Ever since I became a mom 17 years ago, I’ve had an unofficial list of mom ideals that never actually materialized. I thought these ideals would make me and my kids happy. But I’ve realized over the years that these elusive “shoulds” aren’t really necessary to raising healthy, happy, children into healthy, happy, productive adults, or to being happy myself. And yet the ideals still haunt the back of my mind, filling me with all kinds of inescapable mommy guilt. Sound familiar?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any ideals at all, or that we can’t at least make some progress toward some of them. But I am saying that we need to stop feeling guilty if they aren’t happening for us. Because in the long run, it really doesn’t matter. Like, at all.
Nine mom ideals to ditch right now:
Let’s just dive into the controversy from the beginning, shall we? I always, with 100% of my new babies, started out trying to breastfeed. It’s free, and it’s got health benefits for both mother and baby. Sometimes it comes naturally and goes smoothly, sometimes it’s difficult but possible, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I breastfed my babies for various lengths of time. Three months, five months, one week, one year, and the last one I didn’t really breastfeed much at all. Birth circumstances, individual personalities, NICU stays, and other things going on in my life made it difficult to varying degrees. But the one thing all these experiences had in common was guilt. I felt horrible, debilitating, sobbing into my pillow guilt every time I stopped. Even with the one I breastfed for an entire year. Because breast IS best. It was selfish to quit. I was a failure. But what I didn’t know was that it’s OK to be a little selfish. It’s OK to not want your 1-year-old to clamp down and yank on your nipple repeatedly for fun. Taking care of your needs keeps your sanity intact. And a sane and happy mama is better than breastfeeding any day.
This can be an extremely convenient way to get things done around the house. I could not have made dinner for my older kids if I hadn’t had a baby on my back much of the time. But it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. They don’t always like being carried. And sometimes it’s just nice to stick them in a stroller and have a hand AND your front and back free. I never felt guilty about putting my baby in a stroller until babywearing became a thing with a name. But after that, I started to feel like people would think I was a cold and heartless mother who hated her baby if he was in a stroller instead of attached to my body. I’m not, though. I just do whatever’s easiest at the moment. Whether that’s babywearing, stroller pushing, or getting the older kids to babysit so I can go to the grocery store ALONE.
Being a domestic goddess
I totally thought I would be an amazing homemaker. I mean, I’m a stay at home mom. I don’t work outside (or even inside) the house at all whatsoever. So naturally, I should have tons of time to devote to baking cookies for my kids as an afterschool snack, cleaning the house, making the beds, and doing the crafts. Turns out, I’m not that good at a lot of this stuff. And often, I don’t even care enough to try. Life is busy enough without baking cookies. Besides, I’d eat them all before the kids got home anyway. Also, store-bought is easier.
Being on time
OK OK, I know all you punctual people are having a heart attack because I’m basically saying that all us latecomers should just keep on being late and driving y’all nuts. Sorry, but I kind of am. I know it’s rude to be late. I know I need to plan for the traffic. I know I should get up earlier/plan better. But I’m at a stage in my life where it does not all depend on me. You are too, and if you’re miraculously making it on time to places, please teach a seminar on how the heck you do that, because I have no clue. But for the rest of us, it just seems impossible to get all the different people in the house ready at the same time to be somewhere in a timely manner. My sincere apologies. I’ll do better in about 16 1/2 years.
An absence of snotty noses
Dude, they’re gross. But they happen. And no matter how germaphobic you are, you’ll never be fast enough to keep up with it. Your toddler will have a runny nose much of the time, and there’s just nothing you can do about it.
An absence of bodily fluids on you and the furniture
Again, this is gross, and it’s not ideal. But if you raise a child from birth to adulthood, you will at some point have snot, spit-up, drool, or worse on you and/or the furniture. It will happen. Accept it. And always ALWAYS have wipes handy.
The absence of electronic media
We all know it’s not great for kids to be watching anything on an electronic device. but this is the age in which we live. Electronic devices are part of our lives. And while I do limit my kids’ screen time, I also let them have screen time. It can be a huge lifesaver when a kid is grumpy in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, or at home when mom is cooking dinner. Sometimes the more educational distractions just don’t cut it.
The absence of simple carbohydrates in you kids’ bodies
I started out my parenting career with the notion that if my kids grew up with whole wheat bread, they’d like whole wheat bread. Yeah, only they hated it. And instead of eating whole wheat bread (because that’s all there was), they just didn’t eat at all. And then they tried white bread somewhere else and loved it sooooo much. We switched to white bread just to get them to consume any food at all.
Things going as planned
Almost nothing in life ever goes as you envisioned it would. Especially when you throw kids in the mix. As much as I want to think I have control over what happens in my family, the truth is, these kids are their own people with their own personalities. I can’t force them to like wheat bread, to exclusively breastfeed, or to be on time. The best I can do is encourage them, teach them, dole out consequences when necessary, and hope for the best.
Ideally, we’d all have things our way, but in a family, that’s just not how it works. If we has the courage to let go of some of our mom ideals and accept our best as good enough, I think we’d all be a lot happier.