I’m allergic to dogs and I don’t have many kids over to play with my two little girls.
I’ve never made homemade Play-Doh and I don’t plan on it either. I prefer my kids to eat ice cream out of dishes rather than from messy cones.
Mother guilt creeps up silently and throughout my day. It’s an ugly feeling and one I’m embarrassed to even acknowledge. But the thing is, I don’t want to be perfect. I want to be me, and I want to be real and genuine about myself with my kids. I want my girls to grow up and feel like they really knew their mom as a person outside of this special role. And I’m not perfect, but I am a great mom. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself of this, with careful parts of equal logic and reason, alongside these unexpected, subconscious fears over my clear lack of mythical perfection.
I’m sure there are Pinterest-worthy moms in real life; ones who make homemade clay from flour and food dye, and who don’t have near panic attacks just thinking about sticky, food-covered fingertips; ones who don’t carry Wet Ones in their diaper bags. Having kids does mean messes, and I want it to mean messes. I want my kids to cook with me and experience the joys of dribbling watermelon juice down their chins in the hot summer sun. I want my kids to know that they are good enough exactly as they are—messy and beautiful—rather than who society will make them occasionally feel like they should be.
Yet the strange thing about mother guilt is that my kids don’t even know what their missing, and sometimes that alone is what makes me sad. Still, it’s important to gently remind myself that every family, and every mom, and every individual, has special things that we’re great at, as well as traits and quirks and qualities that are challenging. I want to teach my kids not how to be perfect, but how to kiss their imperfections. I want to display to them that Mommy knows how faulty she is, but that it’s my powerful choice to decide whether or not a flaw is something I choose to be embarrassed about or that I choose to embrace with the same kindness and love I try to show my kids.
Being perfect is boring. Being our original, badass, real-life selves is glorious.
Every time I catch myself internally harping on my failings, I stop. I observe where this feeling is coming from. I give myself permission to feel whatever emotional sensation that’s moving through me, even the uglier ones that I’d rather not experience, but then I’m careful to understand that just because an emotion is real, it doesn’t mean that it’s the truth about my life or who I am. It’s exactly like when my daughter told me she’s scared to go to her new, big-kid kindergarten school, and I hugged her and told her I understood what being scared feels like, even though I knew she would love it and be fine.
My kids are not cookie cutters, and neither is their mama—thank God.
The only truth is that comparison is a small death for our confidence, and for our abilities to find joy within our lives and within who we naturally are. Comparing ourselves, especially with how we parent, to other people steals what makes us unique and wonderful, too.
So there might be days when I tell myself today will be the day that I make Play-Doh from scratch, even when I know I probably won’t. I hope there are many more days when I look in the mirror and smile at how hard I’m trying to love my kids and myself.