The Perfect Mom Myth

Do you ever feel like being a perfect mom is a moving target? “Don’t do this, make sure you do that, but don’t do it too much.”

If you are hoping that reading parenting columns will clear up any questions for you, trust me it won’t. For every solid argument out there condoning a certain parenting approach, you will find an equally salient article against it.

It can make this parenting thing really, really confusing.

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The Perfect Mom

I have this image in my head of the “perfect” mom, and to be honest, she does things I don’t like to do. Like cook dinner and scrapbook and make alphabet animals out of macaroni and glitter. Perfect mom reads five bed-time stories every night. She probably tucks her children into bed at the same time every night. She almost certainly bathes them more than I bathe my kids. Perfect mom definitely doesn’t allow them to ride on motorcycles or go to dinner wearing a swimsuit. She wouldn’t consider cereal as a viable dinner option. 

Why doesn’t my image of a perfect mom ever look like, well, me?

No, I don’t think I’m perfect, not by a long shot. I’ve definitely made some serious mistakes–like the time that my daughter Vivienne and two of her friends wandered off at a birthday party, and I couldn’t find them for awhile. Or the time that my other daughter Haven really needed me to be there for her emotionally. And I dismissed her tears because her problem didn’t seem like such a big deal to me.

The truth is, I have fun being a mom. I love being with my girls. And I have found that I enjoy being a mom the most when I’m being me and not trying to parent like someone else.

This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t be learning from other moms. But if my image of the perfect mom is someone I have no hope of being, then perhaps my perspective needs to change. Every one of us has unique talents. Some of you are excellent cooks or party planners. Maybe you like to build furniture or you’re good at music or art or decorating. My idea of fun is going on a mountain bike ride with my girls or trying paddle-boarding for the first time. If I were guessing, those mamas out there that have fun with their kids are doing the things they are good at: like sewing or baking or crafting.

Appreciate the Way You Mother

Let’s not take all the joy out of being a mom by taking it so seriously we forget to enjoy it too. Yes, it is a serious job. We are raising humans. Hopefully humans with values and morals. But we need to be ourselves, and it’s okay to have fun at this! If that means you teach your little one the alphabet with macaroni and glitter, well done! If you love cooking nutritious meals and it gives you a sense of satisfaction, I am a tiny bit jealous. We can be humble enough to want to do this mothering thing better and learn from each other. But let’s also give ourselves a little grace and appreciate the unique gifts and talents we bring to mothering.

You may hover like a helicopter over your little ones. Or you may value teaching them independence. Your children may subsist on fruit snacks and crackers or kale and coconut oil. Either way, let’s not get so caught up in trying to be that unattainable, probably fictional “perfect mom.” Enjoy this time of having your kids at home when they are still young enough to want to spend time with you.

If all the “rules” are making you feel like you never quite reach that “perfect” mom picture you’ve got in your head, maybe the picture needs to change. Maybe a few of those “rules” need to be chucked to the curb.

Perhaps you need to honestly assess what positive attributes you bring to the table as a woman and mother and throw out the ones that don’t apply. Or at least downgrade their importance for yourself, while still acknowledging their value when you see them in your friends. We know that we can’t all be expert musicians, writers, engineers, and car mechanics. So why does our picture of the “perfect” mom include a bunch of stuff we could never be? Let’s be more realistic and include ourselves in that Perfect Mom picture we have. And when we mess up, which we will, (sometimes over and over again in one day) let’s ask for forgiveness and try again. 

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