Give Up On Being the Perfect Mother and Become a Happier One

Hey, you. Yeah, you.

The mama who is standing in the organic food department trying to decide how you’re going to get a totally homemade paleo dinner on the table tonight and finish up a work project before baking something gluten-free for your big kid’s bake sale – all while knowing you’re going to get woken up four or five times after your head hits the pillow because your youngest just won’t sleep. And whoops, let’s not forget that science project that is now a family project except family really means you and sometimes your child but never your partner for whatever reason. Now can I ask: Have you dusted lately?

And maybe also: Are you freaking out yet?

I know what it’s like to spend every waking minute trying to figure out the next way to be a perfect mom because I’m a perfection chaser myself. But you know, it’s a shifting target. What’s perfect has a lot to do with what’s trendy. For a while it was the crafty moms with the talent for interior design. Now it’s the homeschooling moms. In some decades it’s the working moms. In others it’s the SAHMs who sacrifice their entire lives giving their children the most robust childhood experience possible. When I had my first child it was the ultra granola moms. When I was growing up it was the moms who woke up at 5 am to drive kids to the ice rink before putting on a power suit. For a little while not too long ago it was the Tiger Moms.

The whole premise, before you even dive into the practicalities, is confusing and exhausting! It’s also pretty stupid. There is literally no such thing as a perfect mom any more than there is such a thing as a perfect person. We are all imperfect, we all have imperfect days, we all get dirty, and we all make mistakes – sometimes those mistakes even involve our parenting decisions. Anyone who looks like the perfect parent from the outside is probably a blogger who is trying to sell something and that something is your attention (with the buyer being advertisers vying for your eyeballs). Anyone who is actually trying to be the perfect parent is probably frazzled beyond belief but hiding it with a good haircut and great concealer.

How about this: Instead of trying to be a more perfect mother, try to be a happier mother.

Just for a week. If doing third-language worksheets with your little ones makes you happy, w00t! But if saying bag it all and walking to the ice cream store for no reason at all makes you happy, why not? Maybe getting away from your kids for just two hours one weekday evening is just the thing that would boost your mood, and that’s okay, too. Or telling the mister that he has overnight duty tonight, no backsies and see you in the morning, will make your heart sing. Could be that signing up for pottery classes just so you can sit at the wheel and make Ghost jokes with a bunch of old retired ladies is what you need to put a smile on your face.

Just for a week, do the things that make you feel happy instead of productive, accomplished, or like a supermom. For seven days, shove aside the guilt and make your mantra “me time makes mom time better.”

If you don’t want to hear it from me, a self-admitted Type A perfectionist type, take it from Hollee Schwartz Temple, a law professor and co-author of Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, who said in an interview that surveys showed that mamas chasing perfection “were actually less happy and less successful than moms who took a more relaxed approach.”

I’m not going to say that being a happier mother can make anyone a better mother. As long as you love your kids and treat them with kindness and respect you are already winning in my book. But I do think that doing what you can to become a happier mother will let you enjoy the experience of motherhood more. And enjoy your children more. Because honestly, who cares what you look like from the outside or how much non-essential stuff you accomplished today when the trade off is not necessarily more, but better quality time with your little ones?

Perfection can’t hold a candle to that.

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