Perfectionism grabs hold of most of us before we have even given birth. There is something about the knowledge of life growing inside one’s body that puts our instincts into overdrive. That tiny, precious life speaks louder than anything. It cries out to be protected, nurtured and loved.
From the moment we watch that faded blue line become more prominent we tell ourselves that we will be the best damned mother that ever existed. We strive for perfection.
We aren’t really sure what it means to be perfect, but we strive to become it anyway.
And, so, to create some sort of definition, we read and read and read and talk and talk and talk. And the more reading we do, and the more talking we do, the more conflicted we become. The more anxious we become and the more we burden ourselves with extreme, often unrealistic, ideals.
“I must eat only organic, free-range, grassfed beef.”
“I must not apply any chemicals to my body.”
“I must exercise regularly, but not swim, because that would expose my baby to too much chlorine, and I cannot run after 7pm because that is when the mosquitos come out and, this one time, 8 years ago, someone three cities over was diagnosed with West Nile.”
Some of the things we put upon ourselves are ridiculous.
Or, perhaps, more accurately, some of the things that SOCIETY puts upon us are ridiculous.
We have become mothers in a generation that is constantly bombarded with information and opinions. It seems that anyone can claim to be an expert on any subject so long as they have a computer and access to the internet.
Motherhood in the 21st century is intimidating and overwhelming. More so than ever before. Yes, cavewomen had to protect their kids from sabertooth tigers and poisonous berries but they didn’t have to worry about what the other cavewomen thought about their decision to use fur or leaf diapers.
All of this uncertainty surrounding the definition of a “perfect mom” causes us to question the instinctive nature and intricate knowledge that has been built into our bodies over many millennia. Our desperate desire to be the perfect mother pushes us to seek external sources to provide us with a User’s Guide. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to get to this very advanced and capable stage, yet we cannot escape the message that we must do more to ensure that our child will have the best start at life.
We unnecessarily complicate things…. But it’s no wonder why!
It’s not just the internet that tells us who we should be. It’s the judgment that we pass on each other. It’s the comments from complete strangers. It’s the commercials on TV. It’s the stories in magazines. It’s news coverage. It’s your friends asking you if you will be using cloth or disposable diapers in a tone of voice that makes their opinion more than apparent. It’s your coworker who asks you if you should really be eating “that” – referring to the chicken salad sandwich you are eating at 8 months pregnant (yes, for real, this happened to me).
Why does society think that it is okay to tell mothers what they should be eating, how they should be behaving and what they should be worried about? Why do people feel that they know how to be mothers better than we do? Why does society define motherhood in a picture perfect way that is completely unattainable? Why must they make it so freaking hard on us?
If we let ourselves get caught in this constant struggle for perfection we will never allow ourselves to be truly content with who we are.
We deserve contentedness! It’s time to let the struggle go. It’s time that WE (mothers!) unclench society’s grasp on the definition of motherhood. Its time that we realize that there are countless ways to be a good mother.
Motherhood is OURS to define.
Let’s create your definition right now. Find a quiet, peaceful time and place. Use naptime or the time after your kids are in bed. Turn off the electronics. Clear your mind. Breathe. Ignore the voice inside your head that is telling you that you have a million things to accomplish and that you cannot possibly afford these 5 minutes to yourself. Again, breathe. Focus. Now, ask yourself this question:
“How would my child define the word “mother”? What qualities does my child believe a mother possesses? What does my child truly need from me to thrive?”
Be honest with yourself. Whenever your mind starts to wander, bring it back to these questions. Focus on how they would answer, not what you think they should say, but what they would say if a complete stranger asked them these questions. Again, breathe. Repeat their definition over and over in your mind. Let it really soak in.
That right there is who you should be striving to be. But, most likely, it is who you already are. Let the rest of it go.
You are enough. Your child thinks so and it’s time that you do too.