Moms, We’re Imperfect! (and that’s okay!)

by Kimberly Blaker

“I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.”—Mitch Albom

As moms, we all know Albom’s statement is unequivocally true. We feel it through and through from the moment our children are born until we take our last dying breath. Our love for and devotion to our kids shines through in daily selfless acts of caring for and raising our kids and in most of our interactions with them. Even after they’ve grown, our deep love and concern for them endures.

We don’t always recognize or give ourselves credit for it (and to our frustration and regret, our kids don’t always either), but even many of the mistakes we make along the way are the result of loving, honorable intentions. Admittedly, we do also sometimes falter despite our love for our children. After all, we’re only human. But when we do err with our kids, particularly in ways we know better, we’re often our own harshest critics.

The thing is, despite the depth of our love for our kids and the plethora of child guidance material at our fingertips, the answers to raising kids aren’t always so black and white. Add to that, every mom has her own unique combination of childhood and life experiences, temperament, and personality, among other factors that affect her decisions and behaviors in parenting. Even the unique characteristics of each of our own children play a role in this dynamic.

Basically, all moms have strengths and weaknesses. In most ways, we totally rock at being a mom. In some areas, we have to work a little harder. And, for most of us, there’s probably an area or two where we may downright stick, harsh as it may sound. Inevitably, it’s the areas where we don’t excel that we often use to compare ourselves to other moms we perceive to be perfect. Then we browbeat ourselves.

All this makes me think back to being a kid and playing house and with dolls. In roleplaying a mom, kids mimic to their dolls (or siblings and friends who are playing the part of their children), what they experience and witness at home with their own moms. We’ve likely seen our own children do the same. From this, we can glimpse how we as kids began to formulate ideas on how to be a mom, or dad. We’ve probably all watched our own children in awe over what tender, loving little moms (or dads) they are to their baby dolls. It’s inspiring and tells you what a great job you’ve done. But then, the completely unexpected happens. Your child slips in one of your less than proud moments of being a mom. Ouch!

As we all grow, we develop more independent ideas on the best ways to mom, based on our own experiences, what we’ve seen in other families or on television, and our personalities. So we formulate what the perfect mom looks like.

My mom, for example, played a big role in the formation of my own mom style. When my sisters and I were young, she was very involved and provided us plenty of enrichment and fun. We did crafts, played games, had parties and sleepovers, took trips to the library, went for walks and bike rides, and so much more. My mom was also a Camp Fire Girls leader for my younger sisters, and I got to be her big helper. My mom cooked, baked, and kept a clean home. She also taught me about money, responsibility, generosity, kindness, and so many other valuable lessons, skills, and traits.

Still, like any other mom, she was imperfect. I knew the ways I wanted to be different, or better.

So when my kids were born, I let these lessons guide me in parenting my own kids. Throughout their childhood, I strove to be the best mom I could be. In fact, I was a perfectionist. Despite all this, I still fell far short of being a perfect mom. So over the years, I did my fair share of berating myself, even after my kids had grown.

That’s especially easy to do when we watch other moms, who from the outside, seem so perfect at moming. Add to that, because of our deep love for our kids, it’s painful when we fail them.

Thankfully, now that my kids are grown, my mom has set me straight. She often points out what a great mom I’ve been. She’s always amazed by my patience with my kids (though admittedly, there were times it ran thin, and still does). As I mentioned, moms are particularly good at noticing in others the areas where they lack.

This makes me think about what I notice in my own daughter who’s now raising two young kids. I always admire how much time she spends just cuddling with them. I’ve always wished I had done better with that. Not that I never cuddled them. I’ve just never been good at relaxing and always had trouble sitting still.

The point I’m trying to make is that each and every mom is wonderful in her own ways. No two moms are alike—and none of us is perfect. In fact, always striving to be a perfect mom, which is unattainable, can undermine being the best moms we can be. When we become focused on perfection and comparing ourselves to those we see as ideal moms, we lose sight of what’s most important.

In fact, when we expect perfection from ourselves, without realizing it, we often come to expect perfection from our kids, because having perfect kids is necessary to the facade of being a perfect mom. That’s not only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy for our kids because it teaches them to be perfectionists. They also fail to learn self-acceptance.

So am I saying we shouldn’t try to be better moms? Of course not. What I’m getting at is moms need to recognize their own strengths and value themselves for who they are. While striving to improve your weaknesses, don’t expect perfection, and practice self-forgiveness and self-acceptance. Rather than shooting for an unobtainable goal, just focus on being the best mom you can be.

Despite the imperfections of every mom, there’s one thing moms of all ages and generations have in common. It’s true, ideals and parenting methods change over generations as society evolves, new knowledge is gained, and information becomes more and more accessible. Two things have and will always remain constant—a mother’s deep love and unfailing devotion to her kids—and the insurmountable value of moms to their kids throughout their lives.

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