Kate Woodroffe makes a confession
Until recently I had been of the opinion that if a job was worth doing, it was worth doing well. Indeed this phrase rings out in my mind on an almost daily basis and I find it useful.
It helps me do all the washing up at the same time:I wash it all properly with hot, soapy water rather than allowing the last quarter to be washed in the previous three-quarter’s tepid grease. It makes sure that I soak and scrub the laundry rather than bunging it all in the machine and hoping that my washing liquid will do the job on the paint, poo and pasta sauce that has come to dominate my (laundry) life. It means that the beesI painted on the kiddies’ bedroom wall are actually quite passable compared to my first mediocre attempts that turned out just that little bit shit. Yes, it makes me more productive and at the end of the day I’m glad that I got those things done: there’s little to no smell of rotting food or dirty undercrackers in the house, the plates aren’t greasy, and the bees look lovely.
What I hadn’t banked on it doing, however, was that it has stopped me from completing a variety of things that have been in the offing for a good decade. To start with there’s that pile of photographs from a trip in 1999 that are still waiting to be put in an album because it’s ‘worth doing well’. Being a bit of a photograph album perfectionist, this means that it has to include hand-drawn maps, excerpts from my diary and the odd little sketch here and there. In summary, it has to be nothing short of a work of art. And it will be in 2078 when I finally get round to doing it on my death bed (I’m hoping for a 102 year innings).
Photograph albums are one thing, but what about applying for the job of your dreams? It is easy for most of us to put off applying for that career-catapulting job by saying we don’t have quite the right qualifications. And sometimes this is true. I’m not aiming for PM just yet, for example, as I haven’t read a newspaper in months, have very little aptitude for diplomacy and, most importantly, still haven’t got round to deleting all those compromising ‘Uni Days’ photos that some kind soul put on Facebook.
But sometimes we don’t apply or don’t apply yet for an achievable job because we can find excuses not to, because it’s a little bit scary, or the job is too perfect, and unless I’m perfect myself there’s no way I’m going to get it. So,like putting off doing my perfect photo album, I find reasons that this perfect job isn’t for me: I don’t have enough experience, I doubt my abilities.. “I’m just not good enough”, “I’d feel like a fraud”, etc. I’m just not the perfectcandidate.
Well what if no-one else is either? The consequence is not only that I don’t get my dream job but also that the person that does get it is possibly not as well qualified as I am. And all because I was waiting to be perfect. Well maybe it’s time to stop trying to be perfect and settle for good enough instead.
Now that we’re bandying around phrases like ‘good enough’, suddenly the concept of not trying to be perfect becomes a bit more familiar to me. As a mother of twins, one of the earliest lessons I learned was that I needed to adopt a ‘good enough’ approach to parenting.
Fortunately some clever soul told me this at the beginning of the twin mum fun-ride,because it is physically and mentally impossible to achieve ‘perfect parenting’ with twins. So although I still did try to do some baby signing, baby-led weaning, baby massage (when do I bloody get one?), baby silver service etc. I did just about manage to remind myself periodically that just because I’ve had to push them around in an enormous Titanic monstrosity of a buggy rather than have them all aesthetically slung around my body; just because I gave them purées rather than starting them off on organic beef wellington with a rosemary jus,it’s just, just possible that they will still develop into perfectly fine, happy, functioning adults.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am perfectly aware that I’m still going to completely screw them up. That is inevitable. Can you show me an adult with absolutely no insecurities or other character flaws? Even Mary Poppins was only practically perfect in every way and she could fly, slide up bannisters and make a flight of stairs out of a puff of smoke.
So my point is, that we shouldn’t and mustn’t allow ourselves to worry constantly about how imperfect we are as parents. It is okay not to be perfect. In fact it is advisable not to be. So let’s all say it out loud. I am not perfect. But I am perfectly good enough.