I know you’re not perfect. I know you’re not perfect. I know you’re not perfect.
These were the words haunting me the entire drive home from a playdate with a seasoned mom that I deeply admire and respect. Like me, she has two kids, but hers are five years older than mine. My time with her always leaves me feeling gratefully more revived and encouraged in this crazy motherhood journey.
As we were saying goodbye, I told her how much I appreciate being able to learn from her as I navigate these choppy parenting waters. “But you don’t see all my breakdowns and bad moments. I’m a hot mess,” she countered.
I responded, “I know you’re not perfect, but I still learn so much.”
I know you’re not perfect. An unfortunate choice of words for what I meant. I intended to explain that I understood there was more happening behind the scenes than what I see, that I wasn’t putting her on a pedestal with high expectations of perfection from her, but it came out wrong.
What I realized on my drive home as I mulled over the folklore of a Perfect Mom was this: She is a perfect mom. I should have stressed that to her. Likewise, she shouldn’t argue that she isn’t. She should be put up on a pedestal, like so many of us moms should be.
The term “perfect mom” gets tossed around like there is unseen pressure coming from who-knows-where that leaves us striving to be some supposed universal image of what it means. Many times, it’s merely the expectations we put on ourselves and assume without facts that other people in our lives are expecting us to be precisely that. Does anyone really know what the perfect mom is? Is there really an all-encompassing person that we are trying to be?
Maybe it is easy to say it’s a mom that has her life put together. It is the mom that unfailingly cooks gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She brings healthy and delicious snacks successfully shaped to look like animals inspired by a Pinterest pin to soccer practice. She has the schedule updated and color-coded so everyone knows what they’re doing and where they’re going at all times. Everyone’s clothes down to their underwear are simultaneously soft, crisp and wrinkle-free. She has the house spotless with no crumbs, no mess, and a clean dog. The ongoing needs of her husband and kids are always met. And of course, she looks absolutely perfect while doing it all. Oh, and don’t forget the perfect kids who do perfect things because kids always resemble that level perfection too, right?
Now for the reality check.
Kids are not always a reflection of us. Similarly, we aren’t a reflection of them. Not always. We may try our hardest to help shape them, but they still have their independent souls making their own independent decisions. But we TRY, in the millions of choices throughout their lives that we have some ability to influence, to make them into the best people they can become. Perfect moms try. Succeeding or failing does not remove the Perfect title.
Do we really want our kids to be perfect little robots? Sometimes I like it when my toddler tells me no or argues with me. I am teaching him how to do it respectfully, but ultimately, I do want him to think for himself, to make his own decisions, to learn from his mistakes and to be strong enough to tell other people no someday if he’s presented with something he disagrees with. I don’t want my kids to ever merely go through the motions of life; I want them to be genuinely living, learning, and loving this journey that we are privileged to be on.
Likewise, do we truly want our kids to see us as a perfect robotic mom? I want them to know the broken and emotional sides of me as much as I want them to remember the healthy and fun sides of me. I want them to see me make mistakes and learn from them. I want them to see me laugh at my Pinterest fails and celebrate my Pinterest victories. I want them to see a mom that is keeping her health a priority by finding time to work out, read or dabble in a creative hobby, in hopes that they will also learn self-care. I want them to learn that a messy house is not the end of the world if it means the family is spending quality time together.
I want them to wholeheartedly believe in the truth of what’s inside being far more dear than any perfect image on the outside.
My seasoned mom friend loves her kids and tries her hardest every day to make the right decisions with and for them (even on the days when trying feels unequivocally exhausting). She shows up for them time and time again and will protect them with a natural ferocity that no one wants to challenge. And she loves, oh how she loves them, which is the core of everything she does day in and day out.
That is the perfect mom.
And that’s the mom so many of us are. We need to recognize and encourage each other in a new belief that we are indeed perfect moms. We have reached that coveted stature just by doing what comes so natural (even on days where we have to force it) and there is no need to compare ourselves to anything or anyone else.
Let’s change the mindset of what a perfect mom is and wave at each other from the pedestals that we are all standing on. I’ll tell you that you’re a perfect mom and you can tell me the same, and instead of humbly denying the truth, we can celebrate the release of one less pressure to worry about.