The Cult of Perfect Motherhood

It never ceases to amaze me when a mom friend says to me “I feel like a horrible mother.” Because, I don’t have any mom friends who beat their kids. None of my mom friends are meth addicts. And as far as I can tell, none of their kids appear to be on the road to becoming violent meth addicts themselves. So, when they say “I feel like a horrible mother” I usually say, “Really? Why? Because you seem like an awesome mom to me!” And then they usually lower their voice, as if they are going to confess some dark and terrible secret…but they say banal things like, “I let my kid eat McDonalds for dinner three times this week.” Or “My kid got into my arts and crafts supplies and colored all over her face and now she looks like an Oompa Loompa.” Or, “I snapped and yelled at my kid when he broke something today after I told him ten times not to play with it.”

And it made me wonder, when did petty crap like that start to make you a bad mother? Why do so many moms believe that only “horrible parents” are too busy to make a healthy meal every night? When did it become “horrible parenting” to have a kid who likes markers and messes? Who says that only “horrible parents” yell at their kids when they do something we told them not to?

And, why are we all so afraid of what the other moms will think of us? Why do we see them as judges, instead of as sisters?

I have come to call this phenomenon the Cult of Perfect Motherhood. It seems to be based on the idea that there is a perfect way to parent, and that if we do not live that perfect parenthood every day, we are failures and our children are doomed to become sociopaths. And what surprises me is how many moms I know seem to be drowning in the Cult. They read every parenting book there is, worried that if they miss that one piece if parenting advice, it’ll keep their kid from being a success. They read every car seat review, agonizing over which car seat is THE right one to keep their child as safe as possible. They sign their child up for every available enrichment class, from dance to Spanish lessons to basketball to chess club, because they don’t want their kid to end up at the less prestigious college because his résumé isn’t well rounded.

But most of all, they worry all the time that they aren’t doing it right. And they worry that something is wrong with them because they are unhappy, while all the other moms seem to be elated and loving every minute of motherhood.

Here’s the truth: nobody is happy all the time. Nobody likes cleaning up their kid’s vomit. Everybody’s kid throws a tantrum sometimes. Nobody’s house looks like that photo from Pinterest. Everybody looks forward to when the kids are finally in bed for the night and they can have five minutes to themselves. None of these things makes you a horrible parent. There is no such thing as a Perfect Mother.

That’s what this thing I am writing here is about. It’s about killing the Cult of Perfect Motherhood, and teaching ourselves to strive to be good parents without hating ourselves for not being perfect. It’s about an end to guilt and shame over things that are not shameful and that we shouldn’t feel guilty about. And, it’s about supporting each other instead of judging each other, because we all live in glass houses. We ALL live in glass houses. And maybe, just maybe, if we stop spending our energy shitting on ourselves and each other, we can use that energy for something more productive instead.