Project Thankful

Kim McDonnell challenges us to rethink our drive for perfection.

Nobody ever really tells you just how hard motherhood can be. Sure, you hear about the physical demands, sleepless nights, unequivocal love you will feel and how “your life will never be the same”.  All of this is true. But there isn’t much mentioned about the emotional minefield that accompanies motherhood, and the challenges involved in raising children to become responsible, well-adjusted, and above all, happy adults.

In a world that worships perfection and celebrities, the minefield becomes a lot harder to navigate. How do you convince your children that ‘average’ is worthy of recognition, and individuality worthy of celebration? How do you help them understand that happiness in life isn’t about perfection?

I’ve always been a working mum. I’m currently the founding partner of my own growing advertising agency and have three beautiful daughters. I’m also a perfectionist. So when I found out my children all have their own unique learning challenges, I had to reassess my values and definition of success.

One of my girls didn’t speak until she was four. We did the rounds of tests, specialists and theories. Eventually, we discovered she had a learning difficulty and wasn’t able to process language the same way most people do. For her, listening to us speak was like watching a foreign film with grainy subtitles.

It was heartbreaking for everyone; she was trying so hard to communicate and actually made up her own language. At one point, a speech therapist told me we might as well just teach her sign language because no-one would ever be able to understand her.

Somewhere along that bumpy road my mindset shifted away from worrying about being perfect or needing to compare my child to others. Now, my family consciously focuses on what we do have rather than what we don’t. I teach my daughters that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s okay.

In time (and after extensive speech therapy), my daughter did learn to speak and read. She now attends a regular school and achieves average grades, which is phenomenal. We take every opportunity to acknowledge her and her sisters’ unique achievements. This is important for all children, but even more crucial for those with learning disabilities.

My daughters’ determination to overcome and succeed is inspirational, and I’m constantly in awe of their tenacity and resolve. Being able to sleep soundly at night knowing you have done the best you could that day is a value I try to impart to my children. I teach them to make every day and experience count, and to be thankful for opportunities.

This idea became the inspiration behind Project Thankful – a website where anyone can record and share the everyday moments and achievements you’re thankful for. I wanted to create a place that keeps those valuable moments from disappearing into the bustle of everyday life.

Whether you’re thankful for the laughter of your beautiful children or an amazing sunrise, Thankful is a space to celebrate your successes, big or small. It’s a reminder that ‘success’ in life means something different for everyone. It inspires us to enjoy the offerings of today, to make the most of precious time, and be thankful for the simple pleasures of life – like my daughter calling me “Mum”.