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Today, joining us for the first time, is another talented writer, loving wife and mom, and dear friend, Cassandra French.  Cassandra, along with her husband and daughter moved overseas and they are enjoying their new adventures and life-lessons living in Scotland.  We are so glad to have her join us on Cheeky Bums Blog and we’re sure you’ll enjoy her wonderful story, bringing us back to the simplicity of loving your children and enjoying motherhood.

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I still remember the first week of my daughter’s life. With every cry, I would bounce out of bed, rush in, scoop her up, and try to meet whatever need she had with a smile on my lips and a hum under my breath; images of the ‘perfect mother’ embossed in the back of my mind.

Then, everything seemed to fall apart.

I had an exceptionally traumatic labor and delivery with my little girl and had undergone a significant amount of tearing. Less than one week after delivering our daughter, in my rush to return to my pre-pregnant level of activity, I had completely overdone it, and found myself in the midst of a four-hour surgery to repair the damage. I returned home tired, sore, and defeated. Not only was sitting up to breastfeed excruciating, but the pain medication often left me completely unaware of anything happening around me. Even in the moments when I did waken to my newborn’s cries, I wasn’t able to stand up to get her, let alone pick her up.

I felt completely helpless, and utterly useless. The war of attrition had set in, and every day I was losing ground in the battle to be the best version of myself as a new mom, let alone the ‘perfect’ mom.

As with most things, I eventually healed and got back on my feet. By the grace of God, and with the help of a loving husband and supportive family, we were all the better for having gone through such a tough season. Yet, I still wrestled with a sense of striving for perfection.

Having gone on medical leave a few months prior to our daughter’s birth, I had transitioned, albeit with a bit of difficulty, away from my role as a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse into the role of a stay-at-home mom. While I did – and still do! –  love being at home with our daughter, at some point I began to view what was nothing short of a blessing as my new ‘job.’

As a Nurse, I had prided myself on always ‘having it all together’, on maintaining an organized, structured approach to every moment lest the next big emergency should happen and I would find myself unprepared. Even in expecting the unexpected, I could at least take certain steps to be as equipped as possible for whatever should come through the hospital doors.

However, I quickly realized that being a mom was entirely different.

Anyone who has ever taken care of a child knows that there are no clear cut answers, no way of anticipating what the next five minutes, let alone the next 24 hours will bring. In fact, there is little if anything about raising children that is neat, tidy and ‘together’. Every fiber of my type-A, perfectionist personality, struggled with this realization.

Give me the bloodiest, goriest scene imaginable and I can hang with the best of ‘em; but the first time our 10-month-old daughter tried to feed herself, I was absolutely mortified by the inevitable mess that followed!

I realized in that moment just how dangerous my need for perfection truly was.

What was I communicating to my daughter, as she watched me striving, wrestling with feelings of inadequacy, and the need for control?

What was I teaching her about what it meant to be a woman? A wife? A mother?

Was I teaching her that our value is somehow determined by what we, in and of ourselves, do; or how many things we can successfully check off of a list at the end of the day? Was I expressing to her that the tasks at hand were more important than her thoughts, feelings, and emotions?  Not to mention that, developmentally speaking, I was stifling her ability to simply be a child: a messy, fun-loving, joyful child with the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them.

A week or so ago, I was kneading dough to make a loaf of bread. Instead of kneading the dough on a “well floured surface” as the recipe calls for, I had chosen to knead the dough in the bowl (it was much neater, and I certainly didn’t have time to clean up the mess of a floured counter top!)

Without warning, I was stopped, mid-knead.

With a child-like sense of joy and even laughter, I felt the question rising, ‘Oh, but wouldn’t it be so much more fun on the table? I realized that somewhere along the lines, I had lost the freedom to be ‘a messy child’…

…In that moment, I felt myself break… Tears of joy filled my eyes as I spread flour across our kitchen table, thinking to myself…”now all I need is an apron…”

I have since come to realize that I am not the only one who needs an apron. Sadly, what is so often communicated to parents, moms and dads alike, whether stay at home parents or otherwise, is that we have to be perfect and that we have to have it all together in order to be successful parents. Over the last fourteen months I’ve learned that the last thing my family wants is for me to be perfect. What they want is authenticity, honesty, and to know that they are loved.

They want a mother and a wife who walks in the peace and joy that comes from the freedom of knowing that her worth does not depend on how perfectly everything is wrapped up at the end of the day.

They want someone who is far from perfect, and they want the freedom to be imperfect themselves. 

I now have an apron hanging in our kitchen, more as a reminder than anything else. And I have since begun teaching our fourteen month old daughter the joy of baking bread; sitting her in her high chair with her own piece of dough to pinch, pull and tear, as a fine dusting of flour covers us both.

May we never forget the value of a good apron, and the joy of a good mess.

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