The Myth of the Perfect Mom
December 30, 2013
I am not talking about Giselle. We know she is glamorous and we also know she has a team that makes her look that way.
What about the rest of us, those of us in the trenches of motherhood? Why do we think we have to achieve some unattainable goal as high priestess of motherhood?
Once in a while I may get what many would call a compliment – and frankly, I let my ego suck it all in for a while and I may hear, “Oh, Leigh Anne, you are an amazing mom!” or “You are a perfect mom!” If this comes from one of my children I will take it and toll around in it for days, even years because I know that it will be followed by some balancing statement like “I hate you, you are the worst mother ever!” And that will be followed by a hug or a request for mommy time. It is all in the job description.
Please, please, please do not throw that horrible label of PERFECT on me. I am imperfect and I embrace that.
But look at advertising for new parents and you see styled and glamorized images.
What do we really look like after a new baby.
This is me after my first baby was about two days old – see the look of bewilderment in my eyes?
Most new moms are in a bit of shock. I hear repeatedly “No one ever told me . . . .”
We hide babies, we hide our breasts, we keep quiet about the dark side of parenting.
I wonder if the dark side would be so dark if people talked about it.
Did you know that breastfeeding in the beginning is very time consuming?
Did you know that newborn babies are not typically chubby?
Did you know that you can bleed from your vagina for days and weeks?
Did you know that sometimes you will pass a clump of blood?
Did you know that you may feel angry that you have a baby – not all of the time but some of the time?
Did you know that you would be riding an emotional rollercoaster?
Did you know that sometimes you will plan to take a shower in the morning and the next thing you know it is 7:30pm and you still have spit up and baby shit on you and you have only eaten stale leftover cake that wasn’t even home baked in a flavor you don’t even like?
Did you know that in all of that mess you will look into the eyes of your baby and feel a deep, confusing kind of love? A new protective kind of love?
Did you know that your baby doesn’t give a damn about your hair?
Did you know that your baby just wants to get to know you? He knows you from growing inside you but now that the courtship is settling in he wants to really get to know you. And he wants you to know him. Did you know that some moms fall in love immediately while others take time.
I think we all want to put on a good face when we go out with our babies. We feel a sense of accomplishment from just having gotten dressed and out of the house. Maybe we feel like we are failing so we have to put on a show and say all the right things. The problem is that other new moms believe what you say. Then other new moms compare themselves to you. Or maybe you are comparing yourself to the woman who says “childbirth was a breeze, my baby latched right on and has grown beautifully, she sleeps through the night and her poop doesn’t smell, also, my husband is a saint, he cooks every night and bought me this gold chain with my baby’s birthstone and a tiny haiku he wrote inscribed. He waits patiently for me to want to get intimate and my belly just seemed to pop right back into place.”
I play a game with myself. When I am feeling the stress of parenting and I really do not want to yell at my kids again or I do not want to scream at them in public, I pretend I am the subject of a documentary on parenting. I want to be prime example of keeping my cool. I stop and think: “what would be a productive action to take here.” I often fail at this game but sometimes I succeed. When I succeed I am setting an example for my children and possibly for other parents. But, I am not perfect, dammit!
One of the best gifts my mother gave me was the gift of imperfection. She let me see her flaws. I was not blinded by a sense of glamour and always being right. This was great because it made her accessible and it took the pressure off of me to not be a perfect mom. Don’t get me wrong – I do have my moments of genius. Mostly I am ordinary but to my children I am MOM.