There is no way to be a perfect mother.
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.” This quote by Jill Churchill has followed me around lately. I have seen it on TV, in print, on Pinterest, posted on Facebook and on Twitter. It has shown up so often lately that I get the distinct feeling that it is speaking right to me and until I relent and agree, it will continue to haunt my senses perhaps even show up say on the back of the box of my favorite cereal (All right, I know I am being dramatic.).
I was raised in a family where perfection was the way you were noticed, the way you felt loved, and therefore I have had my share of trouble personally learning that life is all about imperfection. Like those who raised me, I expected faultlessness in those I loved, in myself, in my friends, in the way my life looked to those on the outside. I expected any endeavor perfectly landed like a gymnast sticking a dismount off the beam. Anything that was not perfection was a sign of abject failure either by another, or by me and both were chastised as such. As you already have figured out, I am my biggest critic and enemy, but my tendency to control those around me so that my idea of “perfection” came true was an even greater foe.
It is the combination of this realization thanks to my friend, Hindsight, and the fact that realizing it doesn’t always convert to total transformation instantaneously, that has made it so that I have felt in many ways like a failure, “muy imperfecto” at my first go round at parenting. Whenever life’s imperfections took a hold of my two sons, my first thought was how could I have prevented this, or what did I do wrong while raising them (How very egocentric of me huh?)?
And while Hindsight has helped me to understand that there is a multitude of factors that go into the molding and shaping of any human being, I still find myself struggling with the idea of “what is right” for my daughter, Ila and “what would be wrong” for her, hence the irritation with Jill’s perky “million ways” quote. Really, Jill? Are there REALLY a million ways to be a good mom? ‘Cause from where I stand there are a million ways to screw it up.
The thing about this whole enlightenment by Hindsight is that although Hindsight tells me what not to do based on decisions made during two decades of parenting, knowing what NOT to do but not what TO do often leaves me feeling like a compass with no needle. No North Star. No tether rope to keep me on the mountain. No flashlight on the way to the campground latrine (Do you get me?). Perhaps one more…. No teeth on my saw… (Okay, I am done. Promise).
My point is that what I did as a parent for years and years and years is really all I knew, I guess just like all other parents. My parenting was modeled after the parenting that I received, and even though I vowed NEVER to be like “them,” those patterns, their ideals that only perfection was worthy of love still showed up and I wasn’t even aware of it. And although that type of parenting wasn’t optimum in anyway shape or form, I at least felt (erroneously) that I knew “what a perfect mom would do.” I do know now that some of the parenting that I choose to use was not even remotely near perfect, but I was buoyed by the “idea” that I knew what I was doing.
Now, without those mistaken ideas of what a “perfect parent” would do, I find myself searching, forever searching for what is right, what is wrong, what would be perfect in this situation or that? And I want that to stop. I want to believe Jill in that there isn’t just one perfect way but MILLIONS of ways to be a good mother. My beloved Dr. Speed Dial is forever reminding me that I won’t always know what is best, worst, perfect or not perfect for my child. She tells me that if a decision is made by a mom who puts the child’s needs front and center, then that is one way moms like us can be good ones. Yup, that’s one way, but according to Jill there are at least 999,999 other ways, and it got me thinking. I can’t be the only one who struggles with this image of being a good and perfect mom. I think that is the whole reason that Jill’s quote keeps showing up. We need to reassure ourselves that although perfection is not an option, we can still do a good job. We can strive to do our best for our children. We can still be a good mother. So, if there truly are a million ways to do that, I’d LOVE to hear from you about what you think should be added to the “good mothering” list. After all, there are 999,999 reasons to go.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.