Be a Good Mom, Not a Perfect One
Something has shifted in the world of motherhood. It’s different than ever before, and it's not that previous generations of mothers cared for or loved their children less, it’s that our generation puts too much pressure on modern moms to be perfect.
This quest for perfection correlates with several negative trends, such as a significant increase in female alcoholism, a robust number of moms with mental health issues and addictions, and an unrelenting influencer marketing community on social media that does nothing but make today’s moms feel less than worthy.
Two consecutive life events forced me to reevaluate the definition of motherhood and my ability to live up to society’s idealism. My own mother passed away in 2016. It rocked my world and turned it upside down to the point where every day felt disorienting and the most minute task exhausting. During that time, the only impetus to arise from bed was being a mother to my two little boys. Losing a mother and being a mother was all I could think about for a number of years. That laser focus helped me put one foot in front of the other.
Then, I got a divorce. I became less than perfect. I went from being a mom blogger and someone respected in the community as a go-getter, PTA member, involved-in-everything type of person to someone who was judged. How could a perfect mother allow a divorce? How could a perfect mother move out of the family home and purchase her own home? How could a perfect mother start working full-time when before she was working part time so she had infinite amounts of minutes to volunteer and focus on her children? How could a perfect mother do these things?
Somewhere amidst all that darkness, I found a silver lining, or maybe it found me. I no longer had my mother to consult and no longer had my own façade of motherhood to maintain.
I was stripped of everything, exposed.
With the external world a lopsided landscape, I could only turn inward. I was forced to look inside myself and remember the woman I was prior to motherhood when I lived by myself in an apartment in downtown Asheville, dined by myself at Indian and Asian restaurants and ordered bizarre items off the menu. I would write in my journal and read books for hours on end. I experimented with dishes like ceviche and gazpacho. I traveled to new places simply to wander around and explore. I dabbled in all types of music, religions, meditation and yoga styles. I took long, relaxing baths. I was strong and independent with massive dreams and goals.
This phase of my life was adventurous, but it wasn’t easy. I sometimes drank too much, spent more money than I had, did not routinely exercise and occastionally hung out with people who steered me in wrong directions. I wondered who my future husband would be, what career I would finally settle into and whether or not I would become a mother. Back then, it seemed like a lonely, confusing time in my life, but now as I reflect, it was a period of growth, learning, evolving.
Your struggles are assuredly different from mine. Nonetheless, all moms harbor feelings of guilt, regret, shame and melancholy. I'm not an expert, but over the years I've learned some helpful tactics. First and foremost, be gentle with yourself. Getting up every single day and caring for children is hard in every sense of the word. Merely doing that is enough.
Get off social media. You may think scrolling through endless photos of picturesque families, fit moms, luxurious vacations and expensive products is fun, but is it? There’s an old adage that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy," which is so very true. If you must get on social media, cull down the pages and people you follow so your feed is relaxing, motivating and uplifting.
If you’re in a positive, healthy relationship, take care of that union. Today’s families come in all shapes, varieties and sizes. Gone are the days where a traditionl nuclear family is the norm. Whatever your tribe looks like, take care of the adults in the household. Take care of your bodies, your hearts, your souls, take care of each other and take care of the unit. A family is only as strong as the mental health of the adults leading the charge.
Most importantly, remember that your kids love you more than you can imagine. My kids love me more than I can imagine, even though I often feel like I’m not doing enough or that what I am doing isn’t up to par. I was a child of the 1980s. Remember the moms of the 80s? They shoved us outside to play until dark, washed our Keds 1400 times before buying us a new pair of shoes, gave us our big sister's hand-me-downs and told us to be appreciative. A birthday party was an hour-long family get together at McDonalds with the Hamburglar in the background. My mom wasn't a smoker, but my friends' moms often smoked in the car or in the house and us kids didn't think a thing of it. If my mom didn't have time for me because she was cleaning, coloring her hair or working a second job, I moved on and not one time resented her.
As we go into this Mother's Day weekend, remember to put your metaphorical oxygen mask on first so you can breathe life into those beautiful children of yours. Take time to do something that would make your pre-motherhood self proud. From one mom to another, I want you to know you are amazing. But hopefully, at least a little part of you already knew that. Happy Mother's Day.