Myth Of the Perfect Mother

kitchen

momskitchenhandbookLast week the voice behind the blog Marin Mama Cooks announced she was closing up shop, taking a hiatus from writing. The reason? She said that as her blog grew, “so did the pressure to maintain this image of Marin mama. … this woman who had it all together, had the perfect husband, the perfect children and the perfect life. I was pretty much playing a role, a role that I created, and fed into as well. It was fun at the time because I got to escape and be an actress, but as time wore on, I lost sight of Jackie and who she was and what she wanted.”

I learned of Marin Mama’s sabbatical from my friend Leslie, who asked me if I ever felt this pressure for perfection. After mulling it over, I said, frankly, “not really.” But her question stuck with me, and as the day wore on, I found myself going back to it. What hit me most was how much I disliked the notion of being perceived as perfect. I felt, in fact, quite stricken by the  idea.

So many of us, from the moment we become mothers, want to do everything “right.” We put an unrealistic burden on ourselves and can be mercilessly self critical. This isn’t helped by the abundance of images on blogs and social media (hello, Instagram and Pinterest) that portray perfectly curated lives . We let others into our closets and kitchens and craft projects when they are at their very best. We share what is beautiful and rich and yes, perfect.

But perfection is impossible. And if you ask me, perfection is boring, inauthentic, exhausting. And as we see in the case of Marin Mama, trying to live up to “perfect” is ultimately, an albatross. It oppresses and confines and has the potential for making others feel inadequate.

The truth is, though, it’s easier to expose the bright and shiny pieces than the failures. But sharing the places of struggle, the everyday bits, not just the polished recipes, is part of the story, too. This is one of the reasons I started My Week in Food and why I write posts like The Mom I Don’t Want to Be and Feeding a Teen, because it’s not always dreamy over here.

But if any doubters prevail, I’d like to tell you a little more about how very imperfect I am when it comes to all things food and family. Let’s start with the picture above. My kitchen has probably not been that clean since the photo was shot 2 1/2 years ago. I’ll let you in on a few other tidbits…

  • There are days when I don’t want to make another morsel of food for another human being.
  • I can’t identify a quarter of what ‘s in my freezer.
  • I’m sometimes too lazy to compost the compost and recycle the recyclables, even though I bark at my kids for doing the same and live in San Francisco where these things are like a religion.
  • My kids think there could be better things than having a mom who is a dietitian.
  • I have stolen from my kids’ Easter Baskets, Halloween bags, and gingerbread houses since they were too young to fend for themselves.
  • After 20 years of marriage, I still can’t wrap my mind around how much Mr. Mom’s Kitchen can eat. It’s not unusual for him to rummage through the cupboard after dinner because he has been underfed.
  • I never drink enough water. Ever.
  • I have my “fat days” too.
  • Everyone in my house but me thinks I don’t buy enough snacks. People have yelled at other people over this.
  • I have a weakness for grilled cheese sandwiches made with processed American cheese.
  • I’m not especially organized. Sometimes it’s not until 5:30 that I know what we’re eating at 6.
  • I eat too much chocolate most of the time and drink too much wine some of the time.
  • I have done, at some point or other, all of the things I advise you not to do 1) Used food as a reward 2) Let my kids have soda 3) Bought those damn baby carrots 4) Used paper napkins 5) Skipped breakfast 6) Eaten standing up in front of the fridge 7) Gotten dramatic at the dinner table 8) Other things, too, I’m sure.

So, how are you not perfect? Join the club.

Comments

12.18.2013 at 4:11 AM #

Valerie

Awesome! Thank for sharing! My first read in the morning and your list made me smile!
I have chocolate after my daughter goes to sleep, even though I’ll tell her no more treats, that we’ve had enough.

12.18.2013 at 4:31 AM #

Jacquelyn Stern

I just shared on my facebook page – Annapolis Nutrition. I LOVE what you wrote!!! So true!!!!
Thank you for starting the conversation.

12.18.2013 at 4:31 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Jacquelyn. I will have to come check out your page!

12.18.2013 at 5:50 AM #

Carolyn

Ha! That’s great! It’s as if you almost have to pick your fights. But as long as most days are filled with mostly good, healthy foods and behaviors, then you’re doing fine – better than fine. Now, I just bought a bag of Lay’s salt and vinegar chips which I haven’t had in a long time. Can’t get those chips into my mouth fast enough. Absolute bliss.

12.18.2013 at 7:13 AM #

Heidi Roth

Too funny! I’m not sure which one I relate to most – I think all of them. Just shared on my new FB page Heidi Roth Nutrition as well.

12.18.2013 at 7:13 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks for sharing, Heidi!

12.18.2013 at 7:24 AM #

Christina

So true! I’m shocked that you eat American cheese and let your kids have soda. Wow!

And what’s wrong with baby carrots?

12.18.2013 at 7:24 AM #

katiemorford

Both rarities, but, true indeed.

As for baby carrots…it’s no doubt one of the healthiest convenience foods out there. It’s just that there is more to the produce section than baby carrots. And farm fresh carrots, the small ones with the stems still attached, are so much more delicious. My own little pet peeve. Nevertheless, my kids love the baby carrots.

12.18.2013 at 7:45 AM #

Anne Mullen

No children, young or otherwise, around any more, but I have and still do commit all those sins. Replace the wine with Jameson’s (just the occasional ounce) and I’m there. I went through our freezer last week, and found one bag of fruit with a “Best used by” date in 2001. top that! Katie, we’ve all been there and appreciate your coming out and joining us.

12.18.2013 at 7:45 AM #

katiemorford

Must admit, you’ve got me beat on the freezer front, Anne. Merry Christmas.

12.18.2013 at 8:23 AM #

Pamela

Well, I thought your list of ‘imperfections’ was just the normal every day occurrences in the life of a normal every day mom~~~to be expected and accepted!
Do most of us think otherwise because we expect ourselves to be perfect, whatever we have made perfect to be?
Seems like a good day to forget all of this, ease up on ourselves and go play!

12.18.2013 at 8:36 AM #

judee

Love this! And funny, after the cookie exchange party last night, I declared my recipe is going on Pinterstfail.com. YES! There really is a site for that. It will really make you smile 🙂

12.18.2013 at 8:36 AM #

katiemorford

I think we might all benefit from a little time on Pinterestfail.com!

12.18.2013 at 8:43 AM #

Sally Kuzemchak

Oh yes! I am far from perfect and like you, would be horrified if anyone perceived me that way. I think it’s so important for dietitians to be perceived as real people–I would hate for anyone to not strive for healthier eating habits b/c they knew they couldn’t do it “perfectly” like a dietitian. We are all works in progress.

12.18.2013 at 8:43 AM #

anne

So…the other week my husband turned on a certain business magnate’s cooking show, and I said, turn it off. He protested that there was good information, and was intrigued that he’d struck a nerve. I went on a small rant, explaining that I tried for years to be her and it finally dawned on me that she has Staff! Not just for the shopping, cooking, sourcing, gardening, prepping and cleaning, but also for hair, makeup, wardrobe…in addition but not limited to dog walkers, groomers, housekeepers, landscapers etc etc etc.
It was not a pretty moment and I have composed myself again, but I like myself a lot better being normal, flawed and passionate about healthy food and balance.
Hats off to you and this post and the holiday timing! Here’s to being human!

12.18.2013 at 8:43 AM #

katiemorford

Thank you Anne. Love the story.

12.18.2013 at 8:56 AM #

Jane

I’m raising my hand – Nutella straight from the jar. Amongst other things. Thanks for sharing.

12.18.2013 at 8:57 AM #

Kate

Katie, If that’s the worst you’ve got, I’d say you should be very proud of yourself. I was the genius that bought my daughter a gigantic Christmas cookie last weekend and then let her eat the whole thing…..which she later threw up. #momfail

12.18.2013 at 8:57 AM #

katiemorford

Lessons learned 🙂

12.18.2013 at 9:19 AM #

Lucy D.

We have been out of milk for three days. I sent my children to school with frozen burritos (I did microwave them) and baby carrots. I threatened my tantrum throwing 9 year old that I would pull over and make her get out the car (she will definitely need therapy for abandonment issues). My dog ate two entire boxes of Junior Mints that were wrapped under the tree. I keep forgetting to hide that dang Elf on the Shelf. I did not write one personal message on our Christmas cards. There’s plenty more where that came from.

Thank you, Katie. I think you are pretty great, if not perfect 🙂 Oh, and I accidentally put 2 extra TBS of butter in your pretzel cookie recipe… and liked it!

12.18.2013 at 9:19 AM #

katiemorford

I love you Lucy D.

12.18.2013 at 10:03 AM #

Nicole Sommerfeld

Wonderful article Katie. It’s always good to be able to laugh at ourselves and know we aren’t perfect. My one good example of this is that I run the Wellness Committee at my kid’s school. I often do the planning for the wellness activities or committee meetings late in the evening while eating a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce. One of my favorite treats. The irony always makes me laugh. Part of being ‘well’ though is enjoying the treats in life.

12.18.2013 at 10:03 AM #

katiemorford

That is funny, Nicole. The Wellness Committee is lucky to have you…chocolate ice cream and all.

12.18.2013 at 11:26 AM #

Leslie

Love the conversation this sparked!

12.18.2013 at 11:26 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks for planting the seed 🙂

12.18.2013 at 12:16 PM #

Monica

Katie, I meant to compliment you on one of your recent posts where you showed something that you cooked that the kids didn’t like! In spite of knowing that we are all human, I found myself feeling happy that even you sometimes cook things that are just meh! It was a timely reminder that trying to eat a little healthier won’t always result in something as tasty as a grilled American cheese sandwich! Thanks for your inspiration!

12.18.2013 at 4:21 PM #

Beth M

I LOVED what you wrote Katie…so articulate, real, and connecting. Makes you all the more “perfect” in my eyes 🙂

12.18.2013 at 4:21 PM #

katiemorford

Ahhhhh…thanks Beth.

12.18.2013 at 8:24 PM #

Sarah

this is just, well, awesome. that last point pretty much sums it up for me–guilty. happy to be in the club, especially if it means rubbing elbows with you. x

12.18.2013 at 8:24 PM #

katiemorford

I’ll rub elbows with you any time!

12.18.2013 at 10:58 PM #

Laurie-Ann

While I prefer homemade food and lots of vegetables, my 11 y.o. daughter does not. I am sometimes appalled at how much packaged food I give her; canned soups, TJ’s frozen foods, etc. And no way does she get 4-5 servings of fruits/vegies a day – maybe in a week! Since I’m kind of a natural food nut – it’s hard for me to believe what I’m feeding her but there it is. Thanks for sharing your secrets and helping us all feel more normal and less guilty. Happy Holidays.

01.08.2014 at 2:14 PM #

Lauren

We’ll said! One of my many imperfections is my tendency to eat an entire box of Tricuits in one sitting, and then feel sick the rest of the day! And sometimes I let my kids have soda.

01.08.2014 at 2:14 PM #

katiemorford

Triscuits can be pretty addictive…not so different than chips on the salty/crunchy front!

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