Once upon a time, my son got an aquarium full of fish for his birthday.
Not long after, I accidentally killed all of his fish.
Something about aerating a tank?!?
This is a fun fact he does not let me forget.
Last week, when I meant to say, “Let’s go, dudes,” to my kids, I said, “Let’s go, boobs!”
In a very loud voice.
Across the house.
My children have not stopped talking about boobs. Lovely.
I yelled at my daughter today for something that was not even a big deal and would not have bothered me on any other day.
But today I am stressed out thinking about some things.
And she got the unfair brunt of my nerves.
I think reading aloud to my kids is basically the ninth circle of Dante’s inferno.
It makes me cotton mouthed and annoyed.
I eat lunch in my dining room with the lights off (less stimulation) and forbid my children to join me.
They don’t listen, of course.
I have ugly moments.
I say words I wish I could take back.
I make promises I don’t keep.
I am an imperfect mom.
I fail everyday.
I have an awesome relationship with my kids.
They talk to me about their day.
I tell old stories.
We hug and kiss.
We laugh til it hurts.
I scratch their backs.
They play with my hair.
They ask hard questions.
We have dance parties during school.
And sing Let It Go in the car.
We giggle at the boys’ crushes.
And beg Chloe to tell us hers (she never does).
They pretend to be grossed out when I kiss their dad.
We talk about the small things in life.
We dream about their future together.
For all of the ways I fail, I am not actually failing my children.
I have probably said this a million times, but I will continue to beat this drum: being an imperfect mom does not make you a bad mom. It makes you normal.
Somewhere along the lines, normal became second-class.
And the unattainable, perfect mom became the standard.
And I would make the case that it’s ruining everyone.
I find that women are hardest on themselves. So let’s forget about you for a moment and think about your children. And the example we set for them.
When your daughter has kids of her own…
She’s been up all night with a teething baby, and it’s her turn to bring snacks to her toddler’s preschool…would you tell her to buy a box of Goldfish and call it a day? Or would you insist she brings whale shaped sandwiches with vegetables made into silly faces?
You’d tell her to bring the damn Goldfish. (You can cuss; she’s an adult now.)
Your son marries a precious girl who :::gasp::: loses her mind days after returning from the most magical honeymoon. Do you want your son to freak out and wonder if he made the wrong decision? Or knowingly buy her brownies, rent a sad movie, and agree that this world is an awful place and how dare they!
So he may not be that intuitive, but at least he saw his mom do this
every month for 18 years a few times and knows to tread lightly.
Perhaps it’s time to treat yourself with the same kindness and respect you would give your grown-up children.
I usually try to be nice, but for a moment, let me be blunt:
(Outside of the obvious of abuse and neglect)
Striving for perfection is probably the worst thing you can do for your children.
People are human. They will always act accordingly. They will be beautifully imperfect. They will succeed. They will fail. They will laugh. They will cry. There will be great joys and horrible losses. Some days are extraordinary. Some days never end.
Letting yourself be human and normal and every thing that comes along with that gives your children the freedom to do the same.
Striving for perfection will leave them anxious, incapable, and distant. While leaving you burned out, bitter, and frustrated.
The great paradox of it all is that relationships are best built in the messiest parts of life.
Every time my son talks about the fish I killed, our whole family laughs at my expense. Not that I recommend killing your children’s animals, but this mistake of mine has made for a very funny memory.
My daughter forgave me quickly after I sincerely apologized. And now she has the tools to handle herself when she loses her mind someday.
You know by now that I barely feed my kids lunch as it is; I am certainly not making food into anything special.
There are times to make childhood magical, of course.
And there are a handful of moms that enjoy making animal-shaped food. For which I say, “Get it, girl. You do you.” I hope you know it’s not about the food.
Our culture is taking the fun out of parenting by putting so much pressure on parents. I would venture to say that if parenting is overwhelming (newborns, notwithstanding) and it all feels like too much…there is a good chance you are putting unnecessary expectations on yourself.
We all do it.
And yet kids require so much less amazingness than we think.
Quality parenting was never meant to be an unachievable high standard.
Your child would rather you sit and talk with them than make every meal from scratch.
A family game of bowling is as fun as an elaborate birthday party. And way less stressful.
Do awesome, memorable things. Of course. Your kids will love it. And so will you. But if every moment is epic, then no moment is epic.
Take away the “should’s” of your life…what you should do, who you should be, how you should act…and instead enjoy who you actually are and what you truly enjoy doing…THAT is the key to being an awesome mom.
The best possible mom for your children is the one you already are.
If my children can love a fish-murdering mom, your children will surely survive eating carrots in their native form.
“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill
This post originally appeared at Six Williams.