Introducing the newest invention to spring from the genius minds of Silicon Valley, it's Mommy-Bot! This simple microchip, implanted in your head will turn you into the perfect mother. No more yelling at the kids, no more frustration. With a smile on your face you will be able to manage a surly teenager, a recalcitrant five year old, a tantruming three year old and a newly mobile one year old all at the same time! Oh, the wonders you will be able to perform with the Mommy-Bot chip. No more throwing some seeds in dirt and calling it a science fair project, you have the genius of NASA engineers in your brain and your child's science project will amaze judges far and wide. Each day you will happily whip up (from scratch) three nutritionally balanced meals from the huge database of nutrition information stored on the microchip. No more sighing and rolling your eyes when asked to play Piranha Panic for the 53rd time in two hours, no more saying "Let Daddy build it" when confronted with the 500 piece Lego Star Wars ship that must be built right this instant. You will be master of games, leader of fun, AND able to maintain a sparkling clean house in your spare moments. No more feeling inadequate next to all the other mothers out there, you can hold your head high because you will be The Perfect Mother.
Ah. Wouldn't that be nice? To finally be the mother I always thought I'd be? I was so sure before my son was born that I would do everything right, that I'd never get frustrated with MY child. No matter what he did, I'd be able to handle it with a smile and some gentle discipline. No formula for him, I'd nurse for at least the full first year. I'd rock him peacefully to sleep every night. As he grew older only the healthiest foods would pass his lips, and he'd joyfully eat whatever I served him. I'd be the 'fun' mommy, getting down on the floor and playing games with my children. I'd open up worlds of creativity to them, expand their horizons, and teach them about the world around them. And on and on the list went.
We all have lists. Lists of what we think the perfect mother should be, and what the perfect mother should do. And then reality hits in the form of a human baby, born to an all-too-human mother. I've never managed to be perfect at anything else I do, I don't know why I thought parenting would be the exception. And still I can't stop. I compare myself to the mothers around me. I compare myself to the mothers I interact with online. I compare myself to that impossible model of perfection in my mind.
But it's time to face reality. I'm a human parent, not Mommy-Bot. I have emotions. I WILL get frustrated when trying to dress a tantruming three year old and I will mutter through gritted teeth, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy." And somehow I'll get the clothes on him without breaking an arm in the process.
I will kill the carrot seed that Gates so proudly brought home from school. And weeks later, when he remembers and asks if his carrot is growing yet I will sadly tell him, "Honey, the carrot just didn't make it. Some seeds just don't grow." And then I'll make it up to him by letting him pick out seeds for the most gigantic sunflowers in the seed rack, and I will plant them in our back yard. And hopefully I won't kill them.
I will feed my children pancakes for supper because it's all I can muster the energy to cook. (But if I have ripe bananas I'll smoosh them up and add them to the batter, hey, that's balanced, right?) I will allow Indy to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every single day. I'll still read labels in the store, I'll still try for good nutrition, but the reality is that some days they are lucky to even have supper on the table at all.
I'll struggle to balance it all: work, kid's playtime, self-care, quiet time, blogging, and cleaning. I'll learn that if you keep the curtains closed and the lights off (and if you squint just right) the house doesn't look so bad. I'll explain to my boys what dust bunnies are, and I'll laugh when Indy spies a piece of fluff under the piano and says "Mommy, Mommy, a bunny ear!"
Sometimes I'll get frustrated with them. Sometimes I'll yell. Sometimes I'll sit them in front of the television because I just can't deal with the constant demands for the moment. Perfect Mommy fell by the wayside a long time ago, now she's just a mask I wear.
Ideals are great, until they become idols. If I were Perfect Mommy I wouldn't need to depend on God's grace to get me through each day. If I were Perfect Mommy I wouldn't be able to relate to all of the other mothers out there who are struggling with the same challenges I face. If I were Perfect Mommy I would fail at the most important task of all, teaching my children how to be human.
To Whom It May Concern: I am returning your Mommy-Bot chip. There is nothing wrong with the functioning, but I don't want it anymore. It was impairing my abilities to be a true mother. I couldn't teach my children how to deal with frustration when I didn't have any myself. I couldn't teach them how to apologize when I never did anything that needed apologizing for. The nutritious meal program failed to take into account that you can lead a child to the table, but you can't make him eat. I need to be human to teach my children things like patience, self-control, and love in the midst of the tantrums. I like myself the way I am, flawed, but growing.
(P.S. - If you ever come out with a Gardener-Bot chip, I might still be interested in that.)