Moms Aren't Meant To Be Perfect

by Suzanne Hayes
A mom lying in bed with her newborn on her chest, holding a phone up and taking a selfie
Ashley Corbin-Teich/Getty

I have just about had it with parenting.

I don’t even care if that sounds terrible. It feels like such a freaking challenge every day, and maybe it’s the teenage years or the fact that I am divorced and sharing my kids with my ex-husband or maybe it it’s the fact that my bank account is almost always hovering near (or below) zero or maybe it is both all and none of the above simultaneously. Because if it isn’t one thing it’s another. If it isn’t this mom, it’s the one down the road.

Parenting is hard freaking work; it requires us to be the equivalent of a CEO (of a company) whose employees we love so damn much and whose futures we are way-too invested in. The challenge of balancing parental love with discipline and responsibilities and just the right balance between authoritative and fun is near impossible. Every day, I start over and try to be better (actually, I try to be perfect) and every day I fail.

I love my kids so freaking much. I enjoy my time with them more than anything in the world. They make me laugh and they warm my heart and they are the best little (well, kind-of big) people I know. And when they leave my house to go to their dad’s, I miss them so terribly much that it physically hurts. And then the guilt sets in. And I desperately want a do-over of our time together so I can be the perfect mom I strive to be every damn morning and I beat myself up because I am so not perfect; I am not even close and while I know that none of us are perfect and I know that I never will be perfect, I still set the expectation of myself as a mother to perfection.

My own mother, who has five children, has always told me, “You are only as happy as your saddest child,” and oh my goodness is she right on the money with that one. And guess what? One child is always sad or upset or anxious or jealous or fighting for my attention. One always feels left out or less-loved or like everything in life is just not fair and oh-how it hurts my soul – no matter which child it is or why they are upset or even if they are justified in their emotions — it doesn’t matter. It hurts me to the core. If they are sad, I am sad times ten.

And I feel like the solution to their sadness lies in me. Like if I were a good enough mom they would never be sad. If I always choose the right words and hugged instead of yelled or gave space instead of invading it, or if only I had enough money for fun spa days and exotic vacations, then their pain would disappear. If I was patient enough and loving enough and fair enough in my parenting, well, then, they would be content and they would never fight with one another; they would never retreat to their rooms and bury their heads in their phone or roll their eyes or slam their doors. I want to take their every pain away and for some delusional reason, I think I can do it.

If only.

But I can’t. It does matter how hard I try or how much I pray for strength or how patient I am — I will never be perfect and I will never fully take away their sorrow and pain. And maybe that’s a good thing, in addition to an inevitable one.

Maybe my kids need to learn that life isn’t fair and that we can’t have our way all of the time. And maybe as a mother it isn’t my job to stop or prevent or take away the pain. Maybe as a mother I need to embrace the imperfection as a stepping-stone to growth and strength and to help my kids see the lesson. Maybe I need to embrace my children’s pain and learn from it. And maybe, maybe above all else, when I wake up each morning, I should promise myself that I will not try to perfect, but I will do my best on that given day because moms aren’t meant to be perfect. And neither are kids. Or life. And maybe that’s okay.