Why the Perfect Mother Is a Myth (Do the Best You Can)

Published January 17, 2022
Mother gesturing while standing on sofa by boy at home

If there is one single job in the world no one wants to fail at, it is motherhood. Here you are, with this incredible little human that you created and are responsible for, and it is your calling in life to make all moments of that child's existence picture-perfect, Insta-worthy, and charmed beyond measure. You set the bar so high that perfection is never going to be achievable, and what is worse is that in the grand quest for parental perfection, mothers are forgetting that Pinterest parties, dazzling farmhouse nurseries, and closets full of the cutest outfits have nothing to do with being a perfect mom, or a good mom.

Everyone Else Looks Perfect, So What Is Wrong With You?

It's 10 pm. The kids finally stop calling for hugs, water, and all the questions to the universe have ceased. You are exhausted, emotionally zapped. You should sleep. You need sleep. Yet this is the only space in the day that is all yours. You turn your bedlamp off, your phone on, and you start the great evening scroll through social media.

You see all the moms you are social media "friends" with, posting their daily achievements and musings for all to see and envy. Your eyes wander over images of family photos, with professional backdrops and coordinating outfits galore. When was the last time you snagged a family photo or even managed more than running a brush through your five-year-old daughter's wild mane? You note the women who proudly posted the evening meal for all to covet. Wow. Gourmet eating on a Tuesday? The plate of dino nuggets and canned corn that you served up a few hours ago starts nagging the back of your brain.

You finally stop on a social media page flooded with outings and educational experiences that a family you know has squeezed into their schedule over the last few weeks. They are all smiling, learning, and loving. You are behind the eight ball. You'd better wake up really early tomorrow morning and plan action-packed months of museums, parks, and crafting. While you are at it, be sure to schedule a family photoshoot and purchase $500 worth of dresses at Lily Pulitzer. Note to self: get to Whole Foods, drop hundreds of Ben Franklins on food your kids won't eat, and by all means, cancel all evening plans so you can cook and photograph the final result for Instagram. Do this, and you, too, can be a perfect mother that other people on social media wish they were like.

Baby girl sleeping on mothers chest, while mother takes selfie

This is the daily rabbit hole today's mothers fall down. They believe everyone else is managing the impossible, so what the hell is wrong with them? Everyone else is clearly killing the mothering game; hence, there is no reason you, too, cannot achieve parental perfection. It is a toxic thought pattern of perpetual comparison. If it gets posted, it must be true.

The only truth here is pictures tell a fraction of the story. No one posts the crying and the crap for the world to see, and comparing your life to the lives of others will only make you feel less than. Stop...doing...it.

Social Media, Motherhood, and Depression

All of this comparing yourself to other (and in your mind better) mothers on social media makes you sad, and you are not alone. Recent research shows that more and more people are falling depressed when they engage in the cycle of comparing themselves to others on social media. All of this comparison makes moms believe they are less, everyone else is more, and if perfection is obviously happening for others, they just need to work harder to get there.

In the attempt to be perfect (or what you perceive via social media as perfect), you will likely do many of the following:

  • Become tunnel-visioned in your quest, ignoring all of the real-life taking place around you.
  • Stress out and burn out over the little things that pop up in your day. Being perfect is exhausting!
  • Place ridiculous and oftentimes harmful demands and requests on your family, who you believe must be as perfect as you are.
  • Give attention to things in life that are not actually important (perfect photos, dazzling vacations, filters, awards, all the highlights).
  • Snap at the people you love because you are being too hard on yourself.

Perfection is not only unattainable; it isn't worth it. Thanks to social media and comparison behavior, trying to be perfect has probably created a roadblock.

The Dangers of Striving for Perfection

There are a lot of dangers that striving for perfection can lead to. As mentioned above, maternal depression and feelings of inadequacy are common. What is scarier is the effects that a constant desire to be a perfect mother can have on the people you love most: your kids.

Kids are sponges, so of course they will be affected by your personal perfectionism. When you blow your top because your stunning family Christmas card is flawed in some way, your child is not going to stop and say, "Oh, mom is upset because she wanted to post this to social media so that everyone can see how wonderful she is. But now it is flawed, and the universe will judge her and don her a subpar mother." They see you are upset; they might feel bad about it, even assuming they are the reason for your frustration.

Too much striving for motherly perfection can cause your children to think they also have to be perfect, or by default, they are worthless. If you continuously think nothing you do is good enough, or everything in your parenting is so much crappier compared to everyone else, your children can learn the negative thought pattern as well. Do you want this for them? Do you really want your kids thinking that there is no other way but flawless?

Doubt it.

Being a perfect mother isn't worth what you could be risking, especially when you break it down and look very clearly at how your own behaviors affect those around you.

Don't Try to Be a Perfect Mother--Be a Good Mother

Kids don't want a perfect mom. Children don't care about image and other people's judgment. They want a good mom, and they deserve a good mom. You ARE a good mom. You just need to put the idea of perfection away (or burn it) and remember what it takes to be a good mother.

Affectionate mother with daughter in bed

Good mothers listen to their children and their families, not randoms on social media who choose to share the very best snippets of their lives. They tune into their family's needs, and those come first. Good moms are warm and compassionate. They are sure to step back and recognize that moments in childhood are fleeting. They leave the dishes and the laundry and do their best to be present, not all of the time (that's impossible) but a lot of the time. A good mom loves unconditionally, regardless of how much of a hot mess her family appears to be to the outside world. She is encouraging and supportive, and she chooses to put her family's happiness before appearances. She gets it. She knows that none of the social media fluff actually matters.

If you are nodding your head and thinking to yourself, "I can do this," you are right. You absolutely can be a good mother; in fact, at your core, you likely already are. You need a little good mommy makeover, and that starts by ditching social media and designing a real-life packed with real moments and real joy.

Design Your Family Life Around True Joy

So you know that being a good mom is far more key than trying to be a perfect one. You know the qualities and traits of a good mother, and you know what you need to let go of and what you need to grab onto in order to better achieve that. It is time to redesign your family life around actual joy.

  • What makes you happy, truly happy? Where are you most happy, and who helps you smile? Write this down.
  • What makes your children joyful? What is your family doing when the fighting melts away, the smiles come out, and everyone seems calmer and less stressed? Write it down.
  • What do you want your evenings to look and feel like? What are your goals and intentions for your home? Remember to focus on a life without social media. This is your one real life, not a life others get to peek at after the kids go down for the night. Write it down.

Once you have gathered your thoughts and feelings surrounding your family and happiness, put some plans into action. Create activities and moments that will help everyone connect, bond, and lean into each other. This is some seriously good mothering! Look at you focusing on the kids' needs and the family wants. Snap a million pictures of your parenting journey. Create family yearbooks and scrapbooks, but do it for you. Do it for the kids, don't do it for the moms on social media who you probably have met six times in total or the ones you knew long before you all descended into parenthood.

By dropping the facade of a perfect mother and embracing the traits of a good mother, you actually are doing everything right. You are meeting your children's needs, living authentically, and teaching your kids to do the same. You are a role model, a real person, and an awesome parent. The kids are lucky to have you.

Create Real Connections

Motherhood can get lonely (so weird considering you are NEVER alone these days.) You need to make connections outside of your family (another quality of a darn good mother.) Social media provides moms with faux relationships and connections. Do you really know these other perfect mothers? Do you even want to know them? For real, could you be friends if you were sitting at a table face-to-face?

Group of friends with toddlers

When you run screaming from the social media forums that temporarily warped your brain into thinking you needed to be a picture-perfect mom, you might feel a sudden loss or isolation. You still need human contact, parental camaraderie, and mom friends who could give a rip about pretend perfection. Find some real friends. Make sure they vibe with your good mom tribe and band together being good mothers. You will soon notice that you feel whole, confident, and more than maternally capable when you are suddenly surrounded by other authentic parents who are all about the realness of parenthood.

Know That Your Best Is Good Enough

Even when you transition over from impossible-perfect mom to a really good, authentic mother, you will fall under the shadows of doubt. You will still sometimes question whether or not you are good enough. Remember that you are absolutely good enough.

You are not perfect, but thank goodness for that! A good mother trumps a pretend-perfect mother any day of the week.

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