My husband is an incredibly successful author. When I mentioned this to someone the other day the first thing they asked me was “Would I have heard of him?” Well, possibly, but that’s not the point and that comment got me thinking. About success, about our collective impressions of success, and about how that either serves us, or not, particularly in the context of the work of parenting.
How successful are you as a parent?…..gulp! That is not a signal to run the mummy guilt script. How the heck are we supposed to know? Our children are unfinished works of art, as are we of course, that will continue to reveal themselves as they grow, ‘ask me in 10 years’ I hear you cry…
We probably unconsciously chalk up good days and bad days with our children, a measurement taken perhaps based on how we feel in that moment. Perhaps in a moment of quiet reflection or maybe as we collapse in a broken heap in the middle of a devastated room. But how often is it measured against what we actually set out to achieve? How often is our assessment meaningful? How often is it useful in enabling us to stay ‘on purpose’ rather than simply a stick to beat ourselves with or a reaction to what’s happening around us?
Do we actually set out to achieve anything or are we just holding on through each day?
There are days, and sometimes seemingly endless seasons, of parenthood when all I can do is hold on, breathe and hope I can stay on board without drowning in it all. But in time the seas calm, perhaps just a little, enabling me to see over the waves to the horizon, to get perspective. To see how I am fairing to find my true north and reset my compass.
It’s pretty much given that everyone’s definition of success is going to be different and we can only truly know whether someone is successful if we know what it is they set out to achieve. How do you set your compass?
My default, often to my detriment, can be to fall into the trap of gauging how well I am doing based on how my children are. A reasonable measure you might think, and to some degree absolutely. I not sure even on my most selfish of days could I be really contented if my children were endlessly in a state of non wellbeing, if they were suffering for whatever reason. But if that is my only benchmark then I am doomed to fail.
Any successful leader (and I use the term leader in the personal leadership sense not necessarily in the corporate sense) knows that a well formed goal or outcome is not one that is wholly dependent upon anyone else. To place my happiness or my sense of worth, capability or indeed overall success on the ups and downs of a nearly 5 and nearly 2 year old is asking for trouble…and very expensive therapy bills.
So perhaps then I could look to other “successful” parents or mothers to determine how well I am doing? Well, how likely am I to measure up? Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
If assessment of that nature is to be done then I won’t measure myself against other people, it will be against what I am capable of.
It will be determined by whether I have shown up and done my best, recognising that my best may change moment by moment. And also recognising, that I am infinitely more capable than I sometimes allow myself to acknowledge.