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Being the perfect mom (good luck with that)

This one’s for the mommies.  New mommies, expectant mommies, empty-nest mommies, someday mommies, mommies to angels, step-mommies and mommies who are in the thick of it – I’m talking to each and every one of you.  Sooner or later, you’re going to screw up.  You will make a parenting mistake, large or small, and you will beat yourself up over it.  Relentlessly and mercilessly.

 This is a common theme lately, and I’ve seen a number of articles, books and blogs about Mommy Guilt.  I don’t believe we can say it enough, though, because there’s nothing on earth to make you feel more alone and more ostracized than being an imperfect mom.  The thing is – we’re ALL imperfect.  There’s not one of us who has always made the right decision, or never lost her temper. Who among us has never blamed the wrong kid for breaking something, forgotten how much the baby actually weighed at birth, or gotten in your kid’s face with furious, whispered threats of bodily harm?  We know these things happen.  We know we’re not perfect and we know (deep down) that even those TV moms aren’t perfect, either.  But when we make our mistakes, we still can’t forgive ourselves.

 A couple of years ago, I packed my kid a salad for lunch (at her request, thank you very much).  However, I failed to pack a FORK.  As luck would have it, she was on a field trip and didn’t have access to a cafeteria fork and couldn’t eat her salad.  In the big picture, this is not a big deal, it’s even laughable.  Not to me.  It literally brings tears to my eyes to remember the day my kid couldn’t eat, because of MY failure.  On the bright side, I have never since nor will I ever again forget to pack lunch utensils.  So I’ve got that going for me.  But on the saner side of things, let’s consider the fact that this minor transgression is still eating away at me YEARS later.  Ridiculous, right?  But I’ll bet that every mommy out there understands where I’m coming from.

 Now, I don’t mean to throw that silly little example out there to say, “Oh hey, look at me, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done.”  Not so.  Not at ALL.  I’ve screwed up way worse than that and had some bad mommy moments that really make me cringe.  And I will undoubtedly continue to make brand new bad mommy moments for as long as I live.  I’m not proud of it, but I’m realistic enough to make some kind of peace with it.

 We’re all just human.  And we’re living every day with a crushing weight of responsibility that’s almost inconceivable.  We are doing the most important job there is.  We’re teaching our children to be responsible people.  We’re teaching them love and forgiveness.  We’re teaching them laughter and tears.  And, maybe inadvertently, we’re also teaching them that we’re not always right and we all make mistakes.  In short, we’re teaching them how to live in this world and we are all feeling the pressure to get it right.  And rightly so, because any Mom who doesn’t take that responsibility seriously needs to turn in her Mommy card.  But seriously, we have got to learn to lighten up just a little.  We are going to make mistakes, it’s inevitable.  And most of those mistakes are forgivable by any standard.  We just need to learn how to forgive ourselves.

 By no means am I an expert in parenting or child development or much of anything, for that matter.  I’m just a mom.  I make mistakes, I see other moms make mistakes and I see the moms who appear perfect on the surface and I know for a certainty that they make mistakes, too.  The mistakes aren’t the point.  Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.  Every single thing I do is born of a love that defies description.  (Slightly off topic, but a description I read once has always stuck in my mind:  “Being a mother is allowing your heart to walk around outside your body.”  Can’t remember where it’s from, but it strikes a chord with me.)  What I have to remember when the mommy guilt weighs heavy is that I truly do want nothing but the best for my children. 

 So all of that talking is nice…but it does little to soothe our mommy hearts.  If it were logical, it wouldn’t be an issue, would it?  So we have to fight the crazy mommy guilt, mommies!  We have to band together and form a giant support group of imperfect mommies.  We’re not perfect and our kids aren’t either and we’re not doing anyone any favors if we try to pretend otherwise.  If we can’t forgive these little failures in ourselves, then maybe it will help to hear a friend say it.  (It does, believe me.)  If you can’t admit what you did or didn’t do, aren’t you just making it that much more sinister in your mind?  We know you love your kids.  We know you’d do anything for them.  We also know that we all goof sometimes.

 So say it out loud!!  I forgot to send my kid’s field trip money.  I yelled at my kids because I had a bad day at work.  I forced my sick kid to go to school because I thought he was faking.  I punished one kid for something the other kid did.

 Yes, I’ve done all of it and more.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom or a good mom – it makes me a REAL mom with all the joy, fear and hope that comes with the title.  I am a human who happens to be in charge of other, smaller humans and we’re all just doing the best we can.  No guilt necessary as long as we still have hugs, kisses and laughter.

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