I Really Need To Recover From PMS (AKA Perfect Mom Syndrome)

by Kimberly Valzania
Originally Published: 
Kuznetsov Alexey / Shutterstock

Oh, hello adult kids. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for bringing up all the mistakes I made over the years. Love you more.

Looking back on my time spent in the child-rearing trenches (the mommy war zone if you will), I always come to the legitimate conclusion that I was both a very good mother and a very bad one. I was and still am a good-bad mother. Deal with it.

Mothers, God bless us all. We who fail miserably, and we who triumph gloriously are one in the same. Being both good and bad at mothering, for me, happened simultaneously and regularly. Sometimes I did and said the perfect thing, and sometimes not. When I was pushing through my heavier parenting years, I managed a straight up volley between excelling at my job as mom and feeling defeated by it.

My good and bad mom stories could fill up two separate baskets.

A lot of us can’t see that it’s okay to feel both good and bad at being a mom. We beat ourselves up over our mistakes. And yes, some mistakes are big, but most are quite small. Most just come with the territory.

Motherhood is, at best, a swirling mass of storms and rainbows. Imperfect moments, and moments so incredibly perfect they make us want to give a speech and take a bow in public. And while our individual mothering challenges will always differ across the board, we share something in common: Most of us aspire to be perfect for our children.

Perfect role models, nonstop givers, insightful counselors, and wise teachers. Talented cooks, loving nurses, meticulous custodians, and clairvoyant mind-readers.

It’s called Perfect Mom Syndrome, or PMS, for short. And yes, I know it’s confusing, but we’re calling it that.

In the same way we thumb through glossy magazines and scrutinize the 15-year-old model physique we can’t achieve (because hello, we’re not 15), we all seem to have an “ideal” mother image melded into our minds. It’s a flowery depiction of the way a “good” mother should always look and act.

And yet despite knowing that motherhood has never been a perfect science, we can’t help it. In the same way we covet youthful bodies and flawless beauty, we also seemingly reach for perfect (but unachievable) mom status.

What’s your version of a perfect mom?

For me, a perfect mom keeps her cool. She’s always patient. She never yells. She enforces her perfectly outlined rules instead of caving when she’s too tired to fight, or it gets too hard.

She wears Lily Pulitzer dresses and J.Crew shorts. She can do that because she’s skinny. Her legs are amazing.

She prepares balanced and tasty dinners and packs nutritious lunches. Perfect Mom doesn’t bring junk food into the house. She bakes cakes with applesauce instead of butter.

She also gives the best advice. She doesn’t get upset or angry when her 14-year-old daughter asks about birth control or getting a gigantic panda tattoo in the middle of her back the moment she turns 18 because “pandas are so beautiful.”

Perfect Mom is always ahead of the game. She doesn’t let the laundry pile up, she picks up her kids on time, and she always has fresh milk in the house.

She knows how to do the math homework. Yes, she’s that good.

When we aspire to be like her, even just a little, we are experiencing a case of PMS (I know, you’ll get used to it).

A “regular mom” might throw a box of Lunchables into a backpack and call it a day. Why? Because it’s easy.

A regular mom might give a kid a bowl of chips and salsa or cereal, and call it dinner. This mom might send her kid to school in dirty socks. Why? Because she hasn’t gone grocery shopping and laundry sucks.

Regular Mom is bewildered sometimes. She doesn’t always have the answer, and she doesn’t want to talk things out rationally or productively. She gets straight-up pissed off, and she slams things around. Why? Because Regular Mom gets mad and resentful.

And guess what? Regular moms aren’t “bad” moms. I used to think this way, and it tore me apart. It’s quite okay to want to be a good mom who does the right thing. What’s not okay is stressing out over our daily imperfect moments. PMS has a way of creeping up and making us feel terrible when we can’t perform. It undermines our long-term goal of successfully raising a good human being.

Here’s a bit of news: Perfect Mom doesn’t exist. Let me clarify: She exists sometimes, but never all the time. And she’s a supreme energy drainer. She knocks down our mommy morale when we can’t live up to her hype.

The truth is, on any given day of mothering, we give, and we take away. We help, and we hurt. We practice patience, and we become exasperated.

We push forward, and we quit.

The same mouth that screams at the guy driving at a snail’s pace also blows bubbles on a baby’s belly.

The same fingers that pinch a son’s ear to yank him away from trouble are holding the tissues that dab his tears.

That hand that punches a wall in a fit of frustration also pats a back in a show of pride and encouragement.

The same mind that doesn’t care anymore and wants to quit being a mother is the one that stays awake into the wee hours of the night worrying about her children and everything under the sun that could bring them harm.

We moms can’t be perfect because children bring out the best and the worst in us. It’s what they do. We must ditch PMS before it destroys our motherhood experience.

It will, if we let it.

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