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"I wasted so much time worrying about being 'perfect.'"

By: Tamarah Rockwood for Ravishly.

I’m not worried now about little things, like matching shoes. Sure, it would be nice if all our shoes matched when we went out, but I don’t place my value as a mother on whether or not it happens.

I will be the first to admit that I have a problem with idolising every mother I meet. In my eyes, everyone else is a perfect parent — at first glance, anyway.

The first thing I notice is that their children’s clothes match. Then I will notice that their children’s clothes are also clean, and they do not have dried snot/muesli bars/Legos/dirt stuck to the front of their shirts/faces/hair, acquired just from the car ride to the park. I will notice matching shoes, both on the kids and on the mum. I will see how happy her children are, and I will intuit that it is because, clearly, she is the perfect mum.

Which I, clearly, am not.

My house is a mess, my patience is hardly a composure I explore regularly, and there are times when I feel like I am the biggest failure in the history of modern motherhood.

Some days I’m just shooting for a participation trophy. There is no award for ignoring the laundry until everyone is out of underwear, or letting my 3-year-old watch Mulan three times before lunch. Did I mention I take my kids to McDonald’s once a week?

Imperfect mum. Check.

Number One Sign You're An Imperfect Parent
She is the perfect parent. I am not. Image via iStock.

There was a mum I used to know many years ago in a mother’s group who was absolutely stunning. In her 40s. Blonde, pixie-cut hairstyle. Stylish. Matching jewellery, like, every day. Had interesting things to say and was interested in what you had to say. She was like the beautiful, composed unicorn of the playground.

I was 26 at the time, with two kids under two, and I struggled to wake up before our group meetings with enough time to dress in anything other than old jeans and one of my husband’s band T-shirts. She was a woman who should have inspired me. Instead, I was just furiously intimidated by her. How did she have 3-year-old twin boys and a 5-year-old son, and yet still look so amazing every morning? What was her secret to being the perfect parent?

One morning we were letting our kids play outside on a playset, and her 5-year-old was terrorising the younger kids with monster noises. This wasn’t a big deal to me, but I noticed it bothered her a lot. By the time she finally got him to sit down on time out, she was nearly in tears.

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I watched a "perfect" mother brought to tears.

Her little boy nearly brought her to tears. Image via iStock.

She told me she was having a lot of problems with her older son. He had been kicked out of two preschools and one kindergarten. He was on the way to being expelled from a third school. Their pediatrician had no suggestions for them. They tried counselling. They tried discipline. Talking about it. Reward systems. Alternative classes. He continued to be violent and defiantly troublesome at both home and at school.I remember a lot from that day, but what I remember most from that playground was the compassion I had for her. She was a mother who struggled, just like I struggled.

Now, many years later, my oldest child is on the brink of her teen years. Realising and owning my imperfections has allowed me some room to let the less important things go.

I'm not worried now about little things, like matching shoes. Sure, it would be nice if all our shoes matched when we went out, but I don’t place my value as a mother on whether or not it happens.

I place my value now on whether or not my kids feel loved. Do they know their mum has their back? Are they confident with themselves and sensitive with others? Have they heard their mum tell them about how to treat people kindly? Do they? Am I providing for them, both materially and emotionally?

All our shoes don't have to match. Image via iStock.

Looking back, I laugh at my early image of "perfection." I shake my head at the things that seem so trivial now. Matching clothes. Clean house. Not what other people actually thought of me, but what thought other people thought of me. I wasted so much time worrying about being "perfect."

There wasn't an exact moment when I let the facade go. It was a gradual change — it took time and strength to work on.

There is no crumbling facade to worry about anymore. I am not the perfect, unemotional, unicorn mum who has everything under control. I am a mum who gets stupidly excited when my kids invent something with toilet paper rolls, even if it means the bathroom is now a disaster. I am a mum who hates worms in the house, but I love teaching my kids how to poke tiny jellyfish at the beach. I am a mum who hates to see my kids upset, but I make sure they understand that it is okay to be upset.

I am a mum who wants to make the most of the time I have with my kids, before they grow out of their worms, toilet paper inventions, and poking jellyfish.

None of us are perfect and that's okay.

Do you compare yourself to other mothers in the playground?

This post originally appeared on Ravishly.