Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tales of an Imperfect Mother

Recently I was part of a discussion about the "perfect mother", and why so many moms nowadays feel like they need to try to be perfect, which is, of course, an impossibility. Yet we feel this incredible pressure to live up to certain ideals. And so we do our best to appear "perfect" to the average observer, while typically feeling frustrated and upset about how far from perfect we really are. Heaven forbid we let anyone see that we are just as flawed as the next mom.

Why is there this constant drive to achieve the impossible? To not let anyone see our faults? Why are we so afraid of seeming lacking in any respect?

I think that some of it has to do with the fact that many mothers are also highly educated women. Some of us have made the choice to leave a career in order to stay home with our children. And so we feel like we have to prove ourselves. Some of us are working, and feel like we need to be perfect in order to make up for the time that we have to spend away from our children during the day. All of us do the best that we can. All the time feeling like that is not good enough, that we could be - should be - doing better.

So what's the solution? Is there a solution? I think it starts by admitting that we are not perfect. We do the absolute best that we can. I believe that of every mother that I know. We make mistakes, we make different choices from each other, but overall? We love our kids. We do everything that we do because we love them so much, and want only the best for them.

So here it is - out in the open. I am not perfect. Far from it. I have made mistakes. I will make more. But I love my kids more than anything else.

Some evidence:

The other day I took Ben out without any socks on. We were running late, we had to pick up Claire, and I didn't have time to search for a matching pair, because I hadn't folded the laundry yet.

Also, last week I didn't have the energy to argue with Claire so her lunch? Dora fruit snacks, a handful of goldfish, and some of the Cheerios that Ben was eating. That's nutrition at its best, folks.

And the worst? Ben was only 4 or 5 weeks old, and the cat's litter box was in desperate need of cleaning. This was when Ben was very colicky. He was fussing, and I set him down in his bouncy seat, but didn't latch him in. While I was in the next room cleaning the litter box I could hear him crying, but figured it was his usual fussiness. Then when I came back out, he was lying on the floor in front of the bouncy seat. He had wiggled himself down and off the front of the seat. I felt so guilty. But he was ok. Thank God. I felt so guilty for just assuming he was being his usual colicky self, and instead he was trying to tell me, "Hey! In here! On the floor! Pick me up, woman!"

One of the things the group I was talking with decided, is that we're lucky that our kids are too little to remember the mistakes that we have made, and will continue to make. And when they grow up? They'll probably think that we were perfect. Right? RIGHT???

So c'mon moms, and grandmas, and heck, dads, too. Confession time. Share. Make everyone feel better by telling us your slip-ups or mishaps. I know people are out there reading. Time to chime in!


Ocean said...


I could write a book about all the horrible things I have done as a mother, like the time I was dozing on the couch with L when she was about...7 months old? And I DROPPED HER! Face first into the floor. I was so tired and she was so colicky the night before and

And I too am guilty of pumpkin pie for breakfast, and a package of Care Bear snacks washed down with some Sprite for lunch, and I am guilty of being "that Mom" who lost her cool in the WalMart and told her children that if they didn't stop fussing I was going to spank their bums in the middle of the store.

I see so much "perfection" at the school, all these parents who have time for work and playgroups and still have manicured nails and perfect hair and clean clothes that match. I am lucky, even now as my girls are older, to have time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Good post. Thank you Emily.

Anonymous said...

I've left Stella in the car when I run in the gas station to get a coffee. I've done it a couple times. I'm a nervous wreck when I do it and I'm constantly looking at the car through the window...and I know I shouldn't do it...but the thought of lugging that damn carseat out AGAIN for just a second makes me want to scream. Don't let my Mom see this.

Anonymous said...

Hrmmmm Emma was 3 months old, and I had her propped up on my bed while I was getting dressed for the day (we were taking her to get her pictures taken that day) and BOOM she shifted to the side and right off onto the floor. My bed is a HIGH bed too--so it was a long fall. Needless to say, pictures weren't taken that day. Steve, on the otherhand, went to the basement w/o telling Emma where he was going one day. Well, he had left the garage door open, and well, I come home from work and see Emma halfway down our street. I said "Emma--what are you doing out here by yourself??" "Looking for daddy" she replied. ACK! If i hadn't come home, she could have been all the way down to the main street looking for her daddy.. 2 things learned--1. do not leave the garage door open and 2. tell your kids where you're going!!--andrea

BiggSeester said...

Oh golly, I'm the Poster Mom for imperfection! My son has gone to school sans underwear a number of times and not just because he hates wearing it! I have Laundry Issues that verge on a mental disorder, the cobwebs around here are more organized than I am and I am currently in posession of a large black garbage bag full of unmatched socks that I can neither bring myself to attempt to match nor throw away with a giant sigh of relief. I have simply blocked off the kitchen from the children so that I don't have to be too concerned that the floor looks like Salvador Dali threw up on it. I taught my five-year-old to play gin rummy and poker so I wouldn't have to play Go Fish anymore, and he's now so good that his teacher sent home a note asking me not to let him bring his cards to school anymore because he keeps winning his classmates' desserts off them.