Myth Of the Perfect Mother
Last 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.