I have an imaginary friend. Actually, it’s more like an imaginary frenemy. I often feel her peering over my shoulder as I weigh the many options of parenthood. I see posts of her impeccable toddler on Facebook. I overhear her discussing how she just had to make exercise a priority to get to the gym and lose her baby weight. I smell her all-natural, organic cooking wafting over my store bought spaghetti sauce. She is The Perfect Mom.
Theoretically, I know The Perfect Mom is not real. She is a compilation of the ideals I value as a mom. She’s the nutrition-conscious, behavior-guiding, Pinterest-making, intellectually-enriching, immaculately-organizing superhuman standard that I measure myself against. At moments of maternal insecurity, she breezes in and sprinkles doubts of my parenting competency. Take Valentine’s Day. Around 2 a.m. I hear her whisper in my ear, “Store-bought Valentines, huh? His first year at preschool and your sending store-bought Valentines? You spent 2 hours on Saturday watching The Carrie Diaries. Maybe you should have been thinking about your son’s first Valentine’s Day party. I was making monogrammed gift bags full of homemade treats so my child knows how much I love him. Your son probably won’t notice that his don’t have candy or stickers attached to them like everyone else’s do. I wonder what you can tell him if he asks. I sure hope he doesn’t cry.”
I woke up in a panic. It was Friday. I had both kids going to two different day cares. There was no way I could get the kids out the door in time to run to a store, get them both out of their car seats, find some Valentine enhancements, get them both back in the car seats, drop off one and then get the other and myself to school. Hmmmmm. Well, I’m not a perfect mom, but I can improvise. After dropping him off, I retrieved a bag of Dum Dums left over from Halloween and in a flash I had taped them to his Valentines. Manically, I dashed into to his classroom deposited them. Glancing around the room at the other students’ Valentines I felt relieved when I saw they all had some extra trinket attached to their cards. My son would not be left out. Guilt be gone!
I reflected on this momentary insanity as I looked through my son’s Valentines bag that evening. Not every kid had attached candy. Some Valentines were handmade, some were store bought. There were two very thoughtful gift bags full of treats. And I knew that like this bag of goodies, every mom is different. Every mom does what she can the best that she can. It’s a fine line between striving to be your best and comparing yourself to an unrealistic idea of perfection.
Motherhood isn’t static. It’s constantly evolving. My best isn’t the same every day. Sleep debt, my family’s health, or our family calendar all impact how I process the day. Some days I’m hitting home runs past The Perfect Mom and some days I’m warming the bench. But on those second-string days, a smile from The Bear or a snuggle from Baybay remind me that even though I’m not The Perfect Mom, I AM the perfect mom for my family. And that’s a winner.
Have you ever encountered The Perfect Mom? Comment below to let me know how she manifests in your world.