It was 2012. I was sitting on my bedroom floor, leaning up against my old, clunky dresser, awkwardly trying to breastfeed my newborn son. Josiah was about 10 days old and my whole body hurt, I was exhausted, and he WOULD. NOT. LATCH. After struggling for about 35 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. This overwhelming sense of not being good enough came over me and I burst into tears.
My husband, Rodney, overheard me crying from the other room and came to see what was going on. I told him, “I just feel like I’m not a good mom. I can’t do it. I should be able to nurse him by now.” Clearly this baby was hungry and I couldn’t give him the one thing he needed the most at that moment. Rodney tried to reassure me that everything was going to be okay and that I was doing great. “Babe, you’ve only been doing this for 10 days,” he said. “Don’t worry, it’s not going to be like this forever.”
Y’all ever been there before? The feeling of needing to do everything right but you can’t? The feeling of absolute defeat? Maybe it’s not with breastfeeding. Maybe it’s not being able to speak up for yourself. Or maybe it’s a lack of confidence. Anxiety. Worry. Mishandling money. Yelling at your kids too much. Not being present enough. The list goes on and on.
We all have our idea of what a good mother looks like, and most of the time, we believe we’re far from it. We compare ourselves to what we see other women doing and think, “how is she doing all that and still able to…” – you fill in the blank. The thoughts of how to start being a perfect mom hit me.
If I’m honest, I fell prey to these thoughts often, especially as a stay at home mom. There’s an unspoken notion that we’re supposed to be the perfect cook, maid, innovator for saving money and obliterating debt, have a side hustle, keep our bodies looking good, and be classy in the streets but freaky in the sheets. Oh, and don’t forget to be your kids’ best friend, show it off on Instagram, AND know all the latest TikTok trends.
It doesn’t get any easier for the mamas who are working outside the home. You have to deal with the pressures of climbing the corporate ladder or managing your own business endeavors, bringing the best classroom birthday party snacks, dealing with people thinking you’re not dedicated to the job because you have kids (WTH is that about anyway?), and, ultimately, everything else that comes along with mothering and living life.
Anyway, fast forward to 2020, and I’m still feeling stuck in a perpetual cycle of just barely making it to the peak of the perfection mountain only to realize it was just a little pinnacle before the next valley. Let me let you in on a little secret. If no one has told you yet, IT. DOESN’T. EXIST.
There is no such thing as a perfect mom.
It wasn’t until I stopped and was like, “Hold up. I can’t be the only one out here feeling like this.” That’s when I started asking questions. What I found out surprised me. Call me naive, but I didn’t know that the very women I idealized were struggling with the same things. I didn’t know that they would go into the bathroom and cry for a few minutes to release all their pent up frustration. I didn’t know that they secretly envy their spouses because they get to freely come and go without having to worry about “what to do with the baby.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve run into moms that I think are knocking it out the park and they are still so crushed by the weight of trying to obtain the ideal form of motherhood.
Now as a mom of four, I see that hindsight is 20/20. I realize I was experiencing an injustice. I was blocking myself from living a truly happy and fulfilled life. In order to destroy the idea of being the perfect mom, it had to start with me.
First of all, I had to be honest with myself.
I was holding myself to an impossible standard. There’s no way I would be able to accomplish everything on my Superwoman list, at least not on my own anyway. I think sometimes we can get it twisted and legit think that being a good mom means being a perfect mom, and that’s simply not the case.
Step two. I had to be honest with others.
I had to be vulnerable with the other women in my life and have REAL conversations about my concerns and challenges. Majority of the time they were dealing with similar issues. Vulnerability helps people to see that they’re not alone. And, I mean, come on. It helps when you can get all this stuff off your chest.
Step three. I had to change my belief system.
Once I figured out that the perfect mom doesn’t exist, I needed to redefine what I believed motherhood to be. I created my own affirmations about who I wanted to be as a mother. I printed them out and I said them every day. When you change your belief about who you are, it will ultimately change your actions.
Step four. Progress.
I made my own mini goals and started focusing on what was best for me and my family. For me, small tweaks lead to giant peaks. Find something small that you can improve in that will affect multiple areas of your life. (ie. exercising helps relieve stress and helps me not to yell at the kids as much.)
Step five. Repeat.
Take life one day at a time and be present in the moment. There will be times where you shift your focus back on to what everyone else is doing. There will be times where we get frustrated, but don’t give up!
The fact that you’re even thinking about all this in the first place proves you’re a good mom. So don’t beat yourself up, just make a conscious decision every day to be honest and freakin’ cut yourself some slack. Cheers to becoming a better mom, and not trying to keep being a perfect mom.
Don’t forget, hiding is overrated.
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Shayla Caldwell is the creator of JunkDrawerMom, a YouTube channel that focuses on breaking down the stigma of the “perfect mom” by discussing practical and personal motherhood topics. She is a music-loving, homeschooling mom of four that also co-pastors One Shot Church in Silver Spring, MD. You can follow her journey on Youtube, Instagram, or Facebook at @junkdrawermom or visit her website at www.junkdrawermom.com.