I’m not a perfect mom and — wait!– what did I do with the cat?

I read a news article the other day that linked to this heartbreaking blog post, a confession from a mother who accidentally left her child in the car for about 20 minutes on a warm day. Thankfully, the little girl was fine. Poor Mom was the one with the scars.

I give the author a huge amount of credit for sharing this story. I knew before even clicking on the comments associated with the news story that some people – mostly other moms – would be spewing judgment and hate. I seriously don’t understand where that level of superiority comes from. Because I’ve never met a perfect mom.

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I never accidentally left my kids in the car. But I remember plenty of incidents I refer to as “bad mommy moments” when I failed. I can make jokes about them now because my kids were fine but if I think about those moments too long I can still feel the fear and self-loathing created by my mistakes.

Ironically, the blog’s title is “This is Motherhood.” And, yep, it is. Motherhood is full of triumphs and failures, learning and growing. And sometimes those lessons are painful. No one is born with the perfect mom gene, knowing exactly what to do all the time. It’s why we lose sleep and cry and commiserate with other moms. And it’s time we cut each other some slack rather than looking for a chance to stab another mom in the back.

There is a big difference between a mother who deliberately decides to leave her kids at home for the night to go party, and a mom who in a moment when she is tired, overwhelmed or stressed makes a bad call among a thousand good calls. But as women, we beat ourselves up when those bad calls impact our kids. We will be harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. So why do other moms feel it necessary to pile on? Do you think you are really helping the author – who is clearly still processing what happened – by saying “I would NEVER…?” Does anyone really benefit from you publicly patting yourself on the back for your perfection while putting down the author for her mistake?

Um…sorry. You’re human so never say never. It may not be a hot car. Maybe your kid gets away from you and runs into traffic. Or your kid stuffs too many Cheerios in his mouth and chokes. Or your kid wanders out of the backyard when you go to sign for a package from the UPS guy. Or your kid races ahead of you at Disneyland and gets lost….I could go on with a thousand scenarios. Kids are notoriously unpredictable and our society is horribly judgmental. I’ve seen kids on leashes and people judging the parents, but I think, hey, if they know their kid is a wanderer, they are making the right call. But in the eyes of society, you’re screwed either way.

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I’ve read a lot recently about “the mental load” that moms carry, those thousand things that are forever running through your mind: I need to make my son’s dentist appointment. Did I sign the permission slip for my daughter to go to the zoo? We need more milk and bread from the store. That credit card bill is due on Friday. All that thinking can take its toll.

I used to drive my kids to school sometimes on my way to work and almost invariably, they would have to remind me to drop them off because I was just on auto pilot, thinking about what I had to do that day. I left the house and followed the path to the office, not the school, even though they were sitting right next to me.

Just last week — and both my kids are at the local college now — I got to work and couldn’t remember what I did with the cat before I left. Usually she stays in our (finished) basement when we are gone because she’s naughty if left alone upstairs. But the last I’d seen her, she was lying behind the couch. It took me a good five minutes to determine if I had put her downstairs or if I’d left, closing the basement door and cutting off access to her litter box. In the end, my son had put her downstairs but I had to really think to remember that because I’d been rushing to make coffee, pack my lunch and gym bag, clean up the kitchen, turn up the thermostat, check the locks, etc.  before heading out the door.

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So, I get it. I do.

So much of what we see online is false. Photoshopped images, Facebook posts gloating about perfect families, Pinterest projects that make life seem wonderfully organized, food blogs with mouth-watering pictures that just aren’t doable in a 30-minute window. But while it’s fine to aspire to improvement, it’s not OK to judge others, or yourself, too harshly. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. And, conversely, publicly spearing someone else for a mistake doesn’t make you better. In fact, it takes away a piece of your humanity.

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