Friday, August 1, 2008

Nobody's Perfect, Except our Newborns.

Howdy Y'All. Welcome to Who Put Me In Charge Of These People. I'm a mom, a friend, a daughter, a wife, and of course, a blogger! Watch out, you're gonna get some blog on you! So put on a bib and get comfy. Read till you're heart's content. This post is comfort-reading. Fills your heart and even better - it's calorie-free. So have seconds!


Y'know, when I was pregnant with Peppermint Patty, I was just sure I was gonna be a great mommy. I read all the books, I went to the birthing classes, I talked to other moms. I really believed I was all ready to get this mothering show on the road.

Then I had a baby. And she was perfect. And I was not.

I have many many oh so many memories of those first few weeks, looking into her eyes and asking, "What do you want to do today?" Her answer usually came in the form of a scream, until I would sit down and position her across my lap close to my knees, so I could gently bounce my knees up and down while keeping a hand on her back and gently patting and comforting her. This usually soothed her but confused and exhausted me. She would not be content to be held. She would not be content to be rocked. Or swung. Or bounced. Or exersauced. She wanted that time on her tummy. I can't really blame her considering, looking back now, she must have had reflux. I read a book called Colic Solved by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian in preparation of having my 4th baby. Nothing like getting prepared AFTER the assault is over, eh? Anyway, I flipped page after page and kept saying to myself, and sometimes to whomever was listening, "This is exactly what Peppermint Patty was doing! These are the symptoms she had! This is how she acted! Why didn't I know this sooner???"

I was filled with fears about being the perfect mother to this child. Like any mother, I feared her getting sick, I feared being in a car accident with her, I feared losing her somehow. I understood these fears but felt like they were somewhat out of my control. But my biggest fear of all was that I would harm her while actually trying to help her. Like, giving her medicine but mistakenly giving the wrong dosage. Or giving her food that caused her to choke, or have an allergic reaction. Or even insisting that I would breastfeed even after noticing that she wasn't gaining weight. Being a mom is filled with so many heart wrenching choices that are not really choices at all. Like, for example: vaccinations. Get em? Risk Autism. Don't get em? Risk getting a deadly or near-deadly disease.

The choices I had to make were making me crazy. Every day I would wonder if I had screwed up my baby that day, or if I were just postponing the inevitable until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next... And since I was already feeling so low about my parenting choices, it was fitting that I would also be sucked into the comparison stuff. Like, that little girl always looks so put-together with bows in her hair and cute little shoes, my child looks like all her fashions come from Goodwill; or that little toddler always looks fresh as a daisy but my kid always seems to have a stain on her shirt or her face or BOTH; or that child seems so content with his mom and the mom seems so calm and in control of everything. Why is my child running around like a banshee while I am on the brink of meltdown?

So, how did I get through it without losing my mind? Well I did it in the only way that I could, the way that no one could have taught me. I did it through experience, and tears, and prayer, and finally giving up and letting go. I did it through allowing myself some humiliation and letting the chips fall where they may. I did it through more of lets-do-this-and-see-what-happens and less of lets-do-it-this-way-because-that's-what-the-book-says-to-do. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself. I have always been what is called a global thinker. I want to know the whole plan, how it's supposed to all turn out, so I can prepare my game plan from step one. So, trying to figure out the game plan for a baby is, well, pretty much impossible! But of course all the books don't present it that way. They say, "Breastfeeding should be...." or "By this age your child should be able to...." or "You should watch your child's signals for...." That last one always cracked me up. For someone who has never had a child, who knows what "signals" are? So the baby is crying... does that mean she's tired? or hurting? or hungry? or wet? or itchy? or has a hair in her mouth? WHAAAAAA???? I couldn't read my daughter's signals any easier than I could read Japanese.

But through the grace of God I mothered her without breaking her. I only hit her head on the door frame once as I passed through. I still remember how that moment was the end of the quest for perfection. I cried and sobbed and told my husband, "I'll never be able to do it. I just don't have it in me." He asked "Have what in you?" I responded, "The gene to be a perfect mom." He said, "I'm glad you finally realized it." I was so insulted, so he gently explained, "Now you can relax and just do your best. She doesn't expect perfection. She just wants your love."

And, through the grace of God, I've mothered 3 other children too. I've made mistakes along the way with all of them. I continue to make mistakes every day. Many nights I whisper unheard promises into their ears as they sleep in their beds. I quietly assure them that tomorrow I will be nicer, or more patient, or more fun and less busy. Although I realize perfection is not necessary, I feel myself slipping further away from it every day. But it's strange to see how amazing they are turning out when I think, "Oh, today was terrible! Let's erase today and have a do-over tomorrow. I'll get out the finger paints and I'll do flash cards and I'll read books and there will be NO TV and NO video games." Then tomorrow comes and before I can crawl out of bed they ask, "Can I watch Arthur on PBS?" and I say, "Yes."

So many moms have seen me with my 4 kids and say, "My God, how do you do it?" **DISCLAIMER** If you have more than 4 kids I know it must be exponentially harder but I am only relating my experiences thus far. And my answer usually is: "Many days, I don't." What I mean by that is, please don't think for one minute that my kids are all in matching clothes, that their rooms are clean, that I have dinner ready at 5pm, and that my house is spotless. Usually I'm lucky if I'm 1 for 4. Getting out the door on time takes much planning. Getting anything done around the house usually involves corralling the children in front of the idiot-box (TV) or sending them outside. The baby must be taking a nap in order for me to iron or fold laundry. What I want any mom to know, any mom who thinks that "that other perfect mom" is doing a better job than she is, IS NOT PERFECT. She has problems of her own, but she's not showing them to you. No mom is perfect except in the eyes of her child. As long as anyone searches for perfection he or she will be forever disappointed. The only logical outcome will be that you will toil away at everything that someone else considers important only to miss fulfillment in that task, and your child will lose out on time with you just being relaxed and being yourself.

So for tomorrow, don't promise perfection to anyone, including yourself. Don't expect it. Set realistic goals, like "Today I will play Uno with my kids for 30 minutes and I won't yell once." Or "Tonight I will read whatever book they want - no matter if it's long or has tiny print or has no pictures - and I won't complain about it." Or even something simple like "Today I will tell my children I love them. And that I think they're perfect." Because to you, they are.

Our baby Sally and big sister Peppermint Patty

65 comments:

Scary Mommy said...

I love this post! And I do love me a new baby. Ugh.

I need to get fixed.

Moxy Jane said...

Oh, wow...this is my story...except for the happy ending! I'm still working on that part..."Today I will play Uno with my kids for 30 minutes and NOT YELL ONCE!!"...how did you know????

Great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog and, just so you know, I'LL BE BAAAACK.

MoxyJane
Austin, TX

april kennedy said...

We all need this reminder daily, I think! At least I do. Thanks!

I remember going through a door way and hitting my little girl's head on the frame too....ouch. Sorry baby.

1bitrcountrygirl said...

I'm not a parent yet so I don't really know what you are/were feeling YET but I spent a lot of time with my cousins when they were babies (there is 10 and 14 years between us in age) so I know all about the perfection of a new baby though.

Mimi said...

Great job! Enjoy your SITS day!

KC Mom said...

wow...that was a great post and so easy to identify with.
Love your blog template too.

LaTonya Yvette said...

I think it's natural for a mom to wonder if she is doing her best. I wish I could turn back the hands of time, but I can't. You live and learn

HeatherY said...

Great post. I think we all strive so hard to be perfect until one day it dawns on us that it just isn't going to happen. But it's okay! Love the picture. Adorable!

April said...

Great post! We've all been in the same boat at one time or another! Precious children, by the way!

Kimmie0270 said...

Fab. post!

Mandy said...

Cute picture!!

Creative Junkie said...

Awesome post and adorable photo!

I have to constantly remind myself that perfection lives only in my own mind.

Tonya said...

How inspiring! You really are a great blogger!

Reluctant Housewife said...

Great post! I think women do tend to expect too much of themselves and of other mothers. Perfection is so impossible to attain and we'd probably all be a lot happier if we could just relax and go with it. But it's hard to do.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, this was me too! Reading everything I could before I had my daughter, and taking it all as gospel (even when they all had different opinions??) was very hard on me. Trying to be perfect and make all those decisions, vaccines, etc...did I do it right? I don't know! My Mom finally told me, "You are her Mother, not the books or any of the wonderful people offering you advice 24/7. Just pray for wisdom and do your best; you are doing great." Thanks Mom!

Deanna said...

Okay now I have tears in my eyes!! Great post!

ScrappinAway said...

Love this post. The doorframe cracked me up...I did that once and just about died, I don't think my baby even noticed, but it made me feel sooo bad!

Noah's Mommy said...

Yeah....love this post....and thank god someone else bonked their kids head in the door frame...I thought I should be locked up for child abuse the other night when Poohs head connected with one.....thanks...I so needed this one

Legal Diva said...

How sweet. I have 5 and tell my oldest all the time that I'm sorry I didn't know more when she was a baby- I have told her she was the 'test child'. My twins had hand, foot, mouth once (which I understand feels like hundreds of bee stings in your mouth) and I thought all the drooling was just from teething- for 4 days... *sigh* I wanted to cry when I took the to the doctor and she told me what it was. I am sure everyone has something like that, but you still feel pretty crappy. Its great to know other people are willing to admit, and even advertise to others, that we are not perfect moms, not even one of us! Thank you!

Toots said...

Thank you! It's nice to have this as a reminder . . . especially after a hard day! :-)

Astrid said...

Fantastic post! That photo at the end of the post is toooo tooo cute!

Brandy said...

Great post! I see that PP turned out just fine despite the run in with the door frame. Very pretty girls!

Deconstructing Jen said...

I loved this. Every new mom should have someone say this too them. I'm going to go give my kids a squeeze now. :D

Mrs. S said...

Have you ever read "I Was a Really Good Mom...Before I Had Kids"? It's really good, made me nod my head in agreement more than once.

Vickie said...

i have the baby crazies now!!!That picture is super cute. My first two kids had colic, what a crappy time. The second child I discovered the vacumn is not just for cleaning. We turned it on and she would stop crying. Though, it would be on for hours at a time. What ever made her happy. Though I could not hear the TV. Sacrifices I made for my kids, HA HA.

Kristy said...

Oh I know exactly how you feel. I have 4 kids as well ages 1,3,7,&8. They can sure be a handful thats for sure. No day is perfect and my house is always a mess. Great post, I really enjoyed knowing i'm not the only one.

Momma Trish said...

Those are very cute children! Sounds like you have things well in hand. You're right; no one is perfect. (How do I make my teething baby stop screaming at me?)

Jaden Paige said...

I could NOT have said it better. This is a WONDERFUL post. I love it. Thanks for this!

Your kiddos are adorable, too. But then, you already knew that :D

Aleta said...

I don't have children. Greg and I would love to have a child, but most likely I can't because of medical reasons. But if we ever were blessed with one, I'd want to come back to your post and read it again and again. I'm a planner by nature, so I understand that "global thinking" that you have. I could see myself going through something of that nature should we have a child. Have you considered writing a book? Seriously. This was good!

Michele said...

Fabulous post. It kinda reminded me of my teaching days when I advised new teachers to give themselves a break. Some of them were stressing themselves out so much trying to be perfect teachers that they were grumpy teachers. Who wants a teacher like that?

Saundra@An Italian Mama Gone Crazy said...

How completely adorable are your kids!!!!


great job Mama!

Annikke said...

Congrats on the SITS day. Beautiful girls there in that pic!

Clippergirl56 said...

Wonderful post. Your girls are beautiful

Katie said...

So encouraging! I'm glad to see that other people make those "perfect" promises for tomorrow all the time as well. Then 7 am rolls around and I'm yelling. Yikes! Stay-at-home-mom is the hardest job on the planet!

The Tripp Family said...

what sweet girls! this was just the post I needed to read today :) thank you!!

AJ said...

Thanks for the inspirational post. What a great picture of your girls. Happy SITS day!

Heather said...

Aweome post!

trasha said...

Loving MOxy Jane's comment b/c no matter how much I beg them my kids WON'T play Uno with me!!!

Karol said...

That's exactly what I'm going through right now. (thank God you can't see me here in tears)
I beat myself up all time because I feel like a failure. I know I'm not, but I'm not perfect.

Thank you for writing this.

Nikkolish said...

Awesome post. It seems we all want to project that image of perfection to each other, but it's such a relief when I hear another mom admit that she gets frustrated with her kid(s) and doesn't have a spotless house or dinner on the table on time every night. We are all human...and perfection is boring anyways! ;)

jori-o said...

Wow, sister, you have a way with words. I especially like when you said "No mom is perfect except in the eyes of her child." I need to remember that and act accordingly...thank you! This is a FABULOUS post!

Amy said...

Cute cute photos :D

Susan said...

Awesome post and a great reminder. I know I struggle with that whole perfection thing often. And great picture! Enjoy your SITS FB day....

Jacie said...

Thanks for reminding me perfection is not realistic.

Lavender n Latt├ęs said...

Such a sweet story :). When my kids were babies I remember worrying about every single thing, too. (Unfortunately, I had to deal with an abusive husband on top of all of the usual worries, which led to divorce, but in the end it all worked out.) I remember thinking that "I can't make things perfect for them - all I can do is love them and care for them. Hopefully when they're grown they will understand." Well, 2 are in high school now and 1 is in college. Guess what? They got it. They understand! Love is always the answer...

angie said...

Great post!

The Boss Lady said...

This post is such a necessity for so many of us moms just trying every day to be perfect. I literally struggle with on a daily basis...just ask my counselor! :)

Becky :) said...

What a great post. I had the same feelings when I had my girl. Of course I was only 16 and seriously had no idea how hard it would be. And she was sick alot and then I did get in a car accident with her in the car. But I did manage to get through it with some awesome help from my amazing Grandma. And when I had my boy and it was just the three of us alone, I was sure I was going to ruin my kids. But through the Grace of God I managed and with my girl ready to graduate high school in June I think I've done an okay job. I was never by any means perfect but I don't think I ever tried. I was smart though a couple of years ago to get fixed, I just knew I would never be able to do all of it again. But boy I sure do love the two that I have.

Finding Normal said...

So sweet! I never attempted perfection. Good thing, since I make mistakes every single day!

wendy said...

Great post! Fabulous lessons to learn.

Happy SITS day!

Anna Lefler said...

Great post! Love your honesty...

Hope you had a blast on SITS day!

:^) Anna

littleeverydaythings said...

I only have one son and I feel this way. One time a friend told me that I am the only mother my son will know, so to him I WILL be the best mom. So I just keep trying to do it right and hope that most days I will :) I like your message of not being perfect. Happy SITS Day!

jubilee said...

I was a perfect parents and then I had kids. After my first two, I thought that I had a pretty good handle on things. Then I had my third and he was so different from the other two that I had to throw out almost everything I thought I knew to be true (as far as parenting goes).

Trying to be perfect flew the coop long ago. Now sometimes it's just a matter of survival. Yes?

Michelle said...

Oh so so true. And such a well-put message. I'd love to share this with friends who are expecting their first!

Z's Mom said...

What a great post...I think I needed to read this today. My son just turned "terrible two"....I thought that was a myth....I thought wrong......and I've only got one!!!!


Happy SITS Day!!!! :)

Marrdy said...

Great post. I love the names you have given your kids. Also REALLY love that anonymous comment button. Priceless.

Melissa Lester said...

They look pretty perfect to me!

Adrian said...

I think it's good that we all *want* to be the perfect mother's. We're never going to actually make it there, but maybe that desire to do it perfectly will help us at least get to "better than the average bear".

Mama's Losin' It said...

Awwww, you sound like a wonderful mama!!

Jennifer said...

As a mother of four, I feel ya!! Sounds like you are doing an excellent job!!

TMI said...

Isn't it funny that our children are the teachers and we're the humble students? It seems like it should certainly be the other way around! Congrats on being featured at SITS. I loved this post!

Rachael said...

What a great post! I only have one, and I can't even manage to get stuff done some days. But that's okay, because I would much rather hang out and play blanket tent with my two year old than mop the floor or make sure the house is spotless every single moment.

mylitlbratz said...

Love your blog!!! Enjoy your SITS day!!!

Dee from Downunder said...

what a great post - all mums and dads should read this.

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