Here’s a question: If someone asked you, right now, if you were a good mother, how would you answer?
If I were to guess, I would say that most of you would hesitate to say “yes”. Many of you may find a roundabout way to say you’re pretty okay, with the exception of xyz, but in my experience, most modern moms wonder if they’re good.
There is a real sickness in modern parenting culture that can be summed up this way: we expect perfection… and it’s killing us. It’s making us miserable, anxious, and depressed (After all, we are, statistically, more depressed than our mothers and grandmothers were).
Beginning with pregnancy (What birthing method did you use? Where did you deliver? Did you do it naturally?), worsening in new motherhood (Are you nursing? For how long? Are you working or staying home? Did you make your own baby food? Was baby sleeping through the night early on?), and rolling into the school-age (Are you on the PTA? What extracurricular activities is your child enrolled in?), the pressure to do everything with excellence is prolific.
When I read articles about the common mom-struggle of doing and being it all, and feeling like a failure compared to the polished moms of social media, I can’t quite relate. Don’t get me wrong; I fully understand where it comes from. I see the perfectly-coiffed and manicured women pushing expensive strollers with well-behaved children trailing behind. I see the sparkling homes that barely look lived in. I do.
It’s a struggle to push those standards aside. But I do.
And you should, too. Trade it in, instead, for your own, functioning, unique brand of mediocrity.
That’s right: Mediocrity! My secret to being a content, happy parent. I’m completely mediocre, and I’m not shy about it.
I go through the drive through for that famously amazing fast food chicken and waffle fries every once in a while.
I let the kids turn on the TV when days feel unbearably long.
There are, way more often than not, dirty dishes piled in my sink.
I didn’t enroll my children in anything extracurricular until they were six.
I’ve let my work go past-deadline because of my children, and my children have, at times, had a disengaged mother because of work.
I let my adherence to no-tv, no-fast-food, a sparkling clean house, and a perfect work/life balance go. Those are not battles that I wish to fight any longer.
What I do make priority? My kids knowing that their mom loves and supports them something fierce. Planned (and spontaneous) time together as a family. A house that is comfortable, functional, and can be made clean in a few short minutes of tidying so that we can wake up to a fresh space. Working out consistently for a clear mind and healthy body. Eye contact when my kids are sharing something with me.
Set realistic expectations for yourself. I’m convinced this is the key to happiness. By identifying both what you’re good at, and what your priorities are, you are free to pursue a life that is tenable, not overwhelming. You can let the other things go.
I can look across the yard at my neighbor, who organizes amazing crafting days for her kids and bakes all sorts of holiday goodies every year for the entire neighborhood. I can appreciate her for who she is, how she’s gifted, and what she prioritizes, and here’s the great part: I don’t have to feel bad about myself while I do that! Everyone’s priorities are different, but the wonderful thing about this form of mediocrity is that it is not just for the lucky few. It’s attainable for everyone.
What really drives this point home for me is the realization that while I don’t want to die pursuing the elusive perfect life, I don’t want my kids to do that, either. I don’t expect them to be perfect, and even more, I don’t want them to be. They deserve grace to excel at their strengths, as well as fail, too. A lot. Like their mom. I hope they learn the value of working hard, doing things well, and letting the rest simmer.
After all, we all only get one shot at this thing. I’ll be taking mine as the mediocre, but happy, mom.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.