“Perfection is not a polished thing. It is often simply something that is sincerely meant. Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up. Perfection is what we discover in each other — what we see reflected back … And if perfection alludes us — that doesn’t matter, for what we have within the moment is enough.”
– Mature Jenny
I am about a decade late to the party, but I have recently gotten into the Call the Midwife on Netflix and I must say, it’s been quite awhile since a show has brought me this much delight! It’s hard to say what I love so much about it because it all just works so well together (the births, the colors, the era, the sisters, the music, Chummy…just all of it!) and continues to warm me right up like a mug of tea, but one of my favorite parts has got to be the beginning and ending narration from mature Jenny. It’s a combination of her humble tone mixed gently with the layers of wisdom she offers us watching on the other side of the screen that always leaves my soul in a state of peace. It’s beautiful to me how the narration starts off the show by weaving a theme into the fabric of each episode, whereby the characters make you fall madly in love with each of them through a series of events around midwifery, and them comes full circle again as if you’ve just witnessed a little miracle, perfectly packaged in all of it’s imperfect splendor. The truths mature Jenny shares are not ones of perfection but of humanity, rooted and raw, and they always give me life when I need it most.
Last night I was up late sandwiched between my boys in our little bed with Stella bear on the cot folded out beside us because Andrew is away on business, which means the kids sleep with mama. Don’t get me wrong, we co-sleep regardless if dad’s home or away, but they tend to not start out in our bed if we can help it. And also, we love sleeping with them. We truly do. We love that it gives our babies security and comfort and closeness to us, and yet it’s so hard, almost too hard, sometimes. And and and. Parenthood lives in the land of “and’s”, and I’m forever learning more and more to embrace the multitude of paradoxes along this winding road that is our journey of lessons and love together.
Anyway, Andrew has traveled a considerable amount this year, however this trip marks the very last of his leaving until March. Hoorah! And while I know this confession is due to come with a host of judgement, which is sadly often the norm for us mothers these days, I’ll share it anyways: parenting alone is lonely and hard and far more exhausting than anything I’ve ever done. Bedtime especially, because it’s the end of the day when everyone has had their fill, rightfully so, and feelings begin flying and tears start streaming and negotiations to have one sleep in his/her bed just becomes far too much work for the weary. It’s the part of the day that my husband and I usually get to unwind together, and when he’s not home it just doesn’t feel as homey. It’s then when my patience is worn particularly thin, lending little time or energy to self-care in the slightest. Single parents and caregivers, I do not know how you do it, but I look up to your strength and admire you.
And Andrew doesn’t even travel full-time! Alas, I miss him terribly when he’s gone, and that bout of sadness always gets folded into the extreme and never-ending responsibility that is mothering 24/7 for days on end, taking care of three little ones who need their mama for everything and seem to need her much more when there are not two of us tending to our family. And I totally get it, they miss their dad too! They miss our rhythm and what our days feel like when we are all together. I understand why they need more of their mom during these times, and I know I will look back fondly on the memories we are making when sharing a room and bed, but it also takes a lot of energy and means less sleep, which can be maddening. While trying my best to keep perspective and know this this too is a season, I think it’s also important for mothers to be able to say aloud to one another without judgement, “This is really hard. I need help, encouragement, and sisterhood – and a few “me too’s” wouldn’t hurt.”
So there I was, cozied up in bed with three snoring babies nearby and my favorite girls on the screen. It was an episode about adults with special needs, the hardships and surprises of pregnancy (naturally), familial relationships, and new beginnings. I was teary-eyed through most of it, as I often am, every so often wondering if what I was doing as a mom was enough. It’s crazy how the mind rolls and loops on silly things, self-doubting things, when the house is still, dark, and quiet. It’s usually when everyone is tucked in that I look at them and wonder, “Oh, heavens. Did I do enough today? Was I enough today? How can I do better tomorrow?” I was just about ready to turn in, when Jenny’s familiar voice started speaking and I tuned in for a final embrace, her words catching me in in soft moment, as if the evening was choreographed by something that can only be called divine. As someone who has struggled with perfection and worthiness and far too often believes her insecurities, these words were ones that sang right to my core, sending a spell of goosebumps from my toes to my nose. “Perfection is not a polished thing.” They lifted me up and pushed air deep into and out of my lungs, making me feel alive and whole as a mother who’s doing her best in a moment that was hard and not perfect, yet wonderfully enough.
I knew as soon as I heard them I needed to share them with you, because if this space is anything, it’s a safe one where we can share our wonderfully unpolished lives and how we as women are striving to see good and do better. Not to be perfect or to achieve perfection, but to rest in the present, to know in the marrow of our bones that this moment, in all its sincerity, vulnerability, connection, kindness, and mindfulness, is everything already. I am going to write these words from my favorite new/old show on a piece of paper and carry it with my in my purse, and maybe even make a book mark out of it to redefine perfection when its archaic definition seems to have a tighter grip. For you, from me, from Jenny…we can do hard things, you’re not alone, and we are stronger together.
Liv - Girl- keep going! The show just gets better- tears every time.
Amelia - Thank you for this post! I am a mom of a 3 year old & 1.5 year old with a husband who works night shift, 12 hours a night, mon-thurs. I, too, work outside of the home 3 days a week as a RN. I am thankfully home every night to do bedtime routine (something my husband deeply longs for) & tuck my babies into bed. The nights without my husband are for sure tough. Our 3 year old is a challenging sleeper, and has been since 3 months old with small boughts of relief. He sleeps with me/us every single night. I have struggled the last 3 years with accepting his terrible sleep habitis. My tribe of mamas, whom I love dearly, seem to have hit the jackpot of kids who sleep through the night in their own beds. I’ve tried everything to get my 3 year old follow suit but in the last few months I have waved the white flag of surrender. I was constantly feeling like I was doing everything wrong & that I failed teaching my son healthy sleep habits. That left me even more exhausted than just allowing him to come into my bed & sleep. I have FINALLY come to accept this situation, after many sleepless & hard nights. I love my baby boy & am thankful he chooses to snuggle up to me every night in need of comfort from his mama. I truly wouldn’t trade it for the world. And even if he can “do it all by my own” throughout the day, I’m trying to cherish the sleepy snugs & little hands holding on to me at night. Thank you for this post & for helping me realize even more that it is okay & it is what we need in this season of life. Much love to you!
Catherine - I feel you sister!!! Parenting alone IS hard, whether you do it every day or just a few times a month! My husband just got out of the Marine Corps and is now a commercial pilot. I HATE the nights he is gone. I had been through months of deployments but something about the start/stop to our weekly rhythm makes it harder for me. Everyone’s “hard” is different but that doesn’t mean we can’t have compassion and kindness as fellow mamas. And you are right, perfection is and never will be polished. May we all embrace our messiness and do it together. Hang in there mama. You got this!
Maria - That show is really my go-to comfort, it grounds me and reminds me of what really matters. It’s amazing how much wisdom, tenderness, humanity is bundled up in one programme. I’ve watched it from start to finish about 3 times, and intend on revisiting it, because every time I find new layers and messages of hope, and learn new ways to appreciate life’s messy but beautiful moments. And Chummy!! Oh, Chummy…
You are doing perfect, mama! Each of us, in our own way, for our own babies, is perfect. Thank you for the beautiful reminder!
Maria - Love love that show. It just fits in with my soul. All of the truths always speak to me, as well.
Jacqueline Henry - Amanda ! Amanda ! You have just been writing down words that are living in my heart so deeply lately. Thank you so much. Thank you for your bravery in everything you share. Thank you for being enough (you look like one amazing mom to me) and thank you for your genuine and feminine honesty in everything you do. I’m so loving your blog lately💕 xoxo
Caitlin - I am absolutely in love with the call the midwife series, it’s so captivating! I love the quote you picked out too; we really do strive to be so perfect when really what is perfection? And why are we so hell bent on achieving it?! Great post, thank you for sharing some of your personal life. My husband just came home today after a couple days away, so I can totally relate, and it is hard being the only parent, even if it’s just a few days! I guess it should make us more grateful for our partners when they are home! And I 100% agree with the statement of admiring single parents, I honestly don’t know how they do it either, they amaze me!
Mic - Oh this. If my husband is even gone for a night, it’s so hard. But makes me so much more grateful for when he is there. Thank you for posting. I especially laughed reading this since I woke up with two littles in our bed this morning who weren’t there when we went to bed… 🙂
Sarah - Oh you are most certainly not alone. And this parenting gig is so much harder when husbands are away. Mine is currently doing 8 weeks of military training and I keep trying to make myself suck it up, because even though he’s away, he’s still part of our lives and wants desperately to be here with us. There are so many people enduring deployments and death and separation so I tell myself this isn’t hard, I shouldn’t complain. BUT even if others face circumstances harder than mine, this is still hard, and it’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to admit I’m struggling and it’s okay to need help. Thank you for helping me see those things so I could grant myself permission to just that.
Also, Call the Midwife is amazing and you couldn’t have written it a more beautiful review.
Jessica - Yes, my husband is away on numerous occasions through the year for work. Just last week – he left on Monday, and by Friday night I’m crying in the shower! It truly is hard to get through alone. Thankyou for sharing and reminding us that we’re never really alone and there are moms all over the world going through it with us.
Hannah - Me too. I am the biggest critic of myself due to my perfectionist tendencies, and that is hard when you are a mother of small, uncontrollable children! ha
ElizK - This <3 This is an exhausting season. But one our sweet children need. Mothering (parenting!!) takes a lot of sacrifices. We are raising souls.
Dina - Thank you so much for this. Like you, I struggle with my own insecurities as a mom and a person, often trying to obtain that perfection. It’s exhausting and really I just have to get out of my head about it. I’m always comforted by the fact that I am not alone with these thoughts, that other women feel the same.
Wontsay - This was encouraging, thank you. I was too sleep-deprived to let the quote sink in, until I read your take on it.
Made me realise how thankful I am for my oft-present husband.
Kate - I feel just the same as you, solo parenting is HARD and so many times you just need someone to come around and say that they understand and that it is ok. Because on top of you it you feel like if you complain that you haven’t don’t enough! Also, Call the Midwife is the best show ever. I watched it after having my second and loved it / cried my way through the whole thing. It really brought a bright spot to my days.
Jessica - My husband has travelled full time for 4 years. I’d guess if you added up all the travel time he’s been gone for 2/2.5 of those years. He’s deploying for a straight year and it’s really scary, overwhelming, and heartbreaking to think about. I’ll find my own rhythm and these days with three little kids now a year is nothing!