April 29, 2013

Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom

Dear Mom,

I've seen you around. I've seen you screaming at your kids in public, I've seen you ignoring them at the playground, I've seen you unshowered and wearing last night's pajama pants at preschool drop-off. I've seen you begging your children, bribing them, threatening them. I've seen you shouting back and forth with your husband, with your mom, with the police officer at the crosswalk.

I've seen you running around with your kids, getting dirty and occasionally swearing audibly when you bang a knee. I've seen you sharing a milkshake with a manic four year old. I've seen you wiping your kids' boogers with your bare palm, and then smearing them on the back of your jeans. I've seen you carry your toddler flopped over the crook of your arm while chasing a runaway ball.

I've also seen you gritting your teeth while your kid screamed at you for making him practice piano, or soccer, or basket weaving, or whatever it was. I've seen you close your eyes and breathe slowly after finding a gallon of milk dumped into your trunk. I've seen you crying into the sink while you desperately scrub crayon off your best designer purse. I've seen you pacing in front of the house.

I've seen you at the hospital waiting room. I've seen you at the pharmacy counter. I've seen you looking tired, and frightened.

I've seen a lot of you, actually.

I see you every single day.

I don't know if you planned to be a parent or not. If you always knew from your earliest years that you wanted to bring children into the world, to tend to them, or if motherhood was thrust upon you unexpectedly. I don't know if it meets your expectations, or if you spent your first days as a mom terrified that you would never feel what you imagined "motherly love" would feel like for your child. I don't know if you struggled with infertility, or with pregnancy loss, or with a traumatic birth. I don't know if you created your child with your body, or created your family by welcoming your child into it.

But I know a lot about you.

I know that you didn't get everything that you wanted. I know that you got a wealth of things you never knew you wanted until they were there in front of you. I know that you don't believe that you're doing your best, that you think you can do better. I know you are doing better than you think.

I know that when you look at your child, your children, you see yourself. And I know that you don't, that you see a stranger who can't understand why the small details of childhood that were so important to you are a bother to this small person who resembles you.

I know that you want to throw a lamp at your teenager's head sometimes. I know you want to toss your three year old out the window once in a while.

I know that some nights, once it's finally quiet, you curl up in bed and cry. I know that sometimes, you don't, even though you wanted to.

I know that some days are so hard that all you want is for them to end, and then at bedtime your children hug you and kiss you and tell you how much they love you and want to be like you, and you wish the day could last forever.

But it never does. The day always ends, and the next day brings new challenges. Fevers, heartbreak, art projects, new friends, new pets, new fights. And every day you do what you need to do.

You take care of things, because that's your job. You go to work, or you fill up the crock pot, or you climb into the garden, or strap the baby to your back and pull out the vacuum cleaner.

You drop everything you're doing to moderate an argument over who's turn it is to use a specifically colored marker, or to kiss a boo-boo, or to have a conversation about what kind of lipstick Pinocchio's mommy wears.

I know that you have tickle fights in blanket forts, and that you have the words to at least eight different picture books memorized. I've heard that you dance like a wildwoman when it's just you and them. That you have no shame about farting or belching in their presence, that you make up goofy songs about peas and potatoes and cheese.

I know that an hour past bedtime, you drop what you're doing and trim the fingernail that your three year old insists is keeping her up. I know that you stop cleaning dishes because your kids insist you need to join their tea party. I know you fed your kids PBandJ for four days straight when you had the flu. I know that you eat leftover crusts over the sink while your kids watch Super Why.

I know you didn't expect most of this. I know you didn't anticipate loving somebody so intensely, or loathing your post-baby body so much, or being so tired, or being the mom you've turned out to be.

You thought you had it figured out. Or you were blind and terrified. You hired the perfect nanny. Or you quit your job and learned to assemble flat packed baby furniture. You get confused by the conflict of feeling like nothing has changed since you were free and unfettered by children, and looking back on the choices you made as though an impostor was wearing your skin.

You're not a perfect mom. No matter how you try, no matter what you do. You will never be a perfect mom.

And maybe that haunts you. Or maybe you've made peace with it. Or maybe it was never a problem to begin with.

No matter how much you do, there is always more. No matter how little you do, when the day is over your children are still loved. They still smile at you, believing you have magical powers to fix almost anything. No matter what happened at work, or at school, or in play group, you have still done everything in your power to ensure that the next morning will dawn and your children will be as happy, healthy, and wise as could possibly be hoped.

There's an old Yiddish saying, "There is one perfect child in the world, and every mother has it."

Unfortunately, there are no perfect parents. Your kids will grow up determined to be different than you. They will grow up certain that they won't make their kids take piano lessons, or they'll be more lenient, or more strict, or have more kids, or have fewer, or have none at all.

No matter how far from perfect you are, you are better than you think.

Someday your kids will be running around like crazy people at synagogue and concuss themselves on a hand rail, and somebody will still walk up to you and tell you what a beautiful family you have. You'll be at the park and your kids will be covered in mud and jam up to the elbows, smearing your car with that sugary cement, and a pregnant lady will stop and smile at you wistfully.


Dear Mom MemeNo matter how many doubts you might have, you never need doubt this one thing:
You are not perfect.

And that's good. Because really, neither is your child. And that means nobody can care for them the way you can, with the wealth of your understanding and your experience. Nobody knows what your child's squall means, or what their jokes mean, or why they are crying, better than you do.

And since no mother is perfect, chances are you are caught in a two billion way tie for Best Mom in the World.

Congratulations, Best Mom in the World. You're not perfect.

You're as good as anybody can get.

With love,
Lea

51 comments:

  1. This is perfect! Just awesome! So glad you joined in the meme.

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  2. I love it. brought tears to my eyes...

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  3. this is so great and sweet and true and i just LOVE it!

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  5. My best friend sent it to me, and I read it at 11pm at night after my husband and 3 y.o. son were long asleep. After finishing paperwork and hanging toddler laundry so he will have clean clothes for the Shavuot Mommy & me workshop. With a giant headache I still hadn't taken anything for.....thinking no one cares....this was a good laugh and a knowing wink. THANKS for the PERFECT article!!!!

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  6. My wife posted this on Facebook after seeing it at HuffPo. I love what you wrote, and now I see that it's part of a larger movement, which I also support. What I want to add to the conversation is that it is equally applicable to all the dads I know. To that end, I edited your Dear Mom letter to make it a Dear Dad letter. It didn't take much tweaking, and as a teacher I understand that the edited version is plagiarized. That said, switching the perspective is a useful exercise. I am putting my version up on my obscure and infrequently updated blog (http://addressingeducation.blogspot.com/) for lack of a better platform. I will fully acknowledge your authorship of the letter and clearly link to this page. I will take it down if you ask me to. Thanks for a great piece that explores the unspoken, dark edges of parenting.

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  7. A friend posted this on Facebook. Love. Thank you, Lea! Beautiful truth. Gives words to my crazy chaos days with three little ones. I'm doing okay. And so are you! We all are. Thanks for this blessings!

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  8. This has been flying around all over my FB feed, so I finally decided I'd click over. Glad I did, even though I'm sitting at my desk, crying.

    Happy Mother's Day - to you, and you, and you.

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  9. I absolutely love this! Thank you... I actually needed this note today! xoxo

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  10. I don't know you, but I absolutely LOVE you. I posted this on my blog, giving you all due credit, of course. Please let me know if that is not okay. Today I yelled at my kids right before kissing them as they walked out the door to get on the bus for school. I really needed to read this today.

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  11. I've seen you around, too, Mama! :)

    Here's to today, and tomorrow and May 12 and June 20 and December 19. Because every damn day is Mother's Day!!!


    Chelsea
    http://iammadame.blogspot.com/

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  12. Stopping by from A Life In Balance. Thank you. I needed to read this today! Roz - alittlerandr.org

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  13. I am I the only that doesn't get this?! are you saying mom's are not doing what they wanted? Or are not perfect?

    I hated this post- found it a bit insulting..

    HS

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  14. I have seven children. Sometimes I still look at them and wonder when their real mother is coming to look after them. :-) We all feel inadequate at times. Thank God for those precious moments when they smell so sweet coming out of the bath or they hug you for no reason or they behave like angels in public when you really need them too. There are always those redeeming moments. THANK GOD.

    (Stopping by from Motivation Monday)

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  15. Lea this was so great to read thank you so much it brought tears to my eyes, wanted to know if it was ok to share on my own blog as a quoted post linked back to your blog?

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    1. That's just fine. I'm happy to know it's reaching so many people. :)

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  16. Beautiful - I love this. Thanks for sharing. You are a great writer!

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  17. I'll be sharing this as well! Now that I'm a 5x grandma I've found that letting my children live was a good thing.

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  18. Lea, it's been forever since I've allowed myself a "good" cry, the kind my grandmother always insisted would "help" any situation that couldn't be fixed with a kiss or a prayer.

    With your permission, I'd like to print your fab piece to share with the women, that would be 99% of them, in my counseling practice who believe they are not "good enough." Especially not good enough as moms. I love your writing in first person. And how you go from being so down on what you did or didn't do "right" to recognizing and celebrating the glorious woman and mom you are.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Myrna Loy Ashby, LPC, LMFT

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  20. How much do I LOVE this post?! I laughed all snorty and loud, and I cried too. Thank you for these words. I needed to read them today and I'll be passing them along to others to read too.

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  21. I'm not even a mother (nor do I really want to become one) and found this moving. It's poetry really!

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  23. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with the world. You hit motherhood right on. Thank you, I needed this today.

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  24. I have based on your earlier permissions, reposted this to my blog at mimisthisnthathomeschool.blogspot.com. I hope that you do not mind. It is the basis for a couple of post that your post and God has inspired me to do. I hope that you will visit my blog, and be happy with what I am doing.

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  25. I've bookmarked this post so that I can have it handy every time I see it passed around on FB. It's a wonderful post and I want people to know where they can get more like it. Thank you for writing!

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  26. This is amazing. With 3 children (one biological and two step children i call my own) it touched me. It is sometimes difficult to realize how hard parenting really is. Frustration, anxiety, fear of failing can be common thoughts. Its so up lifting to hear that I am not alone. Thank you!

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  27. Thank You for sharing such wonderful writing. I feel as you've taken my personal mom lifestyle, my many self thoughts, emotions, experiences & expressed them for all to acknowledge. I cannot thank you enough for reassuring me that I AM like other Moms!

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  28. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For being a wonderful writer who can take what all of us are thinking and put it to words. To know where all of us moms are at any moment and talking us off the ledge. You are gifted. Thank you.

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  29. Wow. I'm a huge mom fan, so this really hits home for me. Great!

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  31. Thank you, I needed this today :-)

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  34. This is beautiful!! So true too! We all feel like we suck at motherhood sometimes and we aren't as good as all those "perfect" moms out there. But we are! Thank you so much for posting this. It absolutely made me feel like I'm doing a great job!

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  35. This is beautiful, and poetic and true. And for the first time, I feel I have been seen and heard and understood. Thank you.

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  36. This blog just kept me from committing suicide. I am getting help. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you. Please let me know how you're doing. Let me know how your search for help goes. And your progress. And just how you're feeling. I care about you. Things are going to get better. <3

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  37. This blog just kept me from committing suicide. I am getting help. Thank you.

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  38. This blog just kept me from committing suicide. I am getting help. Thank you.

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