I stand in awe of women who have it all together. I have one friend who’s house looks like it came out of the pages of a magazine. Heidi has a husband, two kids, three dogs and a turtle. Yet she is decidedly blessed with dishes that never get dirty and pets that don’t shed. No bed is ever absent-mindedly left unmade, no sofa pillow unfluffed. I can still see the faint lines of the vacuum when I drop in unexpectedly.
Then there’s Kris, who can throw a dinner party and actually time it so everything is on the table at once. No overcooked fish while waiting for the soufflé to finish. No raw meat because she got anxious that the pomme frites would get cold. And a warm apple pie always magically appears from the kitchen just as the plates are being cleared.
My friend Kristen gets up at 5:30, does yoga in front of the TV and looks like a million bucks dropping the kids off at school.
Kathy is beautiful and lanky, and never in short supply of patience, love and healthy snacks. Her fridge is stocked with organic munchies and my kids are often the recipient of a full-on meal at three o’clock in the afternoon because they feigned starvation.
Then there’s Cindy, the homeroom mom that keeps us on our toes for Valentine’s Day parties and Flag Day celebrations, and she single-handedly made every costume for the 2nd grade play.
On the other hand, there’s me. I’ve been known to meet my kids at the bus in the afternoon wearing the same baggy sweats I had on when I kissed them goodbye, and “organization” often passes for piles of mail and homework and lunch menus lined up neatly on every flat surface in eyeshot.
I’m also the mom who loves having kids over to play but sometimes forgets to feed them. More than once a mother has come to retrieve her offspring from a playdate only to find a pale child with sunken eyes. My own kids have learned to compensate for this shortcoming and their pantry-foraging skills are well honed, but I can see how this might be alarming to other moms.
And at times, my patience can run in short supply. I’m the first to admit patience is a virtue for parents and there are times we must exercise it more fervently than others. But I am never going to be the mom who volunteers to substitute teach, or to chaperone an overnight class trip. Short field trips are OK, but only if I don’t have to ride a noisy bus to get there and I can bring my own latte.
Over the years I’ve learned to admit these imperfections, and I’d rather focus on my strengths than endure comparisons to other moms. I now know it’s OK to volunteer to vacuum the auditorium, for instance, rather than risk the shame of trying to actually sew a costume for the school play. I’ll happily help pack food for the outdoor field trip if you’ll do me the favor of letting some other well-meaning parent spend the night in a tent with eight children.
There used to be a time when I wished I was more like my fantastic friends (last week, for instance). But now I’ve decided these failures don’t mean I’m a bad mom. I’m just a bad Heidi. A bad Kris, Kristen, Kathy or Cindy.
It’s time to do away with the image of the ideal mom. We are all ideal.
Oh, I may still envy you your shiny clean house and your flair for a great party, but I promise to let your kids come make a mess at my house anytime. (As long as you’ll forgive me when they come home hungry.)
We don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly wonderful parents.
Charla Belinski is the author of the column “Are We There Yet?” in the Glenwood (Colorado) Post Independent where she shares her common-sense style and humorous world view on parenting each week. Charla has recently completed her first novel, It Came a Fine Rain. She lives with her husband, Tim, and three children near Aspen, Colorado. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.