In MOTHERHOOD

“You are the most worst mom ever.”

My daughter screamed this at me tonight because I wouldn’t let her have more candy. It’s her new favorite insult. That and it’s variations, “you’re the most terrible mom,” and “you’re my most bad mommy.”

I sigh and say, “you mean the mommy who took you ice skating this afternoon is the worst mom ever? The mom who carried you all the way home after you slipped and fell on the walk with grandma is the worst mom ever?” The mom who made you breakfast, lunch, and dinner today is the worst mom ever?”

She thinks for about half a second and says, “no.” But she’s clearly still angry at me and disappointed that I’m staying firm and saying no to more candy.

She’s allowed to be angry, of course.

But no one likes to be called “the worst mom ever,” no matter how untrue it is.

Unfortunately, “best, most sparkly, wonderful, perfect, unicorn mom in the entire universe of moms,” isn’t likely to roll off of my daughters tongue.

It’s also probably not true.

The truth is, I am not a perfect mom.

And I’m ok with that, finally.

Nearly 5 years into motherhood, I have reconciled with my inner perfectionist and realized that I will never be the perfect mom, so long as I also want to be happy.

I also needed to identify what a perfect mom actually is. Or who she is.

And I don’t think she exists.

There are hundreds of different versions of “perfect mom.”

For some, perfect mom is the mom who works a high-powered job and also still manages to be home in time to make a delicious, healthy dinner (that her whole entire family wants to eat!!!).

For some, the perfect mom is the mom who never yells at her kids, keeps her house as spotless as a museum (even though she has 2 year-old triplets), and seems to do it all without a single hair out of place.

For some, the perfect mom is the mom who happily spends every waking hour with her kids without wanting to tear her hair out. She enjoys playing every game they suggest, does creative and fun art projects with them, and still manages to run her own successful business while the kids are napping or in school.

The perfect mom is never tired. She never complains about the load she is carrying, whether it’s physical or mental or emotional. She is totally ok with prioritizing everyone else’s needs over her own.

The perfect mom is sort of a combo of Mary Poppins and Donna Reed and Beyonce.

Who is this person?

I mean, really, seriously, who is she?

She can’t possibly be real.

Then again, who doesn’t want to be Beyonce?

Despite the fact that we know “perfect mom” doesn’t exist, I think many of us still try to mold ourselves into the pinterest-perfect, instagram ideal of what we think motherhood is supposed to be.

Thanks social media.

Even some of the most badass, strong, confident mamas I know hold themselves to some ridiculous perfect mom standards.

One friend of mine, a brilliant, single-mama of 2 amazing kids who also happens to run her own highly successful business, recently posted something that made me pause. She wrote, “I’m not at all a perfect mom, but today we’re doing ok.”

I think in some ways, her point was, “being ok is enough.”

Still, if the most confident mamas occasionally feel beholden to “perfect” we have some work to do.

Collectively and individually, the “perfect mom myth” is sort of like an evil super villain who lurks inside of us. We know she’s there and we do our best to ignore her. But in the middle of the night, she’s whispering things into our ears while we sleep and brainwashing us to believe that if we only yelled less or cooked more or did more crafts or kept the counters clean or got all of the stains off of all of the clothes or read more books to our kids or felt awake enough at the end of the day to have gloriously amazing sex with our partner, that we’d finally achieve perfect mom status.

She lies.

Here’s how I feel about being perfect mom, now.

I’m over it.

Perfect holds me down and holds me back.

Perfect forces me to box myself into someone else’s version of motherhood and womanhood.

Perfect tells me that I’m not good enough and that I will never be good enough.

Perfect doesn’t allow me to make mistakes or messes. Perfect doesn’t allow me to learn from those mistakes and grow. Perfect just gets angry that the mistakes and messes happened in the first place.

Perfect doesn’t let me be human.

And the thing is, I want to be human.

I want my kids to know that I might make messes, but that I can clean them up. That mistakes happen and can be resolved or learned from.

I want my kids to know that I love them more than anything in the world, but that I love myself, too. And that because of that, mommy sometimes needs some space and time just for me so that I feel more sane and whole and more like myself.

I would love for my house to be cleaner, but I’m ok with it looking as lived in as it is.

I don’t want to yell at my kids as much. I don’t want to screw them up for life.

I also want to create and hold healthy boundaries, so “No” is a word I feel 100% comfortable using (despite that some of the mommy-bloggers insist I remove it from my vocabulary).

I’m willing to make peace with TV as an acceptable babysitter for my kids when I have work to do.

I want to act with compassion and live with ease.

I want to love more, not less – even when it’s messy and hard.

I only want the advice I ask for, not what is freely dispensed by that “perfect super villain” in my subconscious or anyone famous on instagram for having a pristine and well-lit house.

I want to listen to my heart and my gut and my kids. And occasionally, my husband.

I want to be real. Really me. As imperfect as I am.

I want to be happy, not perfect.

What about you?

A few things we can do together to resist the “perfect” imposed on us as women and mothers:

  1. Embrace the mess. The mess is beautiful. So be a little messy.

This might manifest as different things for different people. So I’m not going to give a description of what it is to be messy – but maybe think of it as not feeling like you have to look a certain way when you leave the house or have your house museum-levels of orderly when people come over to visit.

  1. Don’t give your time or attention to people or things that sell you “perfect.”

This for me is unsubscribing from newsletters that make me feel like I’m not good enough. Or unfollowing people on Instagram whose feeds make you feel inadequate. Or unfriending people who make you feel bad about just being you. I mean this in real life as much as I do on social media.

  1. Rewrite the narrative.

It’s not about being “the okayest mom” instead of the perfect mom. I think that narrative has flaws, too. I’m more interested in rewriting the motherhood playbook to include a wider variety of what healthy motherhood looks and feels like.

Sometimes this means being honest about the times in your life that are a struggle.

Sometimes that means asking for help when you feel lost and scared or alone or frustrated.

Sometimes this means choosing to forge a path that doesn’t yet have many footprints on it.

Also, let’s remind other moms that they’re doing just fine. That they don’t have to be perfect. That they get to choose what motherhood looks and feels like for them.

As I was writing this, my son had just woken up and was hungry and I said, out loud, “I know kiddo, just give me a minute. Mommy needs to finish this blog. I know you’re hungry. Sorry. Right now I’m a bad mommy.”

My daughter turns to me and said, “You’re a wonderful mommy.”

It might not be ““best, most sparkly, wonderful, perfect, unicorn mom in the entire universe of moms,” but I’ll take it.

***

This is not a complete list. What would you suggest we do individually and collectively to erase the “perfect mom” myth from our collective cultural database?

How can we rewrite the myth of the perfect mom?

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