If you’d met me before I became I mom, you would have been impressed. Not only had I earned a masters degree and become the boss at my job, but I wore stylish outfits and blow dried my hair every time I took a shower, which was daily.
I really had it going on.
So when I became a stay-at-home mom, I assumed that all the drive and determination that I’d brought to my career would make me an amazing mother. I’d study the latest child development books, create a calm, nurturing and educational environment, cook healthy but adorable meals, limit screen time and otherwise kick motherhood’s ass, because why wouldn’t I?
Now, after six years in the trenches with two small girls, I know the answer to that question. Here's why I'm not even close to being the perfect mother of my dreams:
1. I Yell
The first time I snuggled my beautiful, innocent, totally dependent newborn baby in my arms, I never imagined that in a few years, I would be screaming in that baby’s face. But when the baby has become a stubborn threenager who is refusing to get into her car seat even though the ice cream is melting and horns are honking and I’m operating on four hours of sleep, things can get loud. And by things, I mean my scary mom voice.
2. I’m Distracted
I really admire parents who can be 100% present with their kids, but apparently, I am not one of them. My toddler’s first complete sentence was “Mommy, put your phone down.” It’s not like my texts and tweets are particularly pressing. I just feel more human when I have a lifeline to the outside world. Which means I am the asshole who is scrolling Facebook looking at pictures of other people’s kids instead of looking at my actual kids who are right in front of me.
3. The Rules Keep Changing
Car seats should be rear-facing until age 1. Just kidding, age 2. Just kidding, forever. Only a psychopath would buy a drop-side crib or crib bumpers or crib tents. Unless it was 10 years ago, and then it was totally fine. In other words, babies should sleep on their back/stomachs while always/never swaddled. Got it? Yeah, me neither.
4. I Don’t Practice What I Preach
I tell my kids to pick up their clothes and toys but everything I wore since the weekend is piled up next to my bed. I teach them to manage their frustration by counting to four and taking deep breaths, yet I’ll occasionally go full Hulk on them (see #1). I also eat their Halloween candy.
5. TV is my Co-Parent
I could not get through the day with an assist from Daniel Tiger or Dora and her many friends. Sometimes I use TV so that I can make dinner or do the dishes. Sometimes I just need to go to the bathroom for longer than 10 seconds. Not only do my kids watch way more TV than I thought that they would, but I have completely made peace with it. These are not the “enemy animals trying to murder each other” shows of my childhood. Today’s shows model kindness and empathy. They’re STEM-based and bilingual. They’re freaking lifesavers is what they are.
6. I Buy Processed Food
I try really hard with the fruits and vegetables, even spending $5.99 for approximately a dozen pea-sized blueberries from Whole Foods, because guilt, but healthy organic everything is just not possible. For instance, my kids will not eat sandwich bread unless it has 25 chemical-sounding ingredients and will literally never spoil, no matter how many weeks/months/years we keep it in the fridge.
7. I Can’t Do it Alone
When I first became a mom, it was so important for me to do everything myself that I would barely let other people hold my baby, never mind watch her for a few hours while I napped. Six years later, I’m singing a very different tune, with both a babysitter and my mother-in-law pitching in several hours a week so that I can finish my freelance work, hit the gym and briefly reclaim my sanity. I am well aware, internet commenters, that this makes me a less than perfect mother (see article title).
8. Perfection is Over-Rated
One of the greatest gifts of new motherhood has been the friends I’ve made along the way, in baby groups and music classes, at preschool and the park. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about making new mom friends, it’s that it’s a lot easier to bond when you're not competing to be perfect. Instead, we try to laugh at our mistakes, be honest about our disappointments and save "perfect" for the Pinterest-worthy school lunches we covet but never actually make.