Reflections on Motherhood: There’s No Such Thing as Perfect

When the month of May approaches, I start thinking about Mother’s Day — and whoa, do I have some mixed emotions!  When my kids were young, I used to love this day. And in some ways, I still welcome it.

For one thing, it gives me a chance to honor my own mother, who (God bless her) is 86 this year, and though more frail than she’d like to be. But she still has a good sense of humor and manages to get around fairly well with her walker or cane.  She lives with us, so I basically get the opportunity to hug her and tell her that I love her every day, and I’m grateful for that — I want her to hear the words, see my face, and know that I mean it. She deserves it.

My mother-in-law passed away last June…she was such a big force in my life. A true angel.  I loved her very much.  I miss her. I was so lucky to have her in my life.  Does everyone get a great mother-in-law? I think it goes against the stereotype.  But mine was stellar.  The best.  Anyway, On Mother’s Day, especially this Mother’s Day, I miss her.

Another thing I love about Mother’s Day is that it gives me a chance to acknowledge many of my girlfriends who are mothers.  I’m old-school enough that I still like to hand-write cards and letters. Can you imagine?  It’s almost a guilty pleasure, because I realize I’m using the earth’s resources on something that is rather frivolous — and so, of course, I try to buy recycled paper items.  But nevertheless, I admit that I thoroughly enjoy sending and receiving cards. I tell myself that it may not be long before society simply does away with the snail-mail mode of communication, so I suppose I’m trying to get my fill while I still can. And so, I use Mother’s Day as an excuse to do this.

But back to my mixed emotions.  Why mixed you wonder? What’s confusing about Mother’s Day?  It should just be a happy day! A celebration.  One filled with cards and flowers and gratitude.  Okay, yes.  I agree.  And that’s what it is…mostly.  And, let’s see…I’ve raised and mothered four children, whose ages range from 40 down to 21.  I think they’re all incredible – fabulous, perfect in their own ways.  Note:  I use the word perfect loosely — it’s a characterization that many mothers use when describing our own offspring, but I trust that we all realize that nobody is actually perfect, nor is it possible to be.

Hmmm.  Perfection.  Was this ever the goal?  I don’t think so.  P e r f e c t.  Am I thinking of them now, or me?  Perhaps I’m using that adjective to define mothers in general, or even me in general, as in, how I was supposed to be as a mother all of the time.  As I reflect on my many years of motherhood — and I’ve been a mother since I was 21 years old — I realize that I have a lifetime of happy memories with all four of my kids.

Not once did I think about trying to be perfect.  Yet I always tried to do my best, and that just came naturally, because I cared so dearly for them.  I didn’t use a text book to raise them, which may sound odd today when you can click on your computer and find out everything you need to know about parenting with a couple of web searches.  But I loved them, and I loved them completely — with my whole heart.

I still love them, of course.  But, I’ve since learned that love is not enough — you do actually need a few more skills, and it makes life much more relaxing and enjoyable all around when adults gain some parenting know-how before they become parents. Ah, well.  Hindsight is, after all, twenty-twenty vision, isn’t it?

The trouble is, when I look backwards, I worry too much about the could-have-beens and should-have-beens, and I’ve read enough esoteric books to know that I shouldn’t be doing that!  I’ve had reminders, both subtle and not so subtle, that suggest I didn’t have all the knowledge I needed when I became a parent.  Perhaps I blew it here and there.

Did I? Honestly, I wasn’t trying to make a mess of things.  I was just doing what I was doing.  Mothering by the seat of my pants.  I don’t think mothering  is about being perfect or being horrible — there is plenty of in-between ground in life.  I think it’s the middle-ground we seek… the harmony, the balance.  Sometimes you’ve got to just muddle through.  I was trying to be a good mom, i.e., eat your vegetables, clean your room, do your homework, go to bed on time, don’t fight with your sister, be good when you visit your father, be nice to your step-father, sorry honey, mommy has to work, isn’t this a pretty bed spread? etc.

However, that is all water under the bridge at this point.  Wisdom also comes with age and experience.  And so.  I choose to remember the paper carnations, the crayola drawings, the sweet smelling, happy, giggling children, story time, and my many opportunities to cuddle and snuggle with them.  I remember the ski trips, going to high school plays, and driving every weekend to visit one child who went to a boarding school for a semester.  I remember trying to speak French with my two little ones who in their early years went to a French school.  Oh, I know there were difficult times.  We had ups and downs, tantrums, melt-downs, crying fits, scream-outs, time-outs, missed dance lessons, not enough tutoring, too many boundaries, not enough boundaries. Ahhh. But that’s called life, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.

Yes, there were mistakes made right along side all the good things.  When I reflect on how I’ve been as a mother, all I can say is, if I could have done it better, I would have. I was doing the best I could at that given time.  My children are grown up now, and they are all remarkable human beings.  Two of them are raising remarkable human beings of their own. I am immensely proud of them all — I’m so happy to be their mother.

My wish for my kids?  When Mother’s Day rolls around when they all reach their sixties, I hope they’ll reflect back and just smile.

 

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Cheryl Saban

About Cheryl Saban

Cheryl Saban, Ph.D writes extensively about women, relationships, and social issues. She devotes a great deal of attention to philanthropic endeavors with a focus on pediatric health and research, education, and the empowerment of women. In addition to What is Your Self-Worth, A Woman's Guide to Validation, Saban has written several other books including Recipe for Good Parenting, Recipe for a Good Marriage, Recipe for a Happy Life, and New Mother's Survival Guide. She is married to Haim Saban. She's the mother of four, and grandmother of four.

Comments

  1. Nan Renzi says:

    Lovely! Just got in touch with the Intent website. I am a Montessori Guide (Primary Level, ages 3-6) and mother children all day long! Bottom line – set the fair limits, expect the limits to be honored, use conflict resolution that honors emotions and snuggle a whole lot. I coach parents as part of my work and my first order of business is to discern "Does NO mean NO in your home" (allowing, of course, for the 'terrible twos' to play out as necessary!). I am a student at Wright in Chicago (Social & Emotional Intelligence) and am struggling to delineate my life purpose in writing, but I do know that it involves benefiting the world's children. I am happy to join Mallika in this pursuit.