Before I was ever a parent, I was a reader. And around the third grade, I fell in love with Roald Dahl’s Matilda. And I knew right then and there that I was going to grow up to be Miss Honey. Never mind being who God actually created me to be – I was determined to live up to this idealized and fictional picture of what I believed a parent should look like.
A few weeks ago, I shared on my podcast during an episode about the “myth” of romantic comedies, that ever since watching 10 Things I Hate About You, I’d wanted a man to sing and dance down a set of steps for me – serenading me in front of everyone. I wanted the grand gesture. The big display. The “proof.”
And while my husband has in fact sang original love songs to me in public (twice), and done COUNTLESS other things to show just how much he loves me, I spent too long feeling like I was missing out on something that was “supposed” to happen. I had built up a very specific picture of what love looked like.
Those of us who are married or have been in relationships probably get this. We see idealized versions of relationships on tv and in movies and use them as measuring sticks. The only problem is, real life isn’t a movie. Our marriages aren’t scripted, and we can’t hold them up against the “movie moments” we see on the screen.
And I realized that I’d set crazy expectations, and began to see how beautiful my very real and extraordinary ordinary relationship is. But what I didn’t initially realize, was that I wasn’t just holding my marriage up against scripted and idealized scenes and characters. I was doing it in my parenting. I was holding myself up to fictionalized expectations – and when I inevitably wasn’t living up to them, I crashed.
I had dreamed of being Miss Honey. Miss Honey was soft-spoken, incredibly patient, and always had time to play. She was the kind of parent who moved all the furniture out of the way to roller skate in the house. She and Matilda read on a blanket under a beautiful weeping willow. And from a few pages of a book and a montage from the movie, I had determined what a “good parent” looked like. And then I saw all the ways that I’d failed to live up to it. I wasn’t enough.
Maybe you haven’t held yourself up against a character from a book or a movie, but I’m almost certain you’ve allowed comparison to sneak into your life. We’ve all seen the highlight reels of friends and acquaintances on social media and compared them to our REAL life – the things you don’t see on social media or displayed on the silver screen.
Our real lives as parents can so often feel repetitive and mundane. There’s laundry, making lunch, solving problems, more laundry, picking up popsicle wrappers, and getting kids into bed. It can also feel overwhelming and draining. There’s navigating seasons of change, the heartache of watching your child walk through pain, and feeling so stretched thin you feel as though you’ll break.
And because I felt those things – those very real, human, normal things- I felt like I wasn’t enough. The “good” moms I’d built up in my head based on idealized/fictional/and those based on other people’s “best of” moments, didn’t seem to ever be exhausted, have dirty bathrooms, wear sweatpants, serve boxed macaroni, cry alone in their bedrooms, or get bored playing trains and tea party. And I did.
We have a tendency to pick ourselves apart piece by piece until we are no longer a woman, mother, friend, daughter…..but merely a pile of flaws and mistakes. We hold ourselves to impossible (and often fictionalized in one way or another) standards and then berate ourselves when we inevitably fail to meet them.
I spent so many years in a constant hustle – desperately trying to prove my worth as a parent. There was a physical ache to prove I was enough. And it took a toll – on my body, mind, and soul.
Parenting? It’s a tough gig. It gets easier. It gets harder. They need you less. They need you more. Your life and your circumstances will undergo constant change and there will be days of sorrow and days of total joy. And your kids don’t need Miss Honey or that perfectly filtered mama on Instagram. They’ve already got who they need.
They have you. And you my friend, are enough. Living in comparison and constantly trying to live up to idealized expectations will tire your soul. (And parents are already going to be physically tired!) But your soul needn’t be so tired. The striving and seeking and perfecting – it’s just not worth it. It robs you. It drains you. It takes away from the joy of today – from the beauty of your actual parenting reality.
I no longer dream of being Miss Honey, and am happy and grateful to be me. And I pray the same for you. Embrace your real life – the ups and downs, good and bad. Because it’s REAL and it’s yours. You are enough.
About My Podcast:
Stop hiding. Start shining. Be the woman YOU were created to be.
Girl on a Hill seeks to bring you joy, lift you up, and walk alongside you up the hill as we dive into topics like fear, expectations, balance, and optimism with a mix of authenticity and humor.
Visit the Girl on a Hill Website: www.girlonahill.com