Have you ever beat yourself up for not being the perfect mother?
Ever feel like when it comes to being a mother, you should be good at it from day one, and infallible from that day forward? Or, that you’re a failure if you don’t make your own baby food, catch your child before every fall, look hot for your husband every day, and have a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free dinner on the table every night?
Your rarely spoken, but oh-so-obvious goal? Be the perfect wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, colleague, and mother. All day, every day.
Oh, and look pretty, dress fashionably, stay in shape, know the difference between refined and unrefined sugar, get along with every other mother on the planet, and have an intelligent answer to the question, “What are you reading right now?”
And commemorate the birthday of everyone from your childhood friends to your co-workers with a loving yet humorous Hallmark card that arrives two days early. Oh, and do all of this while raising and being wholeheartedly devoted to a set of children who listen to you with the same level of obedience as Bandit after two weeks of puppy school.
No wonder you’re so tired.
Don’t try too hard, or you’ll look like you’re trying too hard. Don’t take the path of least resistance, or everyone will think you don’t care about your kids. And definitely don’t order that third glass of wine, or you’ll look as drunk as you wish you actually were.
Who put the idea in your head?
The screwed-up, ridiculous, insane, and exhausting idea that you have to be perfect. Was it your mother? Your mother-in-law? Your daughter’s kindergarten teacher? Your exhausting sister-in-law?
Don’t fall into that trap. It’s not their fault. None of those women imposed this idealized version of motherhood on you. You imposed it on yourself. Nobody said you had to be perfect to be loved by your children or their dad. You watched other mothers at their best, compared them to yourself at your worst, and decided you needed to up your game – all day, every day.
People say the truth hurts. And it does. Here’s a truth that I’ve seen proven with thousands of mothers across the world: You’re the reason you’re so tired.
Motherhood is hard. It has never been easy, and it never will be. But we’re all making it harder than it has to be by striving and aiming for perfection. We think it’s the daily duties of motherhood that are wearing us out, but it’s not. It’s our expectations. We don’t allow ourselves just to make cupcakes. We hold ourselves to the standard of knocking a brand-new recipe out of the park while making sure our sugar-high children enjoy each and every moment. It’s not the recipe that’s hard; it’s our expectation of how great the recipe will taste, and how much fun we’ll have along the way, that makes it so hard.
Motherhood is an obstacle course. We’re all faking it until we make it, while secretly knowing that we’ll never actually make it. And while you’re over there trying to put lipstick on a pig with the perfection charade, deep down you know that perfection is the worst possible goal.
Here’s how I know you already know this. I recently conducted a research study with 5,000 mothers across the country, and asked two questions: What kind of mother are you today? And what kind of mother would you like to be? The metric was simple: Plot your answers on a scale of one to five, with one being a terrible mother, and five being the perfect mother. The average answer to the first question was 3.5. Fine. Well done, mamas. You’re above average. Shockingly, when it came to the second question, not a single mother in the entire study said she wanted to be a five. No one wanted to be the perfect mother. When I asked why, one mother quickly responded: Because we hate those perfect moms.
Oh, goodness. But it makes sense. It’s only natural that you hate perfect people. Everyone hates perfect people. It’s the reason we’d all rather share a glass of wine with Monica Lewinsky than Martha Stewart. I get it. The research results make sense. But here’s what I don’t get. If you hate perfect mothers so much, then why are you trying to be one? The next time you feel overwhelmed by a weekday to-do list that would intimidate a professional event planner, or find yourself jumping to clear a bar that you’ve set entirely too high, remember this mantra: Stop trying to be the perfect mother you hate.
The more flawed you are, the more interesting you are. The more mistakes you make, the more human you are. The more fallible you are, the more likable you are. The more you talk about your challenges, the more help you get.
Think about your friends. How many of them are perfect? None. And how much do you love them? A lot. Being a mother is important, but just because a job is important doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at it. You know perfection isn’t possible, and you know people pretending to be perfect aren’t likable.
So set your sights on being more likable and less perfect, and the world will be a better place. And you’ll be less tired.