A Therapist of Family Counseling Potomac MD Holds In High Regard On: The Myth Of The Perfect Mother
This weekend brings Mother’s Day–a time when we all are reminded to take a moment to appreciate our moms and, if we’re moms ourselves, to pause in the craziness of life and be appreciated by our partners and kids. I’ve been waiting for this week to write a post that I, as a therapist of family counseling Mclean VA can trust, think is important, and that I know is pertinent in my own life: the myth of the “perfect mother.”
The perfect mother is all around us, and we see her every day. She makes us feel inferior and self-conscious, as though every day we’re falling short of some unwritten set of rules about motherhood. I saw her just yesterday, actually. My daughter, who is two and a half, goes to preschool twice a week at our local community center. Yesterday when I was there dropping her off, I noticed one of the other mom’s was loaded down with homemade treats wrapped in beautiful packages and bouquets of fresh flowers, which she was handing out to the teachers as she moved through the building. I asked my friend if she knew what was going on — there are still three weeks left until school is out for summer, so why was this mom giving her end of the year gifts already? That is when I learned that this week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and apparently it’s customary to give personal gifts to one’s teachers (which I am totally on board with — I just didn’t know it existed!). I felt awful. Here this other mom was loaded with clearly personal and time-intensive gifts, and she was showered and nicely dressed with her hair styled to boot. I was empty-handed, unshowered, and focused on making it to the grocery store and back with my 8-month-old in the 90 minutes my daughter would be occupied at school. She looked like the perfect mother, and I felt woefully deficient.
Moms, you know what I’m talking about. The perfect mother is on the playground with homemade organic snacks packaged in reusable containers. The perfect mother balances her parenting and other obligations seamlessly, even making it look easy. The perfect mother has sex with her husband three or four times a week, and is happy to give you advice on how to bring back the spark in your own marriage. The perfect mother serves home-cooked meals seven nights a week, and her toddler eats whatever the adults are eating and has done so for so long that the perfect mother can’t even understand what you mean by “picky eater.” The perfect mother makes you feel like shit (but this is totally on you because the perfect mother would never do something hurtful on purpose!).
As a provider of family counseling Great Falls can trust with secrets, I have one to share with you: the perfect mother doesn’t actually exist. She’s an illusion created by our inability to remember that when we think we see a perfect mother, we are actually comparing her best features and performance to our own worst–and viewing it all through the lens of our insecurities about our potential or perceived shortcomings.
Do you know that metaphor about ducks? Think about when you see a duck swimming across the water. It looks totally calm, serene, as though it’s just gliding along effortlessly. But if you could see under the water, you would see that the duck’s legs are paddling frantically! Major effort is going into that appearance of gliding effortlessly across the water. The perfect mother is the same way. She appears to be gliding effortlessly across the playground, down the hallway at school, through the grocery store. But somewhere underneath the surface, she’s paddling frantically in more ways than one. We all are. And here’s the kicker: YOU probably even look like the perfect mother to someone else. It’s all about perspective.
In the past year, I’ve been lucky to form a few good, close friendships with moms I can be totally myself with. We talk to each other about all the ways in which we’re paddling frantically under the surface. It’s been SO very refreshing to know that I’m not alone in all the ways I find myself challenged as a mom (and wife, and therapist, and person…). When I first met these women, they looked like perfect mothers to me. Now I know that though they’re not perfect, they’re real, and that’s far more valuable to me.
This mother’s day, let’s give each other something: honesty. Let’s be real with each other, moms! And let’s also be gentle with ourselves, remembering that though they may not be easily visible, we all have things we work to overcome or improve in our roles as moms. As a Wheaton MD family counseling provider: mothering is not a competition. We’re all out there trying to raise good, caring, conscientious future citizens–and that will happen more easily if we work together. We can start that by modeling kindness and vulnerability to each other.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. And “quack quack” to all my duck friends.