When I first became a mom, almost 26 years ago, I wanted everything to be perfect. I remember setting high expectations for myself, because, after all, this was the role of a lifetime, and I didn’t want to screw it up. There was way too much at risk. I was in charge of raising this tiny human being—this little ball of perfection—all without an owner’s manual and I wouldn’t be able to redo it if I made a mistake. I would have to get it right the first time. I remember how I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself during those early years in an effort to make everything just right so that it was perfect. I wanted to be the perfect mom. I mean, who doesn’t, right?
We all have that vision of the perfect mom in our minds. She’s the one who always keeps her cool in every situation, can juggle multiple tasks at a time, and still manages to look like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine. She’s just so…perfect. But how does our reality match up with our vision? Well, if you are anything like me, you are really proud of yourself if you can keep your cool for a straight thirty minutes without reaching for an aspirin or a glass of wine, you define multitasking as drinking a cup of coffee while driving, and as for stepping out of a fashion magazine? Only if that fashion magazine features yoga pants and oversized tee shirts (stains optional).
Rarely is the word perfection synonymous with the word parenting. Parenting, in itself, comes with a great deal of self-doubt and questions.
What if I make a mistake?
What if I do the wrong thing?
What if my kids are featured on an episode of Dr. Phil or Jerry Springer?
We spend a lot of time second-guessing our decisions and fearing judgement from others, especially other moms, and that really is a shame, because most of us are doing the best that we can with what we have at that moment. We compare our lives and parenting styles to other parents and are often left to feel that we don’t quite measure up, thus, making us feel inadequate and guilty for not being perfect. We lay awake at night worrying about the choices we make and whether our kids will suffer because of those choices. We want the best for our children and are willing to make incredible sacrifices to give them everything they want or need. Everything has to be perfect. The perfect childhood, the perfect schools, and the perfect opportunities.
But as I look back over all those years of raising my kids, I have come to realize that I didn’t need to be perfect—I just needed to be present. The things that my four kids remember are the things that were totally imperfect. Things like ordering pizza because I burned dinner for the umpteenth time or using tea light candles on the birthday cake because I totally forget to get those cute birthday candles at the party store. Or the time I was driving my daughter to school, only to be reminded that I had volunteered to bring in juice for the class party that day and had to run into the grocery store in my pajamas—and you guessed it—saw everyone that I knew. And let’s not forget about me accidentally killing the frogs (yeah, that’s another article).
Many years ago, I made the decision to leave a marriage with four young kids, which placed us into a downward spiral and left us homeless for over a year. A decision I have questioned and beat myself up over many times throughout the years. That certainly was not in my perfect plan when I first became a mom.
But you know what? The kids are okay and so am I. We made it through, and life is good. Would I have done some things differently? Maybe. But I think what we went through made us who we are today, a testament to resilience.
Know this. You’re going to make mistakes, big and small.
You’re going to screw things up from time to time. Don’t be so hard on yourself, mom. Embrace those imperfections. Celebrate your shortcomings. As long as you are providing moments of joy and laughter for those kids, you’re doing a great job. Screw perfection. Don’t waste another precious moment worrying about it. It’s not worth the time nor the energy.
Long ago, I concluded that I will never get the Perfect Mom of the Year Award…and that’s okay. My kids didn’t get to see a perfect mom as they were growing up. They got to see a real mom. A mom who makes mistakes. A mom who loves her kids to the moon and back for all their own imperfections. I’m just a mom who snorts when she laughs, bursts into tears over the dumbest things, and loses her shit on a daily basis. I’m not the perfect mom.
And I’m perfectly okay with that.