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Are you doing the best you can?

“I know my life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can.” –  Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

I frequently see people reassuring new parents that they are doing the best they can. I see memes circulating which say the same. But do you truly believe that you are always doing the best you can? Do you genuinely believe that everyone else is doing the best they can?

I do believe that all mums, dads, parents and children (in fact all humans) are doing the best they can in the moment, based on their current circumstances, personal history, life experiences, resources, beliefs, perspectives and values.

But I see people defining the word ‘best’ differently. Some people see their best as their ‘perfect’. And if we are seeing our best as our perfect then we are setting ourselves some seriously unrealistic expectations which we cannot possibly live up to all of the time. Which would explain why so many mums feel like they are failing at motherhood. Equally, when we expect perfection from other people they will also fail to live up to our expectations all of the time. Especially our children.

So what do I mean by the word ‘best’ ? Here is my perspective on what ‘doing my best’ looks like:

Sometimes my best looks like me being completely present for my kids, engaged and the most fun mummy ever.

Sometimes my best looks like me struggling to be present because I feel so exhausted and need some sleep.

Sometimes my best looks like making my kids healthy dinners made from scratch.

Sometimes my best looks like my kids eating frozen pizza because I don’t have the energy to cook.

Sometimes my best looks like an clean and tidy house with a nearly empty washing basket (let’s keep it real: it’s never empty!)

Sometimes my best looks like a messy cluttered house and an Everest size washing pile.

Sometimes my best looks like me being patient, empathic and understanding. Sometimes I know all the right things to say and handle challenging parenting situations with ease.

Sometimes my best looks like me feeling impatient and stressed due to sleep deprivation. Sometimes I have no idea how to handle the challenge presented to me and feel stuck for words. Sometimes my best is saying something which, with hindsight, felt like the wrong thing to say and apologising to my children.

My point is, we are all doing the best we can in the moment. The best we can possibly do based on our current circumstances, our knowledge, our level of awareness, how much support we have, how we feel physically, our emotional wellbeing, the rollercoaster of life, our personal history and our unconscious influences. There are so many factors which influence the best that we can offer in the moment.

If we judge ourselves against unrealistic standards of perfection then, on the days when we feel like we are just about surviving, we are going to be giving ourselves a hard time, feeling like a failure, beating ourselves up for mistakes, feeling guilty for not being ‘better’ or ‘more’ or ‘perfect’.

But best does not mean perfect. Our best is the most that we can possibly offer in that moment.

What I am noticing more frequently is that sometimes, on the days where my best looks like us eating frozen pizza in front of the TV – these days end up being the loveliest most special moments snuggled up together as a family.

The times where I am on a short fuse or say the wrong thing and I end up apologising to my children, become an opportunity to show them that I am only human and not perfect, but that I am accountable for my actions.

The times where the house descends into chaos serves as a reminder to our family that we need to create new systems where everyone pulls their weight and works together to look after our living environment.

The days when I feel like it’s all gone wrong or I feel like a totally crap mum, my daughters will tell me they’ve had the best day ever, or that I am the best mummy ever.

Our kids are not interested in perfection – they keep it real and they embrace the messiness of life.

Because life is messy. Nobody is a perfect parent and nobody has a perfect life. Sometimes life is challenging and sometimes it’s wonderful. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong – but we are all doing the best we can in every moment.

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