On Perfection and Motherhood
I have three-year-old twins. They’re adorable, but they’re also sometimes about as much as I can handle. Motherhood isn’t an easy job, especially when you love your children and really want to be a perfect mother. In my church, we believe the commandment the Savior gave to “be thou perfect” wasn’t just a pretty saying. It’s a quest. But when you combine a quest for perfection with motherhood, you usually come up with guilt.
It isn’t easy for moms who work outside the home, it isn’t easy for moms who stay home with their children, and it isn’t easy for moms like me who stay at home and try to sneak in a few minutes of writing time each day. And even if you’re a great mom for an entire morning, it only takes a couple minutes of being grumpy or losing your temper, and then you aren’t a “good mom” anymore.
Last week, I had one of those days (OK, several) that included moments of wanting to exile my children to their bedroom long before quiet time and/or pull all my hair out. That evening I was telling my husband how the day went, and he said something that really hit me. “Of course you aren’t a perfect mother. It’s not like you’ve done this before.”
I share this in the hope that it will make sense to other moms the way it made sense to me. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on your first set of kids, like me, or if you’re on your seventh or eighth child. You haven’t raised that child at that exact age before. You’ve never been in those exact circumstances. And if you aren’t a mother, it still applies. Life changes, and you can’t expect to overcome every surprise perfectly the first time it gets thrown at you.
As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve compared it to something I can really understand—writing. The first drafts of my novels are never perfect. They are far from it. They usually have potential, and a few cool parts, but they always need a lot of work. (You can see some examples of early-draft problems here.) That doesn’t mean I throw the manuscript out. It means I work on it. I fill in the plot holes, take out redundancies, clarify the convoluted parts, and polish the wording. Is writing hard? Yes. Is Motherhood hard? You bet. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the effort.
Unfortunately, you can’t edit your life. But I believe a loving Father in Heaven doesn’t expect our lives—our rough drafts—to read like a polished final product. He wants us to do our best, and not repeat the same mistakes over and over, and He wants us to keep trying. And for now, just trying might be good enough. After all, it’s not like any of us have done this before.
This post is part of the 4th Annual LDS Writer’s Blogfest, and the theme this year is about how your beliefs shape your writing. To read other posts written by people who share my beliefs, click here (This list will be updated later with links to specific posts. Right now, it’s just to other blogs.)
Note: This blog post represents my opinion, not official doctrine for my church.
Love your husband’s comment. It’s true. Why do I expect to be perfect first time around. I don’t expect my first draft to be perfect — or at least I shouldn’t. 🙂 Oh, the joys and frustrations of being less than I think I can be. Patience, I guess, both in writing and motherhood. It will come. Thanks for the post!
Thanks, Rebecca. I sometimes think I’ll be working on that patience thing for a really long time…
I can’t imagine 3 year old twins. Moms of twins deserve sainthood automatically. One at a time is hard enough. Great post, Amanda. It’s so true. Each of my 4 kids was so different than the other, but they helped me grow and learn different things through raising them that I would never have learned otherwise. You don’t have to be a perfect mother…just a loving mother. That’s what matters.
Great comment, Char. Nothing like having children to make you learn a lot of lessons, right? And, yes, love is the most important thing!
Love the analogy. As a father and a writer it’s a struggle to not be a perfectionist. (But to work patiently toward constant improvement.) Although sometimes I have been tempted to put my kids in a drawer for a few months.
Thanks, Telephorian. I have to confess–I switched around a few doorknobs in my house so I could lock the twins in their room or my room for naptime. It worked for a while, then one of them figured out that the prongs on the night-light open the door right up.