The Myth of the Perfect Mom

They are only human, so it’s time to take the pressure off.

Illustration by Michele Melcher

I was in line at the grocery store, behind a mother with three young children, all standing in the cart. A cashier opened a new line, and after a few moments, I asked the mom if she wanted to go. 

At first, she looked catatonic. I waited patiently, recognizing the signs of a mother in distress. “You have to give me a minute,” she uttered. “I can’t. I just can’t.”

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I went to the next line but couldn’t stop thinking about this frazzled woman. I wished I could’ve taken her for a cup of coffee. I remember how I felt to carry the full weight of motherhood on my shoulders. 

I wanted to be the perfect mom, to not make some mistake that would ruin my kids’ lives. I stressed over stupid things like having a picture-perfect Christmas card, spending many sleepless nights knowing how precious this time with my family was. How could we make the most of it? How could I ever stop stressing?

Then I realized something: No one has a perfect child, and no one is a perfect mother. When I’ve made mistakes, every decision was out of complete love for my children. I did my best—and still do.

Here’s what I want that young mother—every mother—to know. You’re going to have good days and bad days. Those days will have their share of laughter and tears. The important thing to remember is that you’re part of a family—and you are loved.

Take care of yourself, because you really are your kids’ life, just as they are yours. The little things that deplete you really don’t matter. You matter. Smile through the chaos. Laugh every chance you get. Hug and kiss your kids as often as they allow. One day, all too soon, they’ll be grown and reflect back on how you made them feel safe and completely loved. You were present, and you were perfect—even in your imperfections.

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Coming up on another Mother’s Day, I hope all of you take the time to appreciate your moms. I’m so grateful to mine for her unselfish love, devotion, strength and faith. For those whose moms have passed, remember that her love endures even death. You can hear her words coming from your mouth—and you almost feel the special way she grabbed you and wouldn’t let go. She’ll always be with you, just as you will always be with your kids. 

So when that feeling of inadequacy threatens to permeate your soul, remember that you are good enough. You are an absolute blessing. You’re a mom.

The mother of two sons, JoAnne Cannon is relieved to tell you what she didn’t tell that young mom at the grocery store.

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