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My kids are so much better off with a mom who is 'just OK'

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from The University of Nevada, Reno. She lives in Reno with her husband, three young kids, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.

Trying to be a perfect mom nearly killed me

I had really big ideas about the kind of mother I was going to be before I had kids. I was incredibly ambitious and thought that I would take to mothering like a fish to water. I had spent my teenage years working in my mother’s daycare. I kept up to date with all the latest parenting news and trends. I felt well-informed and ready for parenthood. I was ready to do it all.

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Except when I actually became a mother, doing it all was much easier said than done. I didn’t realize how exhausting motherhood was going to be. I had been warned, of course, but I figured that it would be akin to my unpredictable college schedule, with lots of late nights and early mornings. However, the sleep deprivation that came with being a mother was a different beast altogether. I was always tired, and constantly struggling to stay afloat in those early months of parenthood.

I needed help. I could feel myself being pulled under by the strong current of motherhood, but I still clung to the idea that I needed to be able to do it all on my own. As a young mother, fresh out of college, I felt like I had something to prove. I wanted to show the world and everyone who questioned my choice to become a mother so young that I was ready and able to handle the challenges of motherhood. I didn’t want to rely on others, because I felt like my need for a “village” was a sign that I wasn’t truly ready to become a parent in the first place.

Eventually I started to get the hang of my mothering routine — but as soon as I had mastered one thing, I was constantly looking for the next step. I wasn’t satisfied with merely being a good mom; I wanted to be the best.

I wanted to be the mother who did all the Pinterest crafts and made baby food from scratch. I wanted to be the mom who could boast a screen-free home, instead opting for well-planned interactive days with my children. I bent over backwards to make sure I was doing everything right, throwing myself into motherhood with such fervor that I wasn’t able to enjoy it.

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All the extra effort I made to be the best never amounted to me feeling like a better mother. Sure, I felt a sense of accomplishment when we executed a really fun craft or I made a homemade meal that everyone enjoyed, but my constant need for the next “best” thing left me feeling drained and inadequate. There was always another mother out there who was able to do more than me. I was always stacking myself up to impossible standards, trying to make myself fit into a lifestyle that left me spent.

Eventually I found myself crashing and burning from trying too hard to do it all. I was constantly counting down the minutes until bedtime, while dreading the demands of the coming day. I wasn’t a happy mother, and I realized that everything I was trying to do on my own was making me miserable. So I decided to slack off for a change. I went and bought my kids lunch at a drive-thru, I let them watch a show on Netflix while I took a shower, and the world didn’t end.

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It didn’t take long for me to figure out that being an OK mom was way better than being a supermom. Once I let go of my need for perfection and my desire to handle parenting completely on my own, I began to actually enjoy motherhood. Grabbing fast food for dinner and letting the laundry pile up every now and again allows me just enough rest to stave off reckless exhaustion, so I can actually be a better, happier mom. I’d much rather do what I can handle, than kill myself trying to do it all.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

Trying to be a perfect mom nearly killed me
Image: Chrystal Cienfuegos/Sham of the Perfect
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