Perfect mothering, we all know, is a farce. Like disposable income and government intelligence, it's an oxymoron to which we adhere like a lifejacket as we bob in the violent surf of dirty linens and unfinished baby books. It's like Everest, it's there, and if we just try hard enough, we will be able to stake our flag on the crest of Mount PerfectMom and forever reside with the likes of Donna Reed and June Cleaver.
No majestic peak
Of course, Donna Reed and June Cleaver were fictional. But we'll let that go for the moment. We've got bigger fish to fry.
Here are the reasons why Mount PerfectMom, upon closer inspection, is revealed to be not the majestic peak we thought we saw from the ground, but rather the largest pile of dirty laundry and Fisher-Price flotsam that has ever been amassed in the history of the world.
Reason one: Where's Mount PerfectDad?
With the exception that he love his kids, provide at least partially for his family and not beat anyone up, there isn't a whole lot to the Perfect Father archetype. In all fairness to my husband, his idea of being the perfect father is working full-time, coming home, cleaning up, caring for the kids, playing with the kids and having no time for himself. Hence, he stresses himself out so much that sometimes it's all he can do not to bury his face in a book or the television or a computer game all weekend. But this is pressure he puts on himself. I don't think the average guy gets that from society at large. While Mount PerfectMom looms over the horizon of every home in America, Mount PerfectDad is actually just a worn leather Lazyboy chair in a basement corner.
Reason two: PerfectMom is TrendyMom
PerfectMom is defined predominantly by trends and, as we all know, trends are stupid. In the 80s, PerfectMom brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan. Now, she's home with her kids and breastfeeding until they're ready for college. When my daughters become mothers, what will the expectations be of them? I can only hope that it's something more reasonable, or that they're smart enough to tell conventional wisdom to blow it out its own ear. The meaning of life is this: Experts don't know jack. Get your advice from other moms.
Reason three: PerfectMom is actually ImperfectMom
Huh? What is this David-Copperfield-presto-chango hooey? Well, I hate to be the sugar in your gas tank, but the real PerfectMom is actually the FlawedMom. Perfect mothers, the ones who can care for children and have them bathed and ready for dinner which is served exactly as hubby comes home, the ones who never get mad at or yell at their children, the ones who always look good, whose house is always clean, whose cars are always tuned up and spotless ... they're all alcoholics. Or aliens. My exact theory on that remains undefined, but mark my words; there's something wrong with those women.
FlawedMom, on the other hand, feeds her children Cheetos for breakfast because that's what they'll eat and will admit it openly to anyone who asks. And, while I don't have an expert to consult on this matter, it's my guess that FlawedMom lives longer.
So, there you have it. As mothers we strive to be everything for our children, and terminal depression descends upon us when we fail. But we're destined to fail; we can't be everything. We can only be what we are. We can be the best that we can be, we can try our hardest, but at the end of the day the flies buzzing around the dishes in the sink are going to have to be solely representative of the wonders of biology, and not indicators that we are failures and our children are going to spend their life savings in therapy before they are able to shed the psychological scars we inflict upon them.
Bottom line is, they're gonna blame everything on us anyway. So we should just be the best moms we can be, and leave it at that. Whether the child is in daycare, or home; whether we are SAHM's or WAHM's, whether we breastfeed or bottlefeed, whether we are single or married, what matters most is that our children never question for a second whether we love them.
Truth is, Sarah could care less if my house is clean. She doesn't care if my hair is greasy. Amazingly enough, and this is a testament to the innate ability of a three-year-old to see the big picture, she doesn't even care if I've brushed my teeth. Which sometimes I don't get to right away. But when I'm harried and frustrated and overall nuts, she notices.
In the past few weeks, Celia, my six-month-old, decided that sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch was no longer her 'thing.' I'm breastfeeding, and the child will not take a bottle, so do the math. I was exhausted. I was depressed. I was getting angry at the air around me. For the past two nights, the baby has slept, and I feel much better.
This morning, Sarah looked at my cuticles, which I had picked raw in the past few weeks, and said, "You hurt your finger?" I said no, that mommy was just very tense in the past few weeks and when she's tense her nervous habits emerge. Then I started questioning why I was talking about myself in the third person. While I was on this tangent, as I was putting away the videos that were strewn all over the living room and promising that we would get out today and do something fun, she put both hands on either side of my face and kissed me on the lips. Smiling, she put her arms around my neck and gave me a hug.
Score one for FlawedMom.