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On how to achieve a no-guilt Good Life

on how to achieve a no guilt good life katmackaywrites blog cover image
Adapted from my blog post “The No-Guilt Good Life” originally published on the Mums in Cyprus website in February 2016

We often find ourselves plagued by guilt for failing to achieve those unrealistic parenting goals that we set for ourselves. Goals that are shaped by idealised projections on social networks. Let’s talk about lowering the bar, and opening ourselves up to appreciating the simple things in life.

It’s time to shed that guilt

Let me tell you a little bit about myself…

I dream of leading a sustainable life – of living in a tiny remote cabin, growing our own veg, keeping chickens, and maybe a goat as well. Of making everything from scratch, pioneer style, with homesteader pantry shelves lined with zero-waste refills, homemade preserves, jams, and ferments. One that smells of freshly baked sourdough and naturally sweetened muffins, and has wellies lined up neatly by the back door…

Photo by Muradi on Unsplash

“The Good Life”

Most of my friends would intercept this statement with a loud guffaw. They know that while I do have some talent in the kitchen, I can barely keep a cactus alive, let alone grow all our own produce and live off-grid.

But I can fantasize – of this person who I think I should be.

In the meantime, I try to make a concerted effort to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, cook mostly whole foods, and teach my kids that less is more. To make our own toys, within my limited capabilities. To give to those less fortunate than ourselves. To get out and enjoy the wild open spaces that Cyprus has to offer… To generally be more aware of the huge footprints we’re making daily upon this earth.

It is hard

And some days I fail miserably.

We all know that some weeks those days can seem more frequent than the rest. The days when take-out is the only option at the end of a very long day… When once more I get in the car for a short trip rather than to walk. Because it is too hot, too cold. It is raining. I am too tired.

Some days I forget to walk the dog.

There are days when I take the easy option and let the kids eat only processed food and watch TV ALL afternoon only to pay for it later when they’re bouncing off the walls.

Or those rare days when I finally give in and buy them that plastic toy they’ve been whining on and on and ON about for months and it ends up broken within a week or discarded at the bottom of the toy box, only for them to go back to playing with a puppet we made a year ago out of cardboard, some string, and a roll of masking tape.

And then there are the saving graces

Those days when we escape the city and spend hours walking in nature and talking. Days when the kids turn off the TV on their own and role-play together for hours in the yard on a wild adventure in the Amazon Rainforest.

Those days when we go to bed early and read ten books before snuggling under the covers and sleeping in a tangled mess of arms and legs. Or those days when I ask my daughter if we should buy that toy that her baby brother is begging for, and she turns to him and says: “We don’t need it – we can make this at home”.

The days when you realise that your kids listen to Every Single Little Thing that we’ve ever said to them.

A hard time to be a parent.

The expectations in society and more importantly from ourselves, are overwhelming. The idea that we should have it all, do it all, be it all…

The look-good, feel-good, do-good parent/partner/worker/individual/citizen.

The perfect, shiny, organised and expertly-curated idea of self jumping out of our Insta feeds.

The “fetishisation of motherhood”

The cult of motherhood … being imposed at every turn, a life-destroying expectation of maternal perfection.

Cerys Howell writing in The Guardian

It all serves to, let’s face it, make us feel pretty crap about our failure to achieve those unrealistic goals. In many circumstances, the idea that women should find fulfilment at home alone with a baby with little or no support can actively contribute to postnatal depression.

Society has primed us to think that this is enough. To be a mother. But we are constantly told that we are not enough. We don’t do enough. We haven’t achieved enough – we haven’t achieved it all.

It is easy to forget what is important

I find myself spending so much time worrying about my kids’ diet that I sometimes forget to feed their minds.

I find myself ferrying them from school to home for lunch, to afternoon lessons, to dinner, to a rushed bath time, and finally to bed… without a story.

The expert balancing act of work and parenting and everything else that is supposed to fit into that ticking clock that is our day is, in a word, exhausting.

We can spend so much time focusing on the technical side of parenting that we lose sight of what is important.

We can so easily forget that sometimes it’s the simple things that can impact our children’s beautifully open, curious, and wonderful minds.

We can’t do it all

We can’t always reach that high benchmark of who we think we should be. And, I don’t know about you, but I can spend an awful lot of time berating myself for failing to achieve those goals.

And then, there come those glorious days when I stop for a minute and breathe.

When I look up at that big, beautiful sky while my kids are running along the beach ‘fossil-finding’ with the dog, there is no guilt.

No guilt that they ate too much sugar today or watched a little too much TV.

No guilt that the dishes are piled up in the kitchen sink and I’m going to be up until midnight to meet that deadline.

No guilt

Just a realisation that it’s the little things that are important. The simple things.

For now, that’s a ‘Good Life’ enough for me.