Do Your Kids Think You Are an Imperfect Mother?
I’ve spoken before about how perfection is unattainable. Across social media, blogs, and television ads, we are constantly bombarded by ideals. We’re flooded with images of uncluttered living rooms, spotlessly organized kitchens, and flawlessly fit women with a baby on their hip, cooking from scratch in between conference calls, yoga class, grocery runs, and homeschool playgroup meetings. Your friend posts a photo on Instagram of the flowers her husband sent, and you try to remember the last time you had a date night.
Another mom brags on Twitter about her son’s GPA, and you think you should make more time to help your daughter study. Your ex gushes over his newborn baby’s gorgeous, camera-ready mother in the delivery room, while your sister is chronicling the nearly finished DIY renovation of her newly purchased home – six months after the birth of her exclusively breastfed twins – on her blog that never, ever shows a photo with a hair (or perfectly executed Pinterest craft) out of place.
You look around your home at the toys scattered on the floor and that pile of laundry you meant to fold more than a few days ago. Pizza is in the oven because you couldn’t find time to meal plan, but you really intend to cook healthier soon. Judging by the dirt under your toddler’s fingernails, it must be time to trim them. But didn’t she just have a bath last night? Or was it the night before? You wonder if your son will be able to find that library book that went missing under his bed before the overdue fine exceeds his future college tuition. It’s probably lost somewhere in the closet, but you really need to organize the box of old baby clothes on that top shelf that don’t fit anymore. Oh, and there’s that bag of cloth diapers you tried but couldn’t keep up with – you’ve been meaning to donate them. You’d love to save the environment and all, but how in the world do people find time to wash diapers daily?
You spend a few minutes trying to tidy up before dinner but feel guilty throwing away that plastic water bottle – couldn’t we make something crafty out of it? Isn’t that called ‘upcycling’ now? Wouldn’t it be nice to get everyone in bed without toothpaste all over someone’s pajamas and have time to unwind, maybe even slip on something sweet and enjoy a glass of wine, before crashing face-first, half-dressed and drooling onto your pillow, somewhere around 9:30pm? “What am I missing?” you think. “Why can’t I get it together like everyone else? My kids deserve a perfect mother like their friends have.”
I know, it sounds familiar. Because this is my life, too. Every single day.
The days are really, really long, but let me tell you this: the years are so much shorter than you’ll ever realize. I’ve been a parent for almost 8 years now. If you are just starting out on the journey, please don’t take it with a grain of salt when people tell you to cherish every moment. We live our lives in the “new normal” pace of chaos, waiting for a special time in the future when life will supposedly calm down. When I lose ten pounds, I’ll take the kids to the pool. When I don’t have so much work, I’ll make more time to play hide and seek. When the kids are older, I’ll find space in my schedule for hobbies. When the baby doesn’t need me so much, I’ll go on more dates. When we have a little more money….a little more time…a little more this…a little more that…
That time never comes and is just a teasing mirage, always in the distance. Trust me on this. Life is now. And I am going to challenge you to do something a little crazy and out of the ordinary.
Even if we know it can’t be achieved, perfection is still very much the goal that hangs over our lives like a dark little rain cloud, waiting to remind us how we fail in big and little moments. Instead of just accepting that perfection is impossible, I want you to fully embrace being imperfect.
“Love is a defining ingredient for life. When something is made with love, there is beauty and meaning to be found in the imperfection. The imperfection is the personal signature that increases the value, the authenticity that can’t be duplicated. No one else on earth could have made it exactly the same. So let’s reframe our perception of the imperfect. It’s time to let go of perfect expectations and embrace the imperfect.” – Kim Graham-Nye (Cofounder, gDiapers)
If Pinterest had existed when my mom was younger, she would have been the queen. This woman made me dolls and clothes, cooked elaborate homemade meals from scratch, and turned every home project into a DIY adventure before there was even an acronym.
My grandmother taught my mother how to sew and crochet – things that I have yet to learn. With six children and over 30 grandchildren, my grandmother had no shortage of love in her life. Before she passed away, she crocheted each and every child and grandchild in our family their own personal afghan. Mine is stored safely to pass on to my daughter. And my absolute favorite part? Each and every one has this tag that says, “Made with Love by Grandma.”
Remove the tag and the sentimental context in which it was created, and it’s just a blanket. But I look at the intricacies of each piece of yarn beautifully strung together and know that it was crafted by the warm, wrinkled hands of my grandmother – the same hands that changed my mother’s diapers and rubbed sunscreen into my fair skin on summer days by her backyard pool. There is nothing in the world that could replace the value and unique love poured into this blanket.
It’s hard to see what matters most in the day to day moments. We all know now – in retrospect – what we cherish from our childhood, but what memories are we creating in the minds of our little ones? I asked my children that exact question. “What do I make with love?”
Their little faces scrunched up for a moment and thought hard, and my son replied that it was my chocolate chip cookies. My daughter said I make shopping fun. I almost told her that she was incorrect, that shopping wasn’t something I made, but I stopped myself – because she’s right. Not all things made with love are tangible or physical.
And then, there are things so physical they are beyond our comprehension.
When I asked my husband what comes to his mind when I say “made with love,” his response was simple: “Children.” I said, “No, be more specific.” And he replied, “There is nothing more specific.”
In a way, children are the ultimate creation of love. And even when that love is imperfect and each child has their own imperfections, there is nothing more beautiful than this chemistry that we can barely understand.
So do your kids think you are an imperfect mother? From now on, I want you to consider that the answer to this question should be a resounding “Yes.”
In your children’s eyes, you are everything. They will not remember the piles of paper on your desk or the untidy Tupperware in your cabinets. They will not remember what size dress you wore or that your gingerbread house didn’t look photo worthy. They love your flaws as much as your assets, and so should you. Your freckles and stretch marks teach them what a real woman’s body is like. Your impatience and exhaustion teach them that sometimes life is hard. You might have dirty dishes in the sink that aren’t shown in magazines, but they’ll remember the movie you cuddled up to watch with them before bedtime. What you perceive as your imperfections are likely the very unique details they will forever cherish about you.
(Oh, and let’s just take a minute to gush over my 5 month old son’s squishy little baby bottom, ok?)