Not perfect, but (I hope) Beautiful Anyway

Not perfect, but (I hope) Beautiful Anyway March 27, 2011

I recently read a post stressing the importance of the image we present to others as mothers and Christians, that we should at least make an attempt to look pulled together and happy when we are in public, so that we can be a good witness. I realize that some people may be able to read something like that and see it as a healthy challenge, but for me it just made all of my perfectionist tendencies come raging back to the surface.
So I wrote this post in an effort to preach to myself.

I am a mom.
I bath my children several times a week, and I make sure their hands and faces are clean several times a day.  …But it wasn’t until we were out as a family that I realized that my 2 year old had dried ketchup in her hair from last nights dinner.
I clean and dry and put away my children’s clothes, they are always dressed appropriately for the weather when we go out.  …But I have had times where I didn’t notice the hole in the crotch of someones pants until we were at church. And right now all my kids are in bathing suits because they are pretending to go to the beach. And the other day I let my 4 year old wear her favourite Pajama pants under her dress when we went to the zoo, just because she wanted too. My kids wear mismatched socks too, because I don’t always bother to match them all in pairs.

I sweep the floors, wash the dishes, vacuum the carpets, wipe down the counters and tables.  …But it seems like most of the time there are dishes on the counter, crumbs on the floor, and play dough or ketchup dried onto my kitchen table.

My kids eat fresh fruits and veggies every day.  …But they eat Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets and doughnuts on a regular basis as well. They know what McDonald’s is.

I brush my kids teeth thoroughly with fluoride-free toothpaste every night before bed.  …But we rarely do it in the morning, and I hardly ever help them floss.

I want to be a gentle parent. I no longer spank my kids, I tell them how much I love them and how special they are to me every day, and I make every effort to understand life from my child’s point of view and be patient with their emotions.  …But sometimes I lose it and yell “what is wrong with you?” or slam a door, or shove a chair. Pretty much every day I reach a point where I growl/groan in frustration over something, and then my 2 year old will shake her head and say “don’t be angry about me mom, are you angry about me?”

I make play dough with my kids, and I let them color with crayons and markers. We bake muffins and cookies together on a regular basis. The older 2 know all the colors and shapes and we read together every day.  …But none of them know their numbers, or the letters of the alphabet.

I am serious about limiting what my kids see on TV and I make sure that they do not watch anything violent or inappropriate.  …But they usually watch slightly over an hour of cartoons or cooking shows each day when we are trapped indoors during the winter months.

I love doing stuff with my kids. I read them books, I take them outside, I color with them, cook with them, do my chores with them, snuggle them.  …But sometimes I say no to a request for no real reason. Sometimes I wrestle myself out from under the pile of kids on the couch because I just can’t take the sensory overload any longer.

I want to take pictures of my kids, and save them in albums.  …But I am one year behind in printing pictures, and two years behind in sorting and filing pictures, and sometimes days or even weeks go by before I get out the camera and actually take pictures.

I am a mom. There is no perfect mom, no matter how much the media or mommy blogs or family members or books or religious groups try to maintain that there is. My house may not be sparkling, my kids may have messy hair, sometimes I get snippy with my kids. I don’t always put on a whole lot of makeup, so I look tired sometimes.

I suppose I may be THAT mom. You know, the mom that people see at the store, or the zoo, or the park. The one that makes people think “Wow, she looks tired, having lots of kids must be a lot of work.” But that’s OK with me, because having kids IS a lot of work. Anyone who goes into parenthood thinking it’s going to be a breeze is in for a major disappointment.

I’m not trying to sell my lifestyle choices, I don’t have a responsibility to convince people that being a stay at home mom of 4 children aged 4 and under is the only happy way to live. It isn’t. These are the choices that work for me today, and someone else can make the choices that work for them. If someone really wants to have a large family, my kid’s snotty nose, or the fact that my 18 month old had to be carried screaming all the way to the car because she wanted to walk herself (albeit into oncoming traffic) isn’t going to make them change their minds. If someone thinks that having many children close in age is stupid, my children’s matching outfits and angelically smiling faces are not going to magically make them think differently.

I have no stereotype to live up to. I am a devoted mom who loves her kids, not a salesperson for motherhood or Christianity. I don’t have to worry about impressing the people who don’t know me, and the people who know me aren’t interested in being impressed. I am me. And what that means will continue to grow and change and develop as time goes on.

Right now, this is who I am. And I am not ashamed.
The very same day I wrote this post (that I thought I believed) I had a panic attack wondering if maybe I really am just selfish and lazy and trying to make excuses for my imperfections. Then I fought with my husband, and cried and cleaned and organized my entire house over the next 5 hours.
*Sigh*, I have a long way to go on this whole attempt at being OK with who I am.

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