Delusion of Perfect Mothering

I feel vulnerable writing this post because I fear if I claim some triumph in parenting, surely it will be put to the test in the coming days.  In addition to the challenge of rarely being able to rest on our laurels as mothers, we make our lives worse by comparing ourselves to the multitude of better, perfect mothers out there.

The Beast

I was reminded that I am not the only one who has this perfect mother delusion when I ran into a friend at the supermarket the other day.  She commented how well behaved my children were in the market, especially as compared to her two children.  I had to chuckle because

  1. We were on our way to the zoo and they knew that it would ruin their fun day if they acted up. (Yes, I threatened them, just a little.)
  2. About one week prior I had to leave the very same store because my two year old daughter had a full-on-tantrum.  Here’s the story:

One sunny afternoon I ventured into the market to exchange some diapers (my well-intentioned hubby bought wrong size).  When putting my 2 year-old into the shopping cart she begged to be able to walk.  I knew better than to let her loose in the store, so of course I said No.  She protested, loudly, but I finally got her strapped in.  Ignoring the cues that would lead to my eventual defeat against a 2 year-old’s will, I told myself: This will only take a few minutes.

Maybe I should have left once she started crying, or maybe once she started her Houdini escape from the seat strap, or maybe once the ungodly screeches began – it is all a blur now…I managed to make it to customer service to tell the nice young woman that I needed to exchange the diapers once I picked up some other things (I was already there, wasn’t I?).  Mind you, I was communicating all this over my daughter’s crying, screeches, and howling.  And I was trying my best to ignore the cold stares of other shoppers (or maybe they were sympathetic, I was just too mortified to perceive that).

Thinking I still had it under control, I went to the produce section on my way to get the diapers.  My daughter reached over to grab a fruit (presumably to throw at me, she was so mad) and almost toppled over the cart sideways in the process. I backed the cart up to move her out of reach and knocked over a bucket filled with bouquets of flowers for sale. Water spilled everywhere (and this time I’m pretty sure the look from the lady in the flower department was NOT sympathetic).

I’m not sure what forced me to surrender.  The short of it is that I grabbed the wrong sized diapers back from customer service.  With tears welling up in my eyes and refusing the offers of help, I removed my beastly child from the premises.  In the car we had a “crying party” (my 4 year-old son chimed in, just because).  After a good family cry my sweet child emerged again and we all went home for a much needed nap!

I would love to claim that my children are well-behaved, well-adjusted, and happy all the time.  The truth is they are not.  Neither am I.  What an immense pressure it is to expect that to be so.  And what a kindness it is to share with other moms just how difficult and imperfect and frustrating and, well, embarrassing motherhood can be.

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5 thoughts on “Delusion of Perfect Mothering

  1. Ha! Thanks for this post. I, too, have struggled with feeling like my kids’ misbehavior is a sign of my job as a mother…but it’s typically due to lack to naps or being hungry. (funny, this frustrating feeling multiplies when it happens in public.) I know that I can just do the best I can, day by day. I know i need to balance discipline with love and consistency. I’ll never be a perfect mom, but i can and will be a good enough mom.

    And that’s all right with me.

  2. I LOVE reading your blog. Many times I see the same things I think/wonder/obsesss about reflected in your writings. I have had all too many encounters with the supermarket tantrums :) It was mortifying at first, and I honestly don’t have very thick skin, so the stares (and in some instances the comments) were really rough at first. Nice to know that I’m not the only “imperfect” mom out there. But I must say Elo, you are pretty fabulous mA! Keep it up. I love reading your thoughts!

  3. Thanks for your comments SF and Hala!! It is inspiring to connect with other “imperfect” mothers. I can tell you are reflective and kind- and this will outweigh the imperfect moments, iA.

    Isn’t it difficult not to take our kids’ misbehavior personally? Especially when faced with the judgments of others (who might not understand that kid needs a nap or is just having a bad day…)

    I hope to continue to connect with you- your feedback means a lot.

    With love,

    E

  4. I remember well, and it seems just yesterday when I had my boys in that shopping cart and negotiated everything on every aisle. Far from perfect, but when i went home and put them to sleep…they looked again like little angels and i thanked God for having them in my life. And as far as when they grow up the worries and troubles are more manageable??? :) the troubles only get bigger and on top of it you become only an expectator of their tribulations and only wish you could put them back on that shopping cart, negotiate, and put them to sleep once more to contemplate their peaceful and loving faces…..but we only wish and send our blessings along with our most unconditional love for them to land on their feet and pass all that you gave them to the children around them.
    Thanks so much for sharing all your feelings and allow us to share our experiences with your readers.
    Just love them as they are, for time flies and then you are just another expectator…………

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