The pressure to be the perfect mother

>>You know, parenting is so all consuming and I never feel I’m doing as well as I’d like. But I look at you and so many times, you’ve got it nailed down. Even if you don’t show us your every mistake, I think you are doing an awesome job, and I really appreciate that this specialist bothered to acknowledge it, because you know what, almost all of us want to hear it at least now and then after we’ve poured heart and soul into something for so long.<<

I often feel like I’m not doing as well as I would like – thoughts like this sneak in pretty regularly!

I don’t have it all nailed down, far from it.

I see a lot of people online who seem to be doing a lot more with their kids than I do with mine.  Parents who are more focused and goal directed, parents who provide their kids with T21 with more cognitive/physical support, parents who offer their homeschooled kids more active support in following their passions, parents who do more of everything, parents who have more of everything.

But my  kids weren’t sent to those parents; they were sent to me.  Perfectly imperfect me.

My message on this blog isn’t that I’m awesome and I’ve got it all figured out, because I haven’t.

If there’s a message I want to share, it’s that you can be lacking and inadequate, you can fall short and doubt yourself often – and your family can still be pretty darn wonderful.

When my oldest daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder, I felt I had totally failed.  It was as if all the good things I had done for years had never happened.  I stopped writing about parenting, I stopped doing parenting consultations and I stopped trusting myself as a parent.

My husband spent four months in the US with her as she went through treatment, and one of the first things he told me when he came back was, “None of what you did all these years was wasted, it’s all still there inside of her.  She’s an incredible girl and a lot of the credit for that is thanks to what you gave her.”

I didn’t see it at the time, but he was right.  She had a big bump on her life path, but the person she was, the relationship we had – it was just temporarily obscured.  It wasn’t gone.  When the sun came out again, everything was better and brighter than before the dark clouds of life covered it all up.

So your family can turn out great with the efforts you worry aren’t enough.

And you, right now, as you are – you’re wonderful. The perfectly imperfect mother who never does all she wants to do.  That’s a hard one to believe, isn’t it?

We have to learn to recognize what we do, validate ourselves, pat our own backs.  Sometimes we get a little bonus when someone from the outside appreciates what we do, and that’s really nice.  But we have to live with ourselves every day and that means we have to consciously reprogram the thoughts in our mind that can grind us down and make us feel we’re not enough, we’re never enough, and we’re never going to be much better than we are right now no matter how hard we try.  All of that is a lie.

Countering this lie isn’t a one time lesson.  I can’t write about this in the past tense as something I’ve worked on and surmounted, because this is a constant daily effort – to appreciate myself as I am when I’m having an adequate day, or especially when I’m having a much less than adequate day, not only on the days when I can check off every item on a long and detailed to-do list.  To value myself as a human be-ing, not a human do-ing.

It’s about progress, not perfection.

It’s about learning to love ourselves, learning to nurture ourselves and appreciate ourselves as we are right now – just the way we love and nurture our children.


10 thoughts on “The pressure to be the perfect mother

  1. Mommy, you’re amazing and I feel so lucky and grateful to have you as my mother.You are the most perfectly imperfect mother I could ask for! I love you so much!

    1. Tehila, you’re making me teary eyed sitting here at my computer!

      I love you more than you can imagine and couldn’t be prouder of the person you are.

        1. Susan, I’ve gotten so many beautiful comments from my readers that have touched me deeply. But all of them together don’t come close to the joy I felt about the comment you just read.

  2. Such important support. Wish I had heard this before. No matter one’s age as a parent, this is a trap!
    Am blessed to have such an imperfect child(ren) that were sent to me.
    On the other side am having a chance to be a perfectly imperfect Bubbe, without the doubt. So to you and your readers that is what to look forward to.

  3. I maintain that attitude some of the time, but when the hard times come, I’m less certain.
    Do your kids ever get angry at you?
    Does petty bickering between kids ever exhaust you?
    BH, DH and I are blessed with Shalom bayis between us, and somehow I thought the children would learn that from us, but it’s not so clear at their current ages.
    And as their mother I take these things so personally. Afterall, I’m not sending them to school, so I can’t really attribute it to anyone else.
    I think I’m going to leave this blog entry open and read it a few more times to see if some aspect of it has yet to sink in.

  4. As I am typing this, my dog is throwing up on the couch behind me, I am choking down throwing up myself, it is day #infinity of a migraine, and we are having a Shabbos guest I can’t really manage- but I couldn’t possibly get off the computer (to go throw up) without telling you that this post (not for the first time) was EXACTLY what I needed to hear at EXACTLY the right time! Thank you for being the person you are – perfectly who so many of us need, even though it may not be objectively “perfect” (whatever that is anyway…)

    1. Julie, I’m so sorry you’re feeling so horrible and hope it passes soon. Thank you for taking time when you’re feeling so lousy to make me feel good.

  5. I am enjoying being that “imperfect” mother and going through the positive “growing pains” with my children – I’m learning how to be a better Mom. It’s taken almost 9 months to incorrect terrible habits that I immersed my children into it’s finally time that I am taking the correct measures correcting them. (i.e. too much allowed electronics, not enough reading to them, bottom-line not being the Yiddishe Mom they’ve been yearning)
    I’m living in the moment with them – along with them. It took it’s taxing toll, now it’s time for change and I’m glad I picked up on it early rather than later. They are way post toddler and are now preadolescent boys.
    Thank you for this wonderful blog/article, Avivah, makes me feel I’m not alone along this imperfect Motherly path.

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