But where does this idea of being perfect come from?
I read the words embedded in my comments and mulled them over – me the perfectionist that will make a graphic over because the spacing is off a bit – me the perfectionist who will wander her yard in the morning and find all the flaws in it. Me the perfectionist, who will throw that blanket over the rips in the couch or apologize for the mess or be afraid to admit that there are dirty dishes waiting to be washed. Me the perfectionist who writes about letting go of the perfect simply because she, too, has to constantly put life and joy and worth into perspective.
This perfect mother syndrome. I guess that’s what it could be called. Where and when did the idea of being or having everything perfect get added to the layers of everything a mother has to do? It’s this perfect pressure on us as mothers – this need to be on top of everything constantly – and there doesn’t seem to be space for grace. It’s either perfect or it’s not measuring up. Failing.
I love media. I love pinterest, facebook, television, my iphone, and all of the conveniences of modern world. I love my dishwasher, laundry machine (especially after a weekend of sick kids), and that car that races me from here to there in that never ending scurry to keep going. I love being able to write on a teeny netbook on my front porch in Minnesota and to communicate and form relationships with women all over the world. I love it. It’s a gift, this media, this form of communication, and all of that.
But, I also think that it contributes to this illusion of perfection. You see media and modern communications allows us to give glimpses of lives to others. No longer do you have to travel great distances to see others and to spend time doing life with each other – now you can simple write/share/post a picture of a moment. And you and others get to choose the moment. Most often it’s the highlights – the good moments – and thus a stream of ideals and good moments that should be celebrated becomes the stream of normal. There isn’t a stream of regular, everyday, kids crying in the corner because you wanted them to wear their tennis shoes instead of their flipflops moments. You don’t get the everyday real.
Sometimes I wonder what it was like to be a mother one thousand years ago when there wasn’t this constant stream of information pouring past them constantly. Motherhood was about real survival then – it was this need to keep one’s child alive and fed and clothed and safe. And yes, you and I, we still have that deep intrinsic need. Yet, now on top, there’s this layer of needing to be a certain way. To be the creative mom with the super cool birthday treats. To look a certain way and buy only these clothes. To have homes without rips in the couches and an herb garden on the window sill. To have lives that have wave petunia baskets overflowing on the front porch and handmade crafts dotting the walls. To have <insert anything> to be a better, more funny, more fit, more creative, more on top of it, more anything mother.
But, it’s not real. Real motherhood? Oh, that’s a battleground with legos on the floor and doors slammed in faces and the words I hate you thrown out so quickly over things like losing an ipod. It’s got a mother standing in her kitchen staring into cupboards that are too bare and kids telling you they need money for this next thing and you’re just wondering how you’ll get groceries. It’s full of shoes in the entry way that are strewn everywhere and a pile of laundry that could be scaled and classified as a high point in the landscape in your neighborhood. It’s full of gum on the shoes and cries of hurry up hurry up let’s get going and toddlers who refuse to do anything that day. It’s full of working and wondering and the same thing again and again.
It’s full of mothers whose hearts are lonely. Whose hearts wonder if they are really making a difference. There are women who have given up work or who have to work or those who do both. There are mothers with kids that are sick or kids with special needs or even those who take care of their own parents. There are mothers who look at their lives and feel like they’re just not doing it well enough. There are mothers who are single. They are mothers whose own mother isn’t in the picture. There are so many stories, so many variables, so many options – there is no one perfect mom. Not one.
Sometimes we don’t celebrate the real motherhood. It gets lost in the cloak of perfect – this illusive non tangible ideal that screams at us that being a real mother isn’t enough. To that I say – you are enough. You are enough. Do you need to hear that today? To remember that mothering isn’t defined on the number of actually completed pinterest projects, quirky status updates, artsy pictures, organic meals, etc.? Those things, while they are great and fun and needed at times, well, they don’t define worth. Worth can’t be quantified by external things completed. Worth as a mother comes in the every day. It’s in those moments when you get on your knees and look in a child’s eye and tell them you believe in them and you love them even after they told you that you are the worst mother in the world. It’s in the days when you forget about the rips in the couch and piles of dishes in the sink and the legos on the floor and you welcome a friend in so you can just be.
It’s hard to be real, to breathe, to let go, and yet, this world of need to do’s needs you to celebrate the beauty of your imperfect motherhood story. No one, and I repeat no one, has the perfect motherhood story. You and I and the next mother we all have our moments of stumbling, falling down, and those days when we simply look around and wonder how in the world this story became our life.
Why does your story matter? Why is your story beautiful?
Because it isn’t perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Perfect motherhood would mean the toddler deciding to potty train on day one, the front porch never having bikes and toys strewn about, and days that run like clockwork. Do you know what makes a mother beautiful? Do you know what defines her? It’s her strength in making an imperfect life beautiful. We celebrate the courage, the stick to it type tenacity, the love that we share, and the times when we don’t give up. And those things? Those things happen in the imperfect real world of life. Not the perfect.
If all of the externals were suddenly stripped away from us and you and I were left with just surviving you and I would no longer care about those perfect measuring up parameters of today’s culture. Instead, our life would be spent doing the most simple and yet celebrated things. Feeding our children. Loving them. Protecting them.
You do that now.
Breathe. Don’t define your motherhood story by all you think you should be doing. Define it by all the outstanding things that you already do. I know you have them – step back – just breathe – and start to see them and give yourself credit. I am glad you are not perfect. I am not perfect either. You may have goals that you are reaching for – keep reaching, keep trying, keep giving. But, give yourself the grace to extend grace to yourself. Give yourself credit when credit is due. And begin to see you and all that you already do. Don’t shortchange your story by defining it with the fallacy of the perfect mom.
Your motherhood journey is beautiful because it is your story. Celebrate that story today. You. The mom in the trenches. You the mom on a great day or the mom on a horrible rotten day or the mom on an average normal day.
You are mother. That is powerful. And that in itself is absolutely perfect.