How to be the Perfect Mom.

How to be the Perfect Mom

Today, I’m going to explain how to be the perfect mom.

  1. Set your self-expectations absurdly high.
  2. Never drop the ball.
  3. Resist the urge to yell or cry when you are frustrated.
  4. Scratch number three, just don’t get frustrated.
  5. Be 100% financially, ecologically, emotionally and physically responsible in regards to your children and your lifestyle 100% of the time.

Aw shucks… when I put it that way, it sounds absurd doesn’t it?

And yet, that’s what so many of us expect of ourselves every day, and then kick ourselves over when we fall short.  For many women, it’s keeping up with the Jones’ next door. Having the best house; wearing the best clothes; having the best car.  Most of you reading this thread can say, “I’m not like that though. I don’t want the best stuff…”

This is true, but the end result is the same. Everybody who expects perfection from themselves will fail.

Go to one of the super popular attachment parenting forums on the internet and look at the women’s signatures. Women identify themselves with how perfect of a mom they strive to be:


baby wearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, recycling, organic gardening, homeopathic using, electric car driving, wind turbine using, soap making, home birthing, sewing, husband adoring, self sacrificing mom to:

Cadence, 3 * Prudence, 2 * Gwendalyn, 1 * Baby due Feb 7th


The difference between her and the “Jones’ Coveters” is, “Grace” doesn’t want these things for herself; she wants them for her children. She will try to the point of making herself ill to live up to her ideals because they are based in a belief structure that is beautiful.

Can’t we be more tolerant of ourselves? We’re tolerant of everyone else’s failures.  We don’t judge other people’s choices, and yet we expect total perfection in ourselves all of the time.

A few weeks ago, after a treacherously hard year for my family was finally coming to a close, we were invited on a two day trip to The Kalahari. We just wanted to make the trip easy so we could actually relax. My husband told me he only wanted us to bring two bags total. I sat perplexed for a moment wondering how I would fit enough cloth diapers for two days (I used to own some Hybrids but I sold them when I decided I liked my Fuzzi Bunz better. “Those would have been perfect,” I thought to myself.) and clothes and food for a family of five into two bags.

So, first, in perfect form, I ransacked my house for the largest bags I could find.

Then, I stopped.

And not even kidding you, I bought some disposable diapers: Enough for the entire two day trip.

There I said it.

I chose to decide that it was just fine if I used disposables for two days so that we didn’t have to try to keep track of diapers and lug the kids along with a huge bag around the greatest water park resort in the world.

At first I felt guilty, and then I chose to be as gentle on myself as I would be with a friend.

We are so gentle with our children.  We need to be gentle to ourselves.

Sometimes, breastfeeding isn’t going to work out. Sometimes, we’re going to be tired and will want to push the baby in a stroller while she sleeps. Sometimes, we’re not going to have enough money for organic food. Sometimes, we’re going to want our bed to ourselves. Sometimes, we’re going to end up birthing in a hospital, and sometimes we’re going to be furious with our husbands. Sometimes, we may even get divorced. Sometimes, things are going to be just a little too hard for us to endure. In those times, we have to just let go a little, and find the Grace to live within the restrictions of our own humanity.

It’s OK.

Some days all we can do is “Just keep swimming.”

It’s OK.

We’ve all been there. We’ve just all mostly kept it quiet.



  1. Jenifer Dunkle

    Thanks! It’s nice to know that not everyone is perfect and it’s okay to choose the easy route or not to feel bad knowing you could buy 3 days of organic fruit or a week of normal fruit, knowing your kid needs fruit and making the choice is sometimes hard. Thanks, for reminding me, my choices are good.

  2. Bree

    Is it ironic that I think this article on not being perfect is in fact, perfect? I love that you bought disposables and I love that it’s okay to hate my husband. Furious at, hate…whatever. I love this one so much that I may tape it onto my dirty fridge to remind me that it’s okay that I still haven’t cleaned it out 🙂

  3. leanne

    “We’ve all been there. We’ve just all mostly kept it quiet.”

    Thank you for not keeping it quiet, Dawn. This is timely for me (cried only a few times while reading it 😉 … and with the upcoming holiday season, I suspect it will be timely for many moms…

    “She will try to the point of making herself ill to live up to her ideals because they are based in a belief structure that is beautiful”

    I think you really hit the strongest point with this – it’s easy to “not see” how it’s actually “the same, but different” because of the belief the underlying values of the two are so “obviously” *right* and *wrong* (different)… but it’s the same too, in many ways… we are “tricked” into the “same” because of the beauty underlying how it is different

    Thank you so much for posting this today – like I said, very timely reminder for me <3

  4. Jaime

    Thank you Dawn! I catch myself trying to be one of those perfect moms! I am guilty of having the long forum signature. I felt my face flush with embarassment when reading some of this post. Thanks for making me really look at myself today. I am going to try to let myself off the hook and realize that its okay to not be perfect. I love reading your posts they always make me stop and take a moment to see if I see myself in there! You are an awesome writer. Thank you so much for this.

  5. Heather

    Wow did I need to read this, for some crazy reason I developed into this neat freak when my daughter was born, I think I realized that my time is no longer my own…before my daughter I could clean whenever I felt the urge…now I can clean when I get the time. Somewhere along the line I let work, cleaning, being supermom, get in the way of just enjoying this part of my life….I too will post this on my fridge and maybe let it get a few fingerprints on it before I feel it needs to be cleaned!!

  6. Bree

    I thought of this blog this morning. After being up all night with a sick daughter I woke up to “Mom! Today we get to decorate cookies!!” Crap. I’d forgotten all about it and the last thing I wanted to do was make, roll out, cut, and bake sugar cookies at 8am. So, I remembered this blog, piled my kids into the mini-van, drove 25 minutes to GFS and bought a giant box of premade, already cut-out, sugar cookies. Yay! I totally feel like crappy-mom but it makes me so happy that I saved myself the stress in an attempt to be Martha Stewart. Thanks again Dawn, you saved my kids Christmas memories!

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