Are you a perfectionist? I totally am, though you might not believe it if you saw the inside of my van or dropped by my house unannounced. Even if you’re not a perfectionist, you may still feel pressure from the rest of the world to do all the things and somehow have it all together. Being the perfect mom was subconsciously my goal for years. I know I’m not alone; I’ve talked to lots of other moms who have felt the same way. But I’m here to tell you confidently from experience: There is no such thing as a perfect mom!
My “perfectmomism” all started before I ever even conceived a child. I knew I wanted to have kids in the future, and had started making mental lists of all the things I would and wouldn’t do as a mom. I wouldn’t gain extra pregnancy weight and would return to my pre-baby weight quickly and easily. I would breastfeed my babies for the entire first year, and it would be a beautiful wonderful blissful experience. I would feed my kids only organic foods, and they would eat what we’re eating and not be picky eaters (like my friends’ annoying kids). I was going to stay home with my kids, and maybe even home school them (because, “How could I possibly send my kids to those evil daycare people?!?”) My babies would all sleep through the night by three to four months because I was going to train them to do so. I would never let my house get too dirty. (“Why don’t my friends clean their sticky, smudged, food-covered walls? Do they not notice it?!?”) I would talk to and read to my babies constantly, not allow them to watch TV till they’re two, and limit TV to 30 minutes a day thereafter. I thought that if I did all of these things (and more), I would have the most intelligent, least ADHD, healthiest, most well-behaved children ever, and everyone would think I was an amazing mom and come to me for parenting advice.
HA! Out of all the things listed above, I would say that maybe 3% of them actually happened. I gained 53 pounds in my first pregnancy, and now fluctuate around 10-15 pounds above my pre-baby weight. I had just about every breastfeeding issue in the book with my first baby and ended up exclusively pumping for months and later supplementing with formula. (Also, I did not enjoy breastfeeding most of the time.) I managed to feed my first baby mostly organic stuff and almost no sweets the first 2 years of his life (and ironically he’s now extremely picky and eats mostly carbs). But by my third baby, we were ordering pizza once a week and letting the kids eat cereal off the floor.
I discovered that though I liked being home with my kids for the first 18 months or so, by age two it was best for everyone that they go to anywhere else for at least part of the week. Though my first baby started sleeping through the night at 12 weeks (so lucky, I know!), my second and third taught me that sleep training is a bit of a joke. Because as they grow, they will go through all kinds of random night-waking and fear-of-the-dark phases and ear infections and throwing up all over their beds and coming to our bed in the middle of the night and staying awake till 10:30 during the transition out of taking naps and I WILL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.
I could go on, but let’s fast forward nine-plus years and three kids later, as I sit here laughing at my pre-kids self! I see now that my expectations were WAY too high, and even if I “did all the right things,” there was no guarantee I’d have perfect kids and be the perfect mom. Because those goals are IMPOSSIBLE. Since becoming a parent, I have become much less judgmental of other parents, and much less judgmental of myself! Let me repeat that last part: I have become much less judgmental of myself. This is something I have to practice daily. And do you wanna hear something ironic? Sometimes I catch myself “judging my judging.” It’s a HARD habit to break! But you know what? It’s OK that I struggle with this. Perfectionism is not a totally bad thing. Yes, it can drive you to try to achieve an unattainable ideal, which can cause frustration and disappointment (and sometimes lead to depression). But it can also motivate you to meet your goals.