I was the perfect mom, when I was pregnant. I was going to do everything right! I had many ideas of the kind of mom I was going to be. What I found was that more often than not, the ideals that I envisioned didn't match the reality of my life. From some of my other blog posts, you know that colic and Postpartum Depression can throw wrenches into the best laid plans. When your ideals collide with the messy reality of motherhood, the results can leave you feeling anxious, depressed, and guilty. In her article, Guilt, Motherhood, and the Pursuit of Perfection, Karen Kleiman, says, “Guilt is so pervasive that many mothers, particularly those who are depressed, presume it is a natural part of mothering, one that is inescapable in this day and age.” I fell into those feelings of guilt, but am finding my way out.
Before he was born, I decided that all of my son's baby food was going to be organic and homemade. My little foodie would love creamed kale and braised fish. I was going to baby wear all the time, especially while preparing all of this healthy food. Then, to relax, I would do yoga, with my baby strapped to me. I had read that baby wearing would put the child in a quiet, alert state in which he would contentedly enjoy the world around him, while dozing on and off. I hadn't yet learned that babies come into the world with their own personalities and temperaments. Or that sometimes those temperaments are called colic. He hated being in the baby carrier. He would scream and beat his head against my chest. One sleep deprived afternoon, after another unsuccessful attempt at baby wearing, I tore the thing off, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. We both sat and cried together.
Last night for dinner, I fed my two year old chips and cheese dip. I bribed him with chocolate in between bites just so he would eat that. In that moment, it was like I was floating above the dining room table and looking down on myself. Looking down on my tired, frustrated self who was trying to poke food into my toddler's mouth. Any kind of food. Afterward, I turned on a cartoon for him so I could clean up and have a few minutes to myself. It was a far cry from the perfect mom I thought I would be.
During pregnancy, I was insistent that he would never watch tv. That lasted until one day when I was too sick to care. As I laid on the couch with hot tea and tissues, I turned on the classic movie, Annie. He was mesmerized. His eyes seemed to say, Why have you been hiding this colorful, singing world from me? Sure, I was probably ruining him, but oh, it was so nice to just lie there for a little while.
Before I got pregnant, I worked in a Waldorf inspired preschool. All of the toys were natural and nature based. The idea being that with simple, open ended toys, children were free to come up with their own games and ideas. Feeling the realness and solidness of wooden toys was, energetically, more pleasing than plastic toys. I loved this philosophy and shared these ideas with my family. When I went over to my in-laws one day, my mother in law was so excited to show me some baby toys she had gotten. These plastic monstrosities filled the living room. I tried to hide the ugly look on my face. “Oh wow,” I said. “I'm trying to be a little bit more deliberate in the toys he has. A little more quiet and natural. I think these will be great for when he comes to visit over here.” My mother in law smiled and said, “Well, I have some blankets up in the attic too. Is he allowed to have blankets? Maybe he can just cover up with leaves, after he plays with his sticks.” Hmm, she finally got it!
Since then, I have relaxed my expectations, and also allowed myself to let go of how I think it should be. My dad called the other day to tell me he found the perfect Christmas gift for my son. “It's like a rocking horse,” he said, “but looks like a John Deere tractor!” “Oh,” I said. “Oh.” I look around our small play room and stop myself from saying that it must be pretty big, and green. He sounded so excited and proud of himself for finding the perfect gift. I said,“Oh, I'm sure he'll love it, Dad,” as I thought about how to make room for a big, green tractor in the middle of our house. The thing is, my son probably will love it. It's not necessarily what I would include in my little world, but that doesn't make it wrong.
There's an old saying that goes, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” It's okay to make plans, read books and articles, think about what's important to you and your family. Just remember that part of being a parent is learning to go with the flow and accept that things might not be how you pictured them. As Allison Cooper said in her blog post, A Letter To Myself, Before Becoming a Mom, “seek balance, not perfection. You are much too hard on yourself.” How do you become the perfect mom? Relax. Let go of the idea that you will be the perfect mom. You won't be, but you will be the best mom that you can be.