Why are moms so hard on themselves today? Why is there so much comparison and competition, so much pressure to be perfect?
I’ve talked to my own mother about this phenomenon, and she has told me that it wasn’t as hard when she was a young mom. Kids didn’t have as much stuff – meaning activities as well as material things – that complicated everybody’s lives, for one thing. Moms weren’t as hard on themselves forty years ago as they are today. In today’s mom circles, you don’t have to listen long to pick up on the tune of self-criticism that so many moms sing.
As a mom of three young daughters whose schedules are way too full, I know for a fact that I couldn’t do my job without the support of others – especially other moms who are willing to carpool or otherwise lend a helping hand. I’m so grateful for my kids’ friends’ moms. When I’m in a bind, someone always steps up to untie me, and I try to do the same and pay it forward.
Becoming friends with other moms has enriched my life in more ways than one. When a group of us get together and get real with each other, a kind of magic happens. My spirit loosens up in the presence of women who are in the beautiful trenches of raising kids, just like me, and it’s in these moments when I feel like my imperfections are just about perfect. My mistakes enable me to relate and listen and empathize on a level that wouldn’t be possible if I tried to hide all the messes I make.
So, why do so many moms feel the pressure to be perfect? And why do they compare and compete with each other?
A few years ago, one of my best mom friends told me that another friend had referred to me as “Miss Perfect,” or something in that vein. (My friend then snort laughed because she knew for a fact that it is so far from true!) This other friend had mentioned that she always felt inferior around me because I seemed to have it all together, that I was always cooking family dinners and that I generally finished reading the book for our monthly book club. She said my house was always neat (she definitely needed new glasses,) and that I was cheerful (must have been a safe day in the cycle.)
Maybe this would make some people feel good, but it really upset me. First of all, this friend really had no idea of who I really was on the inside if she thought I had it all together. Nobody does, and I sure never have.
I struggle with my roles as a wife and mom and how to balance the two. I forget appointments and permission slips. I mix up my daughters’ lunches and laundry. I argue with my husband and I often fall asleep at night feeling like I have completely failed at parenting that day, still hopeful that the next day will be better. I’ve come to understand that days (or hours) when smooth sailing happens with all three children are a rarity to be noticed and cherished. I hardly ever feel like I’m succeeding at parenting all three daughters on the same day. Sometime this makes me sad, but mostly I worry that it will ultimately harden me. And I don’t want that.
I want to be empathetic and ready to listen. I’m not though, not all the time.
Here’s a mom comparison that drives me bug nuts –
“Oh, you’re not eating any of the ________ (insert baked good or chocolate.) You have so much will power.”
I just don’t dig sweets all that much. Open up a bag of Doritos, and my hands will be smeared with fake cheese powder from thumb to pinky. I think I eat a double dinner every day – one when I’m cooking it, and then one when I sit down with my kids. I binge eat flavored tootsie rolls, too – the horror.
But why do moms and women in general feel compelled to say things like this, especially in regards to eating? It makes me uncomfortable.
Or here’s another one –
“You amaze me that you find time to write! I can’t even find time to take a shower.”
Well, here’s a not-so-secret secret. My husband’s job pays the bills, which allows me to pursue my passion. If he didn’t work so hard, I wouldn’t be able to write, because I would have to work too. And, while I am writing, there are a thousand things that are not getting done at my house. Some of them might be unimportant, but some of them, like scrubbing a dirty toilet or changing my kids’ sheets, should probably get done more often than they do. Do I feel guilty about that?
But I make a choice. Maybe the sheets get changed one or two days later than they should so I can finish a couple of chapters or work on an idea that is inspiring me.
I struggle with how my mom and wife roles interact with my career as a writer. I feel guilty for taking time and energy away from my family when I spend time writing. My husband and kids don’t make me feel this way. This is something in my gut. Maybe it’s leftover Catholic guilt. I don’t know why, but it’s there.
And every time another mom remarks on how aamahhhhzzing it is that I find time to write books, I feel a stab of guilt.
And – newsflash – there are many days when I don’t find time to shower.
Here’s one more comparison that gets me going-
“You’re so patient. You never freak out and yell like I do.”
My girls (and probably my husband even more so) would beg to differ with you. Depending on the time of the month, they know that pushing my buttons could easily result in chaos and destruction. Sometimes the older two even ask me – “Mom are you hormonal this week?” They want to play it safe. My youngest daughter is fearless. She stands directly in the line of fire and challenges me all the time, no matter what time of the month it is. She is delightfully entertaining and altogether exhausting all at once.
Don’t all moms lose their patience? I’m no different. I’ve felt guilty a handful of times, and I’ve apologized to my kids when my frustration has gotten the best of me. I have said a swear word (or a hundred) in front of my kids and I’ve felt badly for it, but I don’t ever think – “oh I wish I was more like ______(insert other mom’s name,) because she is always calm. No one is always calm, and I don’t like it when moms point out my apparent calm (in that one special second) that sticks out in stark contrast to their momentarily crazy eyes. My eyes get crazy at least once a day.
Being a mom is hard! It drives us to say and do things we maybe never have thought we would. It messes with our heads and makes us forget why we walked into a room or opened a cupboard. It brings out the best and worst in us at the same time, but why does it make us dig for the things we are not? Why do moms search for those things in the lives of their peers and then beat themselves up over some skewed vision of what someone else’s life looks like through the opaque window of their own self-doubt?
I love my kids harder than I’ve ever loved anything, but sometimes I want to run away from their asky mouths and their endless streams of needs. Sometimes, actually, I want to run away from the world –even my friends and family. I need quiet space and me-time. A lot of it. Is that selfish?
I could go on and on with these comparisons that moms seem stuck on.
Bodies – who is the fittest mom? Who is the most attractive? Who cares?
Involvement – Which mom goes to every PTA meeting? Which one volunteers at every class party? (Which one has a Xanax drip next to her bed?)
Joking , but I know that I would need one if I did all of that! That’s not my strength, so I stick to making cookies and family dinners.
Marriage status – “ ______ and ______ (insert couple’s names) have such a great marriage. They are always going on trips together and doing fun things. Do you see their pics on Facebook?”
Facebook is a liar. You never know what happens behind closed doors. Those vacations may be the only thing holding that couple together. Stop comparing yourself to aspects of people you may know nothing about.
Money – Who has the nicest house? The nicest car? Whose children have the most brand-name stuff?
These thoughts are an epic waste of time. Moms have to stop looking outward and start embracing their mistakes. The biggest ones turn into the greatest stories.
I was most angry about my friend calling me Miss Perfect because not only was the comment totally false, but it made me feel really isolated. I, like every other person, have some strengths, but it’s through my weaknesses that I discover who my friends are. If I was perfect and could check off every item on my list by myself, I wouldn’t need my friends so much.
Thankfully, I’m so imperfect. And, when I’m surrounded by other moms, whose strengths might match my weaknesses, they fill in my gaps. And, instead of looking into their eyes and seeing all of the things I am not, I, choose instead see wonderfully created human beings who were put into my life to enrich it and to teach me something specific and purposeful. I see women who always walk beside me, so that we can cheer each other on through this crazy season of parenting. In their eyes, I see support and love and laughter and memories to be made over mistakes and triumphs.
Last week my daughter said something about a friend’s mother being so awesome.
“Mom, she does everything!” my daughter said, her eyes shining with praise for this woman who is my good friend. “She makes homemade noodles, she does hair so well, she teaches yoga…”
For one split second I thought to myself – I wish I could at least do a decent French braid.
Then, I stopped myself. I pushed away the “I’m not good enough” thoughts. I told myself to be grateful that I had a friend I could call to help me with dance recital hair, the same friend who teaches my youngest daughter the yoga she direly needs to calm her inner diva. This shift in focus was so freeing, it made me feel altogether joyful. Instead of drowning in negative “I suck because I can’t do hair” thoughts, I was lifting up my dear friend in my mind and thinking that my daughter was right. This particular mom is an awesome woman, and I’m lucky to have her in my corner!
Cheers to all of the wonderfully imperfect moms out there. Go easy on yourself today.
More about Dana Faletti: Dana Faletti is the author of The Whisper Trilogy, a young adult paranormal romance and Beautiful Secret, a sweeping adult drama of family secrets and forbidden love that is set to be released by Pandamoon Publishing in Summer of 2016. Dana blogs about whatever inspires her at, writes poetry as a survival skill and loves to connect with other writers both online and in person. When she’s not writing, Dana can be found reading on her kindle, cooking something delicious, or daydreaming about her upcoming travel destinations. She lives in in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, three young daughters, and a hypo-allergenic Siberian Forest cat named Fluffy G. Check out her website for more information about Dana and her books. You can also find out more about her books on Amazon.