Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
Our society is filled with messages, both overt and covert, that make moms feel inadequate — no matter how hard we work. This is especially true in today’s digital landscape in which we’re constantly bombarded with images that evoke “perfection” in all areas of life — home, work, body.
I’m probably responsible for some of those images. As a full-time blogger and content creator, I’m part of a generation that creates happy images that depict only the highlight reels of our lives. Yet I’ll be the first to admit that while social media isn’t always fake, it is fully curated. And the enormous pressure it creates to be a “perfect mom” is detrimental to our health and happiness.
There’s no such thing as perfection in motherhood. There’s no perfect mother just like there’s no perfect child or perfect husband or perfect family or perfect marriage. The sooner we realize and embrace this very important truth, the sooner we free ourselves from unrealistic expectations that can dampen our joy and take away our sense of self-worth.
When I first became a mother 13 years ago, I strived to be the perfect mom that I saw on TV while growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. I wanted to be the beautiful, graceful, ever-patient mom who does everything well and right without sacrificing her womanhood.
I viewed ideal motherhood as something you achieve simply by working hard, just like getting into a good college or being hired for your dream job.
But in reality, motherhood was far from what I envisioned as a young girl.
Two years into motherhood I found myself depressed, isolated, lonely and disconnected from myself and others. I had babies under two and hadn’t slept for more than two to three hours a night in months.
My first daughter began showing signs of developmental delays (she was later diagnosed with a genetic disorder) and my infant daughter needed me around-the-clock.
I was too scared to ask for help because I foolishly bought into the idea that asking for help means that I’m a bad and inadequate mother. I tried to be everything to everyone and hide behind the mask of a perfect mother who has it all together. Eventually I hit rock bottom and was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
At this point, I was forced to start over and relearn what motherhood really entails. I also had to reclaim my identity as a mother — not according to what others say, but according to what’s best and realistic for myself and my children.
I was fortunate enough to receive prompt medical care and eventually overcome this debilitating disorder with the help of antidepressants, family support, and self-care. It took many months of talk therapy, reading, research, journaling, reflection, and meditation to finally realize that the notion of the perfect mother was a myth. I needed to let go of this destructive ideal if I wanted to be a mother who was truly fulfilled and present for my children.
Letting go of perfection can take longer for some than others. It really depends on our personality, family background, and desire to change. One thing that remains certain, however, is the fact that when you let go of perfection, you actually begin to appreciate the chaos and messiness of motherhood. Your eyes finally open to all the beauty that lies in imperfection and you begin a new journey of mindful parenting.
Being a mindful parent is much easier than we think. It simply means that we’re fully aware of what we’re doing in that moment. We become fully present and fully conscious of the daily moments instead of distracting ourselves with that next task or responsibility. This helps us appreciate and engage in simple joys of motherhood like playing games, watching a movie, or cooking together as family instead of always cleaning or preparing a Pinterest-worthy meal.
Being a mindful parent means we no longer spend our time stressing over what’s not done and instead shift our focus to what we can do for ourselves and our loved ones in that moment, wherever that may be.
As parents, its invaluable to set realistic expectations and goals for ourselves as well as our children. Embracing the messiness and chaos of life benefits our whole family by teaching them the process during which we accept ourselves and our loved ones wholeheartedly. We become more loving, empathetic, accepting, and forgiving. It’s important to be accountable for our daily actions of course, but we must first remember to embrace all sides of motherhood, including the bad and the ugly.
Angela is the creator and author of the popular lifestyle blog Mommy Diary. She has an MA and BA in English and visual arts and over 15 years of teaching and writing. When she found herself as an isolated and depressed mother of two, she sought genuine connection with other moms and turned to blogs. Since then, her personal blog has turned into a popular lifestyle destination where she inspires and influences parents all over the world with her storytelling and creative content. She’s a regular contributor for TODAY, Parents, and The Huffington Post, and has partnered with numerous national baby, family, and lifestyle brands. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three kids, and is working on her first book.