Would You Rather: The Imperfect Mom
My eight year old son likes to play a game he calls “would you rather?” Most of the questions are framed in gory scenarios such as “would you rather jump off a cliff into burning lava OR into concrete.” We take turns asking each other to choose from two scenarios. Of course mine are typically less gory and more thoughtful, though I engage in the goriness once in a while too. Last night, we were playing this game before bedtime when I asked him, “would you rather have a perfect mommy who lets do whatever you want, get unlimited screen time, eat whatever you want and never says no OR imperfect mommy?” Before I even finished the sentence my son gave a firm no and said “I’d rather have you.” I asked him why and he replied “I want imperfect mommy. Because no one is perfect and I don’t want that.” Surprised, I dug further and asked, don’t you want someone who never gets mad and is always nice to you? He stayed firm and wasn’t swayed. His message was clear. He wants me just the way I am.
There is so much pressure in motherhood to be perfect, even more so for moms who adopt. I read many parenting books before we adopted my son. Some were adoption focused while others covered various aspects of parenting. Reading these were helpful but also made me feel so much pressure to always be “on.” To always be patient. To always be engaged. While these books were in no way arguing for perfection, I felt pressure to be perfect — to be knowledgeable in all things, to always be self-aware, to always handle things the right way and I would be unkind to myself when I failed. In living my intentions to be more vulnerable and live with authenticity, I’ve been working on embracing my imperfections and being open with my children about my shortcomings. When I make a mistake I acknowledge it and try to explain why I behaved that way, sometimes admitting I don’t know why. Afterwards, I am kind and forgiving to myself. I tell my children, “I’m still a good mom. I’m not perfect but that’s okay.”
We look at the curated lives of others, especially on social media, and feel like we’re alone in our struggles. Outside our homes, we’re more patient with our kids and show the best versions of ourselves. We are “on.” On social media, we only share the fun, happy times. We want to appear perfect because when we risk sharing our imperfections, we become scared. We are afraid of judgment. We are afraid of rejection. We show only our best selves in public because it doesn’t feel safe. Many of our children try to do the same. They behave well in public but show their worst selves to us. In public, they know they risk judgment and rejection but they feel safe with us and let go, assured in our love for them.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to hide our struggles and appear like we’re all doing great. But the struggles are beautiful. They are what make us human. They are what make us imperfect. The shared struggles are what inspire us. It’s what connects us and help us create meaningful, lasting connections. I had a friend visit me this weekend from out of town. She is someone I knew for years through a Facebook adoption community so we had never met in person. We went through the difficult adoption process together and then struggled with our adoptions. Even though we had never met each other in person before, there was a connection and ease as we spent the weekend face to face, a connection born from our shared struggles. I also had this experience last year when I finally met a mom from this group in person. She was my rock during the darkest days of my younger son’s tumultuous transition period after adoption. These amazing women who live thousands of miles away, whom I had never met in person, are connected to me through our imperfections. We are able to talk to each other about how we feel — many times about feelings mothers aren’t supposed to have. We listen to each other, support each other, feel safe with each other.
Let us embrace our imperfections.
Let us choose to risk being judged and rejected. When we embrace our imperfections, we are able to embrace the imperfection in others too. When we are kind and forgiving to ourselves, we learn to be kind and forgiving of others too, including those we love. In my effort to live with more authenticity and vulnerability, I have been open about my imperfections and struggles both to the world and to those close to me. Rather than being rejected, I have only been met with kindness and love in return. And my soul is filled. I think about my son and how he doesn’t seek perfection from me. He loves me how I am. And I realize… just as we are inspired when we see someone struggle but continue to keep moving and showing up in their lives, our children are inspired when they see us struggle but continue to show up for them. To love them. To accept them in all their glorious imperfections.
Our imperfections are what make us authentic.
Our imperfections are what give us connection.
Our imperfections are our power.
You are perfectly imperfect just the way you are. You are enough.