May 7, 2011

The Myth of The Perfect Mom

Today I ponder another Mother's Day and all the emotions it stirs up. I was adopted and so my feelings are complex. When I was a girl and times were tough between me and my mother (like they often are) I imagined that life might be so much better if only I was living with my birth mother. She would be the perfectly loving and kind mother that you read about in books and see in the movies. The ever sacrificing and loving type that was always there for her child with kind words and support. When I was in my early twenties I found my birth mother and started a relationship with her. I soon realized that though it was wonderful to have her in my life that she could not be a mother to me in the same way that my mother is because I was now an adult. The history was not there. The taking care of skinned knees, the fixing of meals rejected, the fights over what to wear, the rebellion and misbehavior she didn't deal with. In our fantasies mothering is always a joy. In real life it is a lot more than that. In real life I wonder how many of these mythical mothers there are. We mothers are in fact, human beings with faults.

By default we carry with us all the baggage of our lives before we were mothers and try as we might to be different sometimes we carry on the mistakes of our mothers, as they did their mothers before them. Or we find our own ways to make mistakes. In the same way that trying to be a perfect person is unattainable, so is being a perfect mother. Yet the myth persists.

Being a mother of a special needs child and one with medical issues is tough. Some people look at us and think we are supermoms or heroes. But we are not martyrs. We did not choose this. Most of us fight tooth and nail to deny our membership into this special sorority. We rail against the suffering our children endure, sometimes unable to accept the obvious because we want so desperately for more for our children. And it hurts. We are, in fact, ordinary people from all walks of life. We have shortcomings as mothers, like all mothers do. And I think many of us feel we are failing a lot of the time. In addition to the cookies not baked as often as we'd like, the moments not savored, and the intended craft projects that may go undone there is the nagging questions of "what more could I be doing for my child", I should really work harder on X, Y or Z. Or the other kids aren't getting enough. Or, dare I say it, the resentment we sometimes feel over the sacrifices we make to raise our children. In reality I think these are things all moms face. We must recognize that we are HUMAN, and intrinsically not perfect.

I always try to remember that our jobs as mothers are to give our children roots and wings. To prepare them for their place in the world, whatever that may be. To allow them to be themselves. And that, when asked, most children just want love and acceptance from their parents. I tell my children every day that I love them. Periodically I ask "Do you KNOW that? Do you FEEL it? I want you to feel that I love you." Whatever else I do wrong along the way I know if in the end they feel they were loved I've done my job well. Not perfectly but well enough.

Happy Mothers Day everyone.


  1. Beautiful post Susan.

    I love that linked story, I think I have read that one time before and I adore it.
    I missed your call today which made me even more sad.
    You know maybe I am over emotional lately, tomorrow is mother's day, I still grieve over my mom's death.

    How parallel your first paragraph rings so very true to me.
    We just are soul sisters.
    I love you and I hope you have a brilliant mother's day.
    Hugs and all the love in the universe from me to you.

  2. Happy Mother's Day Susan! Enjoy your Mother's day and give yourself a hug from me. We are all doing the best we can do even if we don't always feel like it - because it's not in our nature to give anything less than 110%.

    With love,


  3. To be honest, growing up, I had the opposite problem. I was "raised" by my biological parents, though their version of raising me was that my genius brother could do no wrong and I was the subject of constant abuse. I always wondered what it would be like having adopted family, something I found out after I finally escaped that life as a teenager.

    I admire you a lot as a person and as a mother. You do a great job and your kids are very lucky--You're definitely a mother who gives 110%, even when it's exhausting. I've been reading your blog for a year or two now and cheering Ainsley along. She's a sweetheart. Your family is inspirational. I would like you to know that watching Ainsley grow up in your blog is amazing. I'm on the rocky, time consuming, often bizarre road with a hopeful destination as an RN, and reading things from your perspective is enlightening. I hope keeping things I've learned from you in mind can make me a better helper.

    God Bless!