Being called the perfect mom is every woman’s dream! And oh, the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect, or at least, if not ‘perfect,’ then definitely ‘good’. If you speak to moms you will find that the phrase “I feel I am such a bad mom” will keep popping up. Do women realise that these are powerful words?
But, what do these women really mean? Have you wondered what, exactly, is a ‘good mom’ anyway? Does breastfeeding your baby until he/she is two make you a good mom? What about never losing your patience when your toddler throws a tantrum? Is a stay-at-home mom a “good” mother? Or are you only put on that pedestal when you are a multitasking working mom who can earn, cook and clean in the same breath?
Imperfect moms is a reality we dread
Many might call a woman who cooks all of her meals from scratch a ‘good mom’ while others will call a mother so if she always puts her children’s needs before her own. Or is the ‘good mom’ constantly smiling, has a perfectly clean house, homemade namkeen and achar on the dining table, and clean, folded laundry put away before anyone notices it was even dirty? Or does a ‘good mom’ never feed her children sugar, and lets them watch TV?
Or maybe she’s the one who is always happy, never sad or angry, definitely not anxious, and seems to know exactly what to do with her child at every developmental stage? I am sure this ‘good mom’ is the one whose baby doesn’t cry and her children are always happy too.
If I speak for myself, sometimes the frustration of leaving behind a good career to care for my young daughter creeps up when I see my former colleagues reach the heights of their careers. I wonder am I a ‘good mom’ now that I did give up? I also wonder, if the cost of losing out on a prosperous career worth just an appreciation certificate or tag from society?
Suggested Reading: Why Do We Romanticise Motherhood? Isn’t It Time We Stop?
Do perfect moms exist? Don’t you want to meet her?
While what I have written may seem extreme, yet most moms/women carry at least one of these expectations in their definition of a ‘good mom.’ Isn’t it moms? And, the surprising part is that these definitions of good motherhood are not theirs, they are our society’s. Or it’s usually their mothers or mother-in-laws who judge the younger women on these parameters. Or maybe these definitions are written in books kept on our bedside table. You can also hear them anywhere from your paediatricians, that perfect neighbour, husband, or our woman colleagues.
Let’s break this myth, the ‘good mom’ doesn’t exist!
This is probably why women could identify with Leda’s character, played by Olivia Colman, in the screen-adaptation of The Lost Daughter, so much. She was real, her frustrations as she tried to balance motherhood with a career she loved so much, were real. Her happiness was real, and so was her guilt.
Take for an example, Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, who studied child development and has been a leader in the field of child psychological health. He spoke and wrote at length about a mother whose mistakes and imperfections lead to the psychological health and important social and emotional development of her children.
From this perspective, mothers actually need to be flawed and imperfect so that they can teach their children the importance of repair; so that their children learn not to fear mistakes. So if a mother was always perfect and never made mistakes, she would never give her child the opportunity to learn how to forgive, apologise, learn from mistakes, love unconditionally, and be human.
Being a good or a perfect mom is nothing but an added burden that prevents women from enjoying motherhood. It replaces conversations on setbacks with unspoken guilt that one must bear all alone. So instead, embrace your imperfections and tell other moms around you that these are what make them special and unique. Every child is different and just like that, every mom and her motherhood journey is different. What should matter is creating a lifelong bond with your child and giving them an upbringing to the best of your capabilities, but not at the cost of your own wellness.
Take some time out for yourself, respect and fulfil your own priorities and if this outlook is seen as “bad” then the problem isn’t with your technique as a parent but with the social outlook.
Views expressed are the author’s own.