotted out in the Daily Mail, I am one of those who feels a certain pressure to be the “perfect mammy”.

By that, I mean I’ll try and do as much as I can for my children and yes, perhaps, there are occasions on which they are spoiled.

I’ll run myself ragged trying to do everything that I would do if I wasn’t holding down a full-time job as well and often I’ll find myself slumped in a heap on a Friday night, exhausted but trying to plan how to make their weekends memorable and fun.

I am mildly obsessed with keeping a tidy house, a well stocked fridge and making sure all the washing is done and there is never a frantic search for clean socks.

It has, for me, doing my best to provide for my children - taking on extra work, working through the evenings while they are plonked in front the TV.

It is a twisted kind of logic based on TV portrayals of perfect families with gleaming kitchens, a fresh roast on the table every night and pristine baskets of ironing.

What this week, and the McColgan family, have made me realise that maybe I don’t have to try so hard to meet everyone else’s expectations of motherhood. And maybe I have to lower my own.

All children really need is love and a sense of security. Everything else is a bonus. Maybe I should do less planning and more doing. Maybe the greatest joy is just eating Jaffa Cakes as a sneaky treat while laughing at something silly on the TV.

The housework can wait. The book writing can take a back seat for a bit. We - all of us - only have our children for a finite time.

They all move on in their own ways. The boy is seven already. The toddler turned two last week. While they are still small and reliant on me, I do sometimes find myself catching my breath at just how fast they are growing.

All this - these joyous, messy, noisy early years - will be gone one day.

This week I learned I have to try and appreciate that, and them, a little more.

There’s no point in planning for the future at the expense of enjoying the present.