What is a perfect mom? And why do I find myself trying so hard to attain something that is by its very essence unattainable? I place these expectations on myself to do everything and do it perfectly, and feel utterly depressed and dejected when I don’t live up to those expectations. It’s not just me that feels this way. Every mother I know feels intense pressure to be “perfect” but what is perfect, really? It’s a totally subjective term. Every single one of us has our own take on what that means, and at the same time, none of us can possibly live up to it.
I can’t tell you exactly where it began, maybe with June Cleaver. Who knows? What I do know is that a major contributor to the problem is that these days we simply have too much information, and 90% of it is completely contradictory.
It all begins even before conception with doctors and the media telling us that we have to take folic acid and can’t drink even a drop of alcohol when trying to conceive. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve known who beat themselves up their entire pregnancy because they went out and got drunk one night before they knew they were pregnant. Seems silly since, for many of us, that was what got us pregnant in the first place. (Not me, I’m wonderful ) .
Now once you’re pregnant, you have to take prenatal vitamins, except that most of us can’t take the stupid vitamins because they make us sick, so we end up taking children’s vitamins. You can’t take Flintstones, though, because they contain aspartame (which is on the bad list) so you have to pay through the nose for all natural, super vitamins with DHA and choline and folic acid and whatever else they tell you is so important, or your baby might grow a tail and two heads.
Next, we have to remember to eat healthy – eat more, but not too much. Exercise, but don’t overdo it, and don’t forget to do Kegels or you may be peeing your pants with every cough for the rest of your life (Yeah, right. Thanks for nothing). Oh and don’t eat lunch meat, sprouts, feta cheese, or 15 different kinds of fish, and definitely no alcohol, coke, caffeine, or diet anything. What you’re eating cheese puffs? That’s it. Your baby is going to be permanently scarred. And watch out for toxins in absolutely everything because it will all permanently maim your unborn child
This slew of information doesn’t end at birth - oh no! Once we finally have our beautiful blessings we are confronted with a whole new world of crap to stress over. Not the least of which is breastfeeding. We put so much pressure on ourselves (and each other – Yes I’m talking about you La Leche League) to breastfeed. It’s really insane. It is drilled into our heads that if we don’t breastfeed our kids won’t be as smart or as healthy, and that we are being selfish and lazy moms if we make the excruciating decision not to breastfeed.
Ahh, but if you do choose to breastfeed, keep yourself covered, huh? I mean, god forbid people see a boob. Or better yet… don’t come out in public for a year. It's not like you're a person, you're a mom. If you do breastfeed, you should breastfeed for only one year - exactly. If you go over a year, you are a nutcase and your child will develop all sorts of neuroses around your boobs. (I barely passed the one year mark before I started getting, “So are you gonna be breastfeeding her in college?” comments. )
Then there is the sleep training controversy. Some say if you don’t sleep train your child you aren’t teaching them to self sooth, so they will never learn to sleep on their own and will be sleep deprived for eternity. Others will tell you, that by letting your child cry, you are destroying your parent-child bond, and you child will never learn to trust another human being. So really, your screwed either way. And if you do choose to sleep train just so you can get sleep, well then you must be a horribly selfish mother. Because that is our society’s litmus test for being a good mother – selflessness.
What about the food you feed your baby? What is the best approach? Should you start them at 4 months or 6? Should you give them organic because the news said that baby food had higher concentrations of pesticides than typical fruits and veggies? Or should you make your own, or use a baby-led weaning type of approach? Or better yet, you could just pre-chew their food and spit into their mouths like little baby birds. (Yes. Alicia Silverstone, you are a freak). What about those ladies who just give their kids plain old Gerber, or even worse, Beach Nut? They mustn’t love their kids nearly as much as the ones who buy Earth's Best, right?
And as for discipline…. well that’s simple. You just need to strike a balance between giving a child rules and limitations, and allowing them the freedom to make mistakes and be kids. You should never, yell, curse or lose your temper in front of your child, and you definitely shouldn’t break down in tears in front of them when you’ve had a really bad day and just can’t take it anymore. That’s right, suck it up ladies.
Oh and you mustn’t forget to play with them constantly – and enjoy it, dammit – while keeping up with the: cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills, groceries, one billion appointments, baths, after school activities, homework, library books, and take a shower for goodness sakes. You stink!
Then there’s early childhood education. It used to be that you just kept your kid alive and healthy and they learned at school, but now we are expected to have taught our children all their letters, numbers, letter sounds, and how to write their name BEFORE they even enter kindergarten. Seriously, could you pile any more crap on top of us.
Yes, they can. Because one of the biggest and most difficult decisions you will ever have to make as a parent is imminent. Where to send them to school. I mean what if you make the wrong choice and they turn out like one of those morons on Letterman who think there are ten inches in a foot. That’s just unacceptable!
So here I am only six years into the guilt ridden, self-doubting, stressful and utterly terrifying journey of motherhood. I can’t even imagine what the next decade will bring, but what I do know is… It scares the living shit out of me.