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The perfect mom

Three boys holding still for a picture? I don't think so.
Maryland May 2012
There are a lot of different blogs and articles out there about how there isn't a "perfect mom." Still, we flood ourselves with expectations, the need to cook visually amazing food that is organic and locally grown (shame on you for buying grocery store strawberries out of season!), homemade baby food with complex ingredients and frozen in BPA-free containers (always mixed with breast milk because of course you are breastfeeding), amazing little systems around the house to not only make life easier, but also recycles household waste (who doesn't cut toilet paper rolls in half and use them to organize a junk drawer?). On top of having all of the above under control, we are supposed to regularly have girls' nights out, complete with cocktails and dry-clean only dresses. Our husbands brag about what is for dinner that night and always have the best packed lunches and never leave home without a homemade frozen egg thing for breakfast. We never pay full-price for our designer baby duds and our children are always in clean shirts. While we keep our kids on a strict schedule, we are still always up for a play date, always up to have people over for dinner, and always following the latest mommy-fashions.

If this doesn't sound like you, join the club. The thing is, I don't know anybody that feels that way all the time. And, quite honestly, I don't feel that anybody should feel that way all the time (unless it is your job, Martha Stewart). And when I say "all the time," I mean the majority of the time. And why should you? My husband would probably move in with my parents if I banned Oreos and only bought organic. My oldest loves the nights where we have breakfast for dinner because the day got out of control. And tasty is always my first priority when I'm making dinner (not that my concoctions always turn out edible-- note to the wise: do not try to wing beer battered fish if you have no idea how to beer batter).

Why do mommas feel the need to do not only more, but everything in a fashionable, effortless way? I think sometimes it is from what we watch on television, like Food Network, "Oh, I found these gorgeous gourds the other day. I just love to scoop out the delicious meat and cook my favorite stuffing inside this beautiful..." Really? When is the last time you just whipped up gourd stuffing and set that on your family dinner table? But mostly we look at other moms and wonder what they are doing that we are not. We hear them talk about their fabulous dinner the night before or watch them quite naturally breastfeed their twins. We meet up with them on play dates and see their children wearing coordinating smocked pastel jumpers, while your kids are wearing Target brand t-shirts with dirty collars. We only notice the things that they are doing well that we feel we aren't. We see our "failures" more clearly next to their shining examples, "She can breastfeed twins, yet I can't. She made dinner last night and we scraped by on a leftover frozen dinner from a box. Her hair looks so good today and I used dry shampoo... again."

Out with a friend-- for a very silly day.
Washington DC May 2012
What good do these comparisons do? I started this blog because life with kids is rough. One minute you think you have everything figured out and the next you are rethinking your most basic of plans. There are times where being a parent is terrifying. Other times it is the best job you can ever have. I loved this article discussing keeping your identity as a military wife with children. My favorite quote from the article is, "I haven’t always had a job, but I have always had a career... Sometimes it was simply my management of life in the military with a gaggle of kids." It can be extremely difficult figuring out where you fit into your own life when it revolves around getting so many things done each day (how much laundry can one infant go through in one day?). It is most certainly a challenging job. But here is the secret of motherhood: you are great at it just the way you are.

That doesn't mean that your child is born and suddenly there is a switch that goes off that gives your newborn the perfect latch while you feed your child nature's perfect food or that you instantly know exactly what to do when your three-year old is melting down on the Metro because a woman stole his seat. My husband told me awhile ago that if you are worrying about whether or not you are a good mom, you are a good mom. After thinking about what he meant by that, I really think he's right. Good moms desire to be good moms. That doesn't mean that there are groups of women out there labeled "Good Moms" and "Bad Moms;" what it means is that you are the best mom out there for your family. Everybody has different favorite childhood memories. You are creating a unique childhood tailored for your family's interests. My family enjoys lounging-- okay, stopping one-year olds from eating grass-- in the backyard and movie nights, complete with popcorn and candy. Your family may enjoy camping or hiking or game nights. Your kids may love your brownie recipe or you have a favorite bakery or take out place. My three-year old loves our air popper because Momma is crazed for popcorn. Every. Family. Is. Different.

What if every mom was like Martha Stewart? Or every mom was a harried mess? Or every mom worked? Or every mom stayed home? Or canned foods? Or made jam? I love when our neighbors give us homemade bread, something I don't make. I love when my friends give me great crock pot recipes, a machine that I haven't quite figured out, despite my best attempts (I did finally get the burnt sauce off the sides). And I absolutely love when one of my friends-- you know who you are-- sends me homemade granola, hint, hint. There just is not one right way to be a great mom. I'm not even the "same mom" to each of my boys. One of my boys wants to be involved with everything; one wants independence; one just wants to be held. Not to sound like a kindergarten teacher, but we are all gifted in different ways. We all have our own styles and skill sets. While I may be excessively organized on occasion (my husband would say all the time), I still haven't figured out how to throw together an edible dinner without pre-planning or a recipe. Even then, there is a chance we will end up eating cereal if dinner burns to the bottom of the pan (I have a tendency to over multi-task). My husband has suffered through more dry, over-seasoned, semi-inedible dinners than he would care to remember.

Now, I'm not just talking about dinner. What is your "dinner"? Getting your kids to sleep through the night? Working through a biting phase? Potty training? Or do you feel like you say the same things over and over again to no avail? Or are you constantly cancelling or rescheduling your plans? When you find yourself in the midst of challenges, you will, in fact, discover that you are human and sometimes things are hard. Shoot for the moon. Find friends that understand when you run late. Keep trying to schedule a play date or make it to a twin group meeting. Who knows? Maybe one of these days you will actually make it. Put your best foot forward and realize that each of these trying phases are simply a phase. Because being a parent to young children is temporary. My one-year old twins will not be one forever. My three-year old... time flew. When did he become three, almost four? A friend of mine told me that when you are raising kids, "The years fly by, but the days take forever." I would add that the minutes before bedtime go especially slow.

The other day I took the kids to Panera for lunch. I struggled pushing the stroller through the crowd at the register, the tiny aisles between the tables, and carrying the food to our table. As we ate our lunch, the woman at the table next to me struck up a conversation, saying that her daughter has twin 9-month old girls. She told me some of her daughter's challenges dealing with two babies and I told her how much I would love living closer to my parents. We finished our lunch and I began clearing our table. D left sticky hand prints on my pants. C dumped an entire plate of crumbs on the floor. O started crying. I piled a plate with our trash, only to dump an entire cup of water on the table and floor. The woman watched sympathetically. I felt like every eye in the restaurant was on the woman making a complete mess while her babies cried loudly. Somehow, I got the stroller out of the mess of tables, only to block the entrance as I threw our trash away. It was a total disaster. My pants were covered in stains and I'm sure people were glad the noise left with me. However, D had a great lunch and kept telling me how much he liked his macaroni and my strawberry salad. We all shared a cookie, much to the delight of C and O. After lunch, we made our way to the soft play area in the mall and the kids wore themselves out crawling up and down the obstacles. There was a moment of complete embarrassment in Panera when I realized what I probably looked like. Walking away from the restaurant, I thought, "What does it matter?" And deep down, I really do feel like that if people do not feel inspired to lend a hand when they see me struggling when we are out, then they shouldn't be offended when it takes me a bit longer to do it my way.

Maybe what everyone says is wrong. Maybe there is such thing as a perfect mom. Maybe doing your best and trying is just what your kids need. Maybe we just need to hang in there, work through the challenges, search for the best in each age and phase, and love our children. Maybe we need to stop focusing on what we are doing wrong, but keep improving on what we can. Maybe we should delight in what our children do right, seek out the good. Enjoy their childhood. Reinforce day after day how much you love them. Maybe that is really what our kids need. And that is much more do-able than gourd stuffing.

1 Corinthians 13:3-8a
"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."


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