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Friday, June 3, 2011

My Obsession With Motherhood Perfection

It's 11:00 p.m. and once again, I'm lying in bed reviewing the day and just my life in general. Like a heavy weight on my chest, confusion, frustration, guilt, and hopelessness settles in. I know I am not the perfect mother, and that bothers me. I want to be perfect. I just do. I know it sounds conceited, perhaps even stupid, but I really, really want to be perfect at this whole motherhood thing.

Let me just paint a picture for you of what I perceive to be the perfect mother.

The alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., and rather than roll over and go back to sleep as Aaron gets up, I smile at him and get out of bed with him. I spend the next half hour cheerfully helping him get ready for work... fixing his lunch, getting him breakfast, etc. I kiss him good-bye at the door, then sit down with a glass of tea and my Bible for at least 15 minutes before I jump into the shower. I take the time to dress nicely, do my hair, and put on make-up.

As my children wake up, I cheerfully greet them, tell them how wonderful they are, and feed them breakfast. After they've all eaten, I cheerfully and patiently walk them through their morning routine charts, helping them get dressed, brush their teeth, and do the girlies' hair in some cute way. I make sure each of them do a small morning chore to teach them the importance of sharing the work load as a family.

During all this time, I take time to praise them and tell them just how much I love them. I do not get frustrated or irritated when the milk is spilled three times, or when they forget why they're in the bathroom, or when they mess in their diaper right after I change it. I never lose my smile when they protest to the morning routine. Every wrench thrown into the gears of the morning are viewed as opportunities to bless my children.

All the kids and I spend some fun time learning about God together every morning. These Bible lessons are complete with activities, games, and hands on projects. I would then put Faith down for her nap, and get the boys started on fun activities. The rest of the morning, Cherith and I just have fun "doing school". It would be fun, because I took the time to plan well. I've spent hours on the computer, putting together fun and educational cirriculums that are sure to teach and satisfy the curious minds of my children. I would spend special time with Daryn in the afternoon, nurturing his curiosity in reading. I would, at some point in the day, spend one on one time with Ethan, doing whatever his little 2 year person desires at the time.

I would prepare healthful and delicious meals for my family. My children would happily eat every last bite, and I would rest assured that all their nutrient needs are being met.

I would keep my home neat and tidy at all times to fuel their creativity and reinforce good organizational skills.

I would always be happy and full of joy that bubbles into lots of laughter.

I would never yell. Never harshly reprimand. Never ignore their ceaseless chatter. I would always shine love on them at all times. I would always train them and correct them with a kind and gentle spirit. I would always set aside what I am doing and listen to them with my undivided attention.

When they say, "You're the best mom ever!", I could smile and know that they were absolutely right.

Friends, this is what I want... really, really want. But why? Why would I want such perfection? I don't really know. Perhaps part of it is a built in "judgement system".

As a kid, teen, and young adult, I remember critiquing the mothering style of every mother I'd meet. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? As a pregnant woman and then as a mother to my first baby, I had parenting all figured out. I know just what I would do and what I wouldn't, because I knew how to be the perfect mother. Other moms who did not live up to my set of perfect standards lacked mothering skills and had things to learn. The mother at the grocery store with the screaming toddler needed to reevaluate her discipline methods.

With all this judging and critical critiquing, I've found that even I cannot live up to my own standards of what makes a great mom. I judge myself. Tell myself what I need to change, and then expect myself to change those things over night and to get it right from that day forward.

I've completely changed my attitude toward other mothers. Now that I've had four children, I know that it doesn't matter how "perfect" you are, there are just bad days. Kids get tired, grumpy, disobedient, and just plain unpleasant. Diapers explode, laundry gets forgotten, cheerios fly across the entire house miraculously, the bathroom floor gets peed and pooped on. Babies get snotty noses and fuzz on their necks. Moms can seriously get overloaded, tired, worn out, frustrated, and just plain "done with the mommy thing". It happens. It's life, and in this life there will be trial and tribulations.

But when it comes to me, I have a hard time being ok with not being perfect. And I'm not sure how to undo that thinking.


  1. I KNOW THIS ONE! LOL. I almost never have the answers to things, but actually, I've been struggling with this issue for a long time. The feeling that I have to "enough" in some way to have value. I have to be good enough, the definition of which changes (sometimes daily, hourly...) and finally my therapist said, look at your children. Does it matter what they do? Would you love them any differently if they weren't beautiful, weren't smart? Do you love them when they're sick and melting down and generally less than charming? And the answer is...yes. Even if they served no purpose, even if they were a complete drain on my energy...I'd love them just the same.

    And I called my mom, of course. Because she does love me as much as I love them. I am enough. And I'm enough for God, too. Therese of Liseaux said famously that flowers are like souls in God's garden, and if all he had were the great spiritual leaders (the floral equivalent of, say, roses) he would get bored. She was content to be his "little flower" because she knew he loved each flower the same, no matter the type.

    You are a phenomenal and strong woman. You do a lot for your family, for people you know, for complete strangers. You are always good enough. Even if there's hay on the floor and the children eat lunchables because you can't get lunch together.

    Remember the love you have for your children. You are loved the same way. You are enough.

  2. I know the feeling. I want to be perfect too. But we never will be. and it really wouldn't be very helpful to our kids for us to be that way, 'cause they aren't perfect, and they will be functioning in a world full of un-perfect people as well. In you they have the perfect mom for them that God picked out, and through you they will learn many perfect lessons for true life. Keep on keeping on, and give herself a break. take a deep breath. Relax. You are doing a wonderful job. hugs.

  3. give *yourself* a break....not herself :)

  4. The thing is, even that isn't *perfection,* my friend. That's the Stepford wives. :D
    I could do all those things cheerfully -- and even lovingly! -- and if it weren't rooted in grace and a desire to be found in Christ, it would be worthless. Christ is what matters... the Cheerios and the laundry are just fluff.

  5. therefore -- be rooted and established in Christ (which isn't the same as reading your Bible for 15 mins a day ;) and let the rest take care of itself. Sometimes I fail but God is glorified.

  6. Thank you to everyone. There is truth in all your words.

    Thanks, Sharon, for the reminder to be rooted in Christ.

  7. In any relationship, especially close ones, our character is being built, so endure with gladness. Don't give up! No one is perfect! If we endure unto the end we will see the fruit of our labors! God bless you, Brenda! You are a great mother! If you weren' wouldn't be expressing the desires to be a better mother! It takes work, but in the end you will see the fruit of your labor! I love you! Mom

  8. Thanks for this post! I need to be reminded that I am not alone in the imperfect mothering world. I am a stay at home mom to two boys, 10 and a half months apart, and it gets frustrating at times. I have a hard time sometimes dealing with the reality that its terribly difficult to keep the house clean and keep two babies happy at the same time. I've been slowly learning to let go of the being a 'perfect' mother and wife wish, life is chaotic at times, but at least we have love.