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Checklist for perfect motherhood

Spotless home

Children adhere to sleep times

Always on time for school and events

Children always “well-mannered”

Hearty home-cooked meals daily

Ever present during playtime

Remembering all your child’s friend’s names and stories shared with you

Strong and can handle hard issues without getting emotional

Balanced work-life

Want to add to the list? Please do. On second thoughts, don’t!

Society has stamped motherhood with a “jack of all trades and master of it all” badge. Masters are all knowing. They make no mistakes. Their processes are well-oiled and they can handle any crises that comes their way with ease. They are the epitome of perfection. They were born and made for their role, right?

The truth is, before women are Mom’s, they are human. And the nature of being human comes with being flawed. But for some reason, when you are a mother, society adorns you with perfect expectations which couldn’t be further from reality. When you don’t quite make the standard, you are adorned with labels damning to your character and abilities.

“Mom knows best” is what we grew up hearing and still hear to this day. Whilst this may be true on occasion when our God-given motherly instincts kick in, other times we simply don’t know. Because of this narrative and the expectation of an all-knowing mom, we struggle to seek help when we need it. We struggle to own up to the mistakes we made “in the line of duty”. We struggle to acknowledge so many things because the weight of judgements passed on Mothers is a heavy one to bear.

In her book, “No more perfect Moms”, Jill Savage starts off the book with a story of a time she’d forgotten to collect one of her children from school. She went through mom-guilt because of what she knew was expected of her in her role as Mom.

I mean, what kind of loving mother forgets their child at school, right?!

Her story reminded me of an incident when I didn’t make it on time to watch Bontle’s first school public speaking festival. My face fell flat upon realising that she was already done. I was jittery with guilt and to this day can’t fully express how I felt. After this incident, I vowed to her and to myself not to miss any of her upcoming performances. In another episode of “never make a promise you can’t keep”, I missed her dance performance. This time, I arrived just when her group left the stage. I didn’t see her come behind me until I heard, “mom, you missed my show!” (with a silent “again”, at the end). A public declaration that hurled “incompetent Mother” to the onlookers. When our eyes locked, I couldn’t take the disappointment on her face. I tried to compose myself but I just couldn’t. I balled (cried hysterically).

Oblivious to the stares, I let out a wail. Another public declaration that I was incapable of being Mom because I could not hold it together during a crisis. I’d recently learnt of the power to allow yourself to feel so I let it all out without much care to the stares. Despite the empowering knowledge I had, the concept of there’s a time and place for everything hit me when B came to assure me it was ok and I should not cry. At this, I thought OMG! Now I’m embarrassing her crying like a baby here at school. The mom-guilt was searing. I just couldn’t understand how good of a mom I was when I missed two of my daughter’s most important performances. To add salt to injury, I’m crying publicly, embarrassing her in front of the whole school (take note that I was sitting right at the back, sobbing silently and eventually went to the bathroom to wail from there).

There’s no right or wrong way to have handled this situation but the mom guilt stayed with me until I decided to forgive myself. I chose to walk in grace. I realised I needed to give myself grace, assurance and forgiveness first before expecting it from my daughter. This choice helped me with the conversations I’d have with her post the incidents. Allowing myself to walk in grace empowered me to hold space for her feelings as well as engaging her from a place of compassion not only for her but for myself too. When I did this, I saw a change in her too. This was another rich reminder that we are responsible of teaching others how to treat us. Because truth be told, most people will treat you the way you treat yourself.

There’s many lessons from just this experience alone but one that was echoed strongly and reiterated through reading Jill’s book is that, Motherhood is filled with many imperfect moments but those don’t make us any less of Mothers than the Mom who seems to have it somewhat figured out. There is no motherhood standard to measure against and the quest to check off this or that from our lists leads to what Jill calls, "perfection infection". Her book gives antidotes to the perfection infection for all aspects of our lives.

The main antidotes are:

  • Take off pride and put on humility

  • Take off fear and put on courage

  • Take off insecurity and put on confidence

  • Take off judgment and put on grace

Jill writes that at the core of every judgment lies pride and the cure for judgment is grace. Now, if there’s a checklist for perfect motherhood, it should be strongly aligned to the antidotes that Jill has prescribed.

In displaying humility, we will not assume that our way of mothering is better than what another mom is doing. As we strive to walk in courage, let us not forget that it doesn’t mean the absence of fear. Courage means allowing ourselves NOT to be crippled by fear. We should continually pursue our motherhood endeavors no matter how scary the journey may seem #doitafraid. We should not be insecure about our ability to mother. We need to recognise that our ability to mother is special and unique to us. Walking in this knowledge will empower us to walk in grace. Grace we don’t have to earn but granted freely by God.

Stay awesome Mama 💚🌱

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