early on in my career as a parent, I realized that the term “perfect mother” was an unachievable notion. it is sadly, one that is thrown about, but what would a perfect mother really be like? how could you do this job perfectly and keep you sanity?
when my daughter was quite small I started seeing a counselor due to fits of uncontrollable anger I was experiencing. she quickly diagnosed my perfectionism and asked me “would you want your daughter to have to live up to the ideal of perfection? would you want to be friends with a perfect woman?”. those were life-altering questions for me, because I realized that I would never want to lay the burden of perfection on anyone I loved, especially my child. and I would never want to have a perfect friend. how could I ever relate to her? how could I share my struggles with her? or complain with her?
I started reflecting on the things I was doing as a mother because of the various voices in my head telling me that these actions were hallmarks of a “good mother”: my mom had once said “a good mom makes chicken soup once a week”. actually, what most likely happened is that i made the soup, told her about it, and she said "you're such a good mother". which, in my perfectionistic baby-brained sleep-deprived state, translated to become "make chicken soup every week from scratch if you want to be a good mother". so I would make the freakin' soup and my daughter would refuse to eat it, and I would lose it because she was inhibiting me from being a ‘good mother’. didn't she understand that I made the freakin' soup for her?!! ....!!!!!
my mother-in-law had made a passing comment on how my house was so clean, so I kept it as spotless as possible, and had these horrible conversations in my head while I was cleaning, of her praising me, or of how my house was so much cleaner than this woman who was being mean to me, etc... and then my poor toddler would dump her raisins on the floor (on purpose!) and I’d rage.
I realized that my desire to be a perfect mom was making me a horrible one.
a friend of mine who I really admire serves her family popcorn for dinner on Sundays so that they can relax and watch little house on the prairie together. I have yet to reach this level of nonchalance, perhaps because if I don’t eat meat in a meal I’m ravenous an hour later, or perhaps the Canadian food guide is like a chain around my neck. but I aspire to popcorn dinners. or something akin to them.
the goal of our parenting is not to raise perfect people, but healthy ones. people that know both their flaws and God’s grace. I want children who will laugh at themselves instead of others. who practice gratitude daily. who enjoy life deeply and see God’s best. who trust their imperfections and the world’s imperfections to a perfect God. and here’s the secret: my children will not achieve this healthy state if they have a ‘perfect’ mother.
it was a good talk for me to have to speak out loud. a beating away of the voices that circle my head like crows, a murder of crows, calling me to guilt and shame and slavery to perfectionism. there are these life-long battles we fight that can feel so long and hard and dreary, sloth-ing our way through the mud, hesitant to look back on how long the road is behind us, terrified of looking forward at all that is to come. tired. then you speak, and bring things hidden back out into the light, and for a while you are carried by the prayers and understanding faces and tearful eyes of others.
and i remembered that some of my most profound moments of mothering have occurred when i am apologizing.
i wish for you a week of healthy choices, silenced voices, and cherished friendships.