I’ve been a mother for going on six years now. The stakes are high, so like most mothers, I’ve worked my bum off to get it right.
I’ve studied countless books and surfed probably zillions of online forums in my quest to sleep train my children without causing indelible emotional trauma. I’ve spent hours shaping cakes into lifelike police vehicles, and probably months on the playground to further my children’s social and motor development. I’ve created mind-numbingly boring routines to get the children to sleep and eat better. I’ve given up hobbies and seen less of my friends just to spend more time with my children. I’ve played with them, read for them, offered them service with a smile. I’ve been the perfect mother.
And then there have been the other days.
The ones when I’ve stormed out of the room to cool off when the terrible twos (and then threes, sometimes even fours) have gotten on the wrong side of my patience. I’ve threatened to leave children on the playground when they haven’t left willingly. I’ve bribed them, with toys and candy. I’ve occasionally forgotten to brush their teeth and on some days I’ve been too lazy to take them out even in sunny weather.
The “perfect mother” has frequently crashed and burned, leaving an exhausted splotch next to the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
But you know what? That’s not so bad.
The perfect mother is a mythical creature that roams in the subconscious nightmares of most mothers. The perfect mother is the woman who dresses in trendy, yet carefree clothing and flawless, yet natural makeup. She raises children who are active, social, well dressed and never seem to wipe snot on their sleeves.
Of course even perfect children sometimes get upset, but the perfect mother handles it with tact, and peace is quickly restored. Perfect mother doesn’t lose her temper (and even if she does, she quickly finds it using her clever index system). She doesn’t take naps when she’s supposed to be cleaning underneath the sofa, and she certainly doesn’t forget to brush her children’s teeth.
But beware, wannabe perfect mother! The quest for perfected motherhood can take over your entire life, and even then, it is an impossible pursuit. Real flesh-and-blood people aren’t perfect. I would even argue that being too perfect is just another form of imperfection.
Perfect mothers are an unrealistic representation of this Universe. The world is filled with disappointment and people who get on your nerves; even the people you love can drive you mad sometimes.
Children need love, care and sensitive handling more than anything. Without love, children will wither like roses left in the dark.
But being perfect? That’s aspiring for something that isn’t real. Love is the most powerful thing, but it is definitely not perfect. There are wrinkles and stains in love, and sometimes love needs to take a time-out and storm upstairs to cool off for a moment.
Children know this, since they are the same. They love their mothers with all their being, but sometimes they feel like they hate you. They scream and kick and shout: “I wish you weren’t my mother!”
They’re not perfect either, and that can be frightening. Like you, they are afraid that in their imperfection they will mess up the most important thing in their lives: their relationship with you.
Rather than feel embarrassed for your parenting failures, why not acknowledge them, say you’re sorry you lost your nerve, and move on gracefully. You’re not a bad mother. You’re a normal, imperfect mother, who teaches her child how to deal with failure in a constructive manner. Anger, tiredness and an occasional bout of laziness are only a part of being human.
It is natural to want to do things well, but sometimes good enough is good enough. Sometimes it’s better to leave the ironing alone, throw a pack of Kleenex to the snotty-nosed kid, grab a coffee and post a notice on Facebook: “Forget those pictures I uploaded. They were staged. Really I’m not perfect, and thank God for that.”