My mom has always said that she hated Mother’s Day. Especially as a young mom. She says that every Mother’s Day, she would go to church and hear people speak about how wonderful, selfless, patient, and kind mothers are. How sacred their role is and how God-like they are. This was all intended to honor mothers and elevate the role of motherhood. What my mother came away with, however, was a gut full of guilt. She never felt she measured up to that idyllic “Mother’s Day Mom”.
In all my childhood memories she was wonderful, selfless, patient, and kind. She did fill a sacred, God-like role, but in her self-analyzing critiques she knew her humanness. She knew she sometimes lost her patience, as anyone would, wrangling six rambunctious kids. There were days she found herself knee-deep in laundry, and she didn’t feel the joy of motherhood. As my dad worked long days, she found she was exerting all the energy she had just “holding down the fort”, not building forts like the perfect “Mother’s Day Mom” would.
Before I had kids, I couldn’t understand how my mom could dislike Mother’s Day. That would be like disliking your own birthday. Now that I’m a mom myself, I see exactly where she was coming from.
Moms are amazing; motherhood is amazing. But moms are still mere mortals. And mortals aren’t ever perfect 100% of the time. But somehow we all seem to cling to this picture of perfection. We compare our worst days to a composite picture of everyone else’s best moments.
We all have strengths, and those strengths all seem to comprise this ideal, “Mother’s Day Mom”. The one who makes s’mores over the stove, sits and talks to each child individually every night, makes the best homemade everything, never loses her temper, keeps a perfect home, never uses the TV as a babysitter, and feeds her family deliciously healthy organic food, all while running marathons and writing best-sellers. (If I just described you with that list, no need to read further.) None of us will ever be her. Not all at once. But there is a little piece of each of us in her. We can feel guilty because we aren’t all of her, or we can recognize that the idea of this “Mother’s Day Mom” exists because of the goodness that exists in us. We aren’t perfect, but we do our best each day.
Often, as I talk to readers of this blog, or facilitate training classes, people make comments like, “What you write is amazing! It makes me feel guilty that I’m not doing better.” Or, “You must be the funnest mom!” I don’t want anyone reading these post to walk away with the same guilty feeling my mom would get on Mother’s Day. And the truth is, I’m not much more fun than any other mom on the block. Here’s the confession part. I lose my temper. I mess up with my kids. There are plenty of days when my boys would say I was no fun at all. As a teacher, sometimes my lesson plans fall flat. Sometimes I ask the children I have taught what they have learned, and they stare at me blankly.
I write these posts, hoping that they will help someone be a bit more successful. And quite frankly, much of the time that “someone” is myself. A lot of the posts I write are the ones I need the most help with. That’s why they’re on my mind.
Yesterday I wrote about the importance of holding ourselves to the same standards we expect of children. Well, here’s a similar challenge. Let’s have the same patience with ourselves that we try to have with our children. Let’s allow ourselves to be successful failures.
Tsh Oxenreider, over at simplemom.net, writes frequently about allowing ourselves grace. I particularly enjoyed her encouragement here to pursue excellence but not perfection. It is often in our self-berating pursuit of perfection that we actually become counterproductive. Not to mention, unhappy.
So my Mother’s Day gift to all of us (yes, even you male readers out there if you’re still with us) is for us to stop using perfect principles to beat ourselves up, and begin using them to lift ourselves up.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Photo by AD-Passion.