The Impracticality of Perfection

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It doesn’t matter if you’re expecting, or if you have three children. Your child can be an infant, a third grader, or heading off to college this summer. As moms, we strive to give our children the best, and at many times, we strive to be the best, too. We envision ourselves as being highly organized, well balanced, even tempered, and punctual. Our homes are clean, the laundry’s done, our significant others are happy, and so are our children.

It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? Too bad it’s far from reality. In many ways, we’ve realized this internally, but admitting it openly seems to be the problem among moms. We expect perfection of ourselves. We demand perfection of other moms. We’ve heard before that we must stop, but I want to point out the impracticality perfection holds in hopes that it’s enough to inspire others not to shoot for it. Excellence is great, but perfection…that’s almost like a wide open noose for us to walk into.

Breastfeeding, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, vaccinating, staying home, working from home, going to work but seeking grand daycare and nanny options – these are all the battleground on which we fight to remain true to ourselves. There’s science and statistics that support what the best options are, but not always are the best options accessible, or easy, or possible. That’s okay. Perhaps you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford an amazing nanny, who can pump at work and produce enough milk for a surplus, and attachment parenting is working well for you and your little one. Your efforts are admirable and should be celebrated, but don’t take that as license to rake the struggling single mom over the coals for placing her child into the only daycare she could afford.

The problem with demanding perfection of ourselves is that we set ourselves up for disappointment. Most days, our children inspire us and make us happy. Some days, our children drive us crazy, and we want nothing more than to banish them to some far away (but totally safe) place (like Grandma’s house) so that we can just vacuum the living room rug in peace or run to the grocery store without any distractions or obstacles. On those days when you’re at your wits end because once again the house is a mess and you’re exhausted and your child is unsatisfied with all of your efforts to keep them fed, clean, and happy, the pressure of perfection makes us crack. We measure ourselves on an imaginary scale of good parenthood, when in actuality, the fact that your child is still alive and healthy means you’ve succeeded.

The problem with expecting perfection of others means we again set ourselves up for disappointment, but additionally, we banish others into the same dark realm we find ourselves in when we feel we fall short of the imaginary perfection line. It’s not a nice feeling. It’s not what momhood is (or should be) about.

Encourage your mom friend to use cloth diapers if you do, but don’t chastise her if she chooses not to. Don’t judge the mom who chooses a hospital birth over home birth, or vice versa. Breastfeeding worked for you and your child, but it doesn’t work for everyone. We do the best we can. The “best” just looks different on different people.

Be practical in your expectations of motherhood. Aim high, but don’t be hard on yourself if and when you fall short. The best is great, and we all want it, but we can’t all send our children to Ivy League schools and buy them brand new cars on their 16th birthdays. It’s impractical. Remember that the next time you’re standing in the shower pondering whether or not you’re getting it (momhood) right.

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