A recurrent theme I hear over and over from moms is a desire to be the best mom possible. They want to be able to give their kids every opportunity possible to grow and thrive in life, keep their household running smoothly, feed their family wholesome, nutritious meals, and move up the ladder at their job as well. Despite all of the extra duties being a mom adds to their plate, moms continue to hold themselves to the highest standards. But the reality is, there is no such thing as a perfect mother. Perfection implies that we do everything flawlessly and that there is no room for mistakes.
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF PERFECTION
Why is this mindset so damaging? The reason is that expecting ourselves to be a perfect mom is an unachievable goal. When our sole focus is on being the best at everything we do, we tend to focus more on what we aren’t doing well instead of what we are. Because it’s impossible to do everything right as a mom, if we believe we must be perfect, then when we make mistakes, we are bound to feel like a failure.
OUR KIDS ARE WATCHING US
More than that, our children are watching us as moms. Additionally, our kids are more intuitive than we often give them credit for. They are absorbing our unsaid messages about perfection as well. Thereby, our kids can start to believe that making mistakes means that they are a failure too. Just like kids make mistakes all the time and learn as they go, so do moms. No matter how long you’ve been a mom or how many kids you have, kids are constantly throwing us for a loop. As such, the responsibilities and things we must attend to as a mom change as well. Life circumstances affecting moms, such as medical or mental health issues, losses in the family, moving to a new home, changing careers, changes in finances, or relationship strain with a spouse or partner can all make handling mom duties more challenging. So instead of striving for perfection, if we change our mindset and expectations to instead try to be a “good enough” mom, we can find that our feelings about ourselves change too. In the end, we can feel more peace and satisfaction in knowing that we are doing “enough”.
FOUR WAYS TO EMBRACE IMPERFECTION
1) Realize that being a mom is a marathon and not a sprint.
Being a mom is a lifelong job. Therefore, expecting that we give our utmost best each and every day is just unrealistic. We all have days when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, are more cranky and impatient with our kids, forget to sign our kid’s school permission slip, pick them up late from soccer practice, or feel inattentive when the story our child is telling us drags on with no end in sight. When (not if!) we have these days, remind yourself that tomorrow will be a new day. Moreover, remind yourself of all the times your kids have had cranky days where they didn’t listen well, got into arguments with their siblings, or accidentally broke something in the house. Just like we forgive them and put their behavior into a longer-term perspective, understanding that one day doesn’t define our kid’s character, neither should a day like that define us as a mom.
2) Change the order of your priorities: yourself, spouse/partner, then kids.
This is a tough sell for many women. By nature, many moms put their family before themselves. It’s also easy to prioritize our kids over our spouse. But the reality is, the reason our priority list should start with ourselves, then our spouse, and our kids last makes sense when you think about it. When we first ensure that our own needs are met, we have more to share with others. Putting our spouse or partner as our second priority ensures that we are keeping the communication lines open as a partnership and helps model to our kids that we together as parents are a united front. When you and your spouse or partner are feeling cared for, you together have more energy to care for your children.
3) Consider your child’s love language.
When you know what makes your child feel most cared for and loved, you can better focus your energy in that area. Not familiar with love languages? Read “The 5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The love languages include physical touch (such as hugs or snuggling), words of affirmation (like “you are so kind!”, “great job on your book report!”), quality time (putting a puzzle together with your child, going for a bike ride together), gifts (pretty obvious huh J), and acts of service (making a special snack for your child, braiding your child’s hair). With this information, if you know that your child feels most cared for when they get quality time together, focus your energy there by deliberately planning even a small chunk of time together each day, like reading a book together.
4) Model a healthy expression of your feelings.
Kids learn so much from us, including how to express and process emotions. When we show that it’s normal to have days where we are happy, sad, defeated, frustrated, or angry, our kids get the message that it’s okay for them to have days like that too. Not only that, but we can also model how to cope when we are experiencing different feelings. When we as moms are angry, taking some time to ourselves, taking deep breaths, or counting to ten can model to our children how they can work through their own anger.
IT’S A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
Motherhood is a journey all about growth and persistence. Along that journey, there are feelings all moms will encounter at one point (or many!): worry, fear, anger, annoyance, loneliness, sadness, exhaustion, joy, gratefulness, content, surprise, and ambivalence. To sum up, when we know that all moms have days where they feel like nothing is going right and remind ourselves that we are always given the blessing of another new day, we can help back ourselves off the proverbial cliff and give ourselves grace.
Wellspring Women’s Counseling is here to support you during all of the ups and downs of motherhood. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation today to begin.