Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lies About Mothering

The lie that a woman's value-- or at the very least, MY value-- comes from joyful full time mothering creeps into the back of my mind when I least expect it. I don't believe it, not anymore, but the lie persists in whispering to me in my moments of self-doubt.

How did I ever come to believe it in the first place?

I suppose it began innocently enough, with the nearly universal motherly desire to be the best mom I could be to my kids. But, as a lifelong perfectionist, my perfectionism reared its ugly head.

Quietly, gradually, but insidiously, my perfectionism convinced me of three things. One, that an ideal mother exists-- complete with all the little details that make up this idealistic vision. Two, that the "best mom I can be" is synonymous with being the ideal mother. If, after all, I was enlightened enough to see what the ideal mom should be like, then I was obviously capable of achieving that vision.

Even if it drove me to depression.

Even if I slowly lost touch with my longtime interests and passions.

Even if I became ever more resentful of trying to live up to an ideal.

I said my perfectionism convinced me of three things. The third may have been the most devastating of all: I became convinced that my value as both a mother and a woman was inextricably tied to my ability to perfectly and joyfully live up that ideal.

At the time, I don't think I would have been able to admit that this was what I believed. But it was.

Thinking of some of the ideals I once tried so hard to live up to now turn my stomach a bit. Not because they are inherently bad things; no, in fact, they are really good things. But some of these ideals were never a good fit for me. I cringe to think of how I tried so hard to force myself into a mold that wasn't right for me, then criticized my own worth for not fitting.

I'm not going to detail what my vision of an "ideal mom" was, because that isn't important here. But I suspect that many other moms have a similar struggle with not living up to the ideal in their heads. And I wonder what would happen if we let go of the ideal. What if we decided to embrace our natural strengths and interests, and allowed those to extend into parenting, rather than trying to reinvent ourselves to be what we think a good mom "should" be?

For me, I've found that as I began living in accordance with who I really am, I became much happier. And ironically, I feel like I am actually a better mom to my children than I was when I was striving for an ideal.

Maybe none of this resonates with you. But if it does, what is one thing you can do to begin releasing yourself from the grip of the lie that says your worth is tied up in living up to an ideal?


  1. I need to stop alienating myself from others just because my house isn't spotless.

  2. Even though I have a husband who is a fantastic cook (seriously, he could be a chef), I feel the need to try new recipes and cook often. It just doesn't come naturally to me, and I feel bad when I can't seem to measure up. My housekeeping skills are the pits too. So I understand that as well. Good post!