So we all know her- she feeds her kids homemade organic food for every meal while working full time but somehow also staying home with her kids to tend to all their needs. She has a mind-blowing sex life with her devoted husband and an incredible close group of friends that have lovely dinner parties and group vacations. Her children are beautiful, smart, well-behaved, never fight and fall blissfully asleep at 7:30 each night without a fuss. She is athletic yet bookish, beautiful yet strong, sensitive and kind but also an assertive badass. She is the Executive Director of a non-profit and also runs daily, does yoga, meditates, never yells at her children, is always present, calm and centered, creates magical traditions for each and every holiday, keeps up on everything, never forgets pajama day at school and always has fresh baked gluten-free, pasture-raised, fair-trade muffins in the oven. Oh, and she definitely does not have a flabby tummy. She is the “perfect mother.”
And also SHE DOES NOT EXIST!
She is just an idea. And not one I am very fond of. She makes so many of us suffer.
And usually she shows up when we are already suffering. It is in those moments when we are feeling lousy about something we are doing- when we forgot something important, or when we are in the midst of yelling at our kids because they spilled the hot chocolate all over the already filthy kitchen floor- that she shows up. And she would NEVER yell. She would never have a dirty kitchen floor. She would just be all around better than we are at everything. And if you are like me and many other mothers, she really gets under your skin and suddenly I am yelling even more or falling farther into a pit of self-criticism.
And I know that I am not alone. The idea of the perfect mother haunts many of my clients. She shows up a lot. And frankly, I am a bit tired of her. Are you?
The ways I have found to unravel her power over me are these-
Mindfulness. Mindfulness helps me notice when I am starting to have these thoughts and to realize that they are just that- thoughts. They do not have to have so much power over me. Through Hakomi I know my individual body signals for when I am starting down this nasty road and I can be aware that it is happening and know I can make a choice to slow it down.
Self-compassion. When I am mindful and realize that I am starting to treat myself poorly by comparing myself to the mythic perfect mother I can offer myself compassion. I can say, “oh honey, you are in pain right now. I see you trying and feeling lousy about yourself. It’s ok. Just take a breath first.”
Real relationships. When I am in real relationships- whether with true friends or as a Hakomi client we can be real. We can share from our authentic experience - the one that isn’t oozing perfection- and realize what a giant pile of stinky shit the idea of the “perfect mother” is.
Being real is so much better. A client recently found this phrase inside herself and I found it lovely and inspiring and she gave me permission to share it. “Being perfect isn’t real.” So simple but so profound.
We only have one life. I would rather be real than perfect. How about you?