I’m Over the Pressure to Be a Perfect Mom, So Why Do I Compare Myself to Other Moms Constantly?

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The other day I geared up to get myself and my toddler out of the house and off to yoga. I’d had coffee, we both looked cute, and I snapped a quick selfie with an emoji-packed caption before leaving. If you just saw that, you’d probably assume things are going pretty perfectly over here — but not 90 seconds after I posted the photo, my daughter had the type of meltdown that can ruin a whole morning. We did not make it to yoga. I spent the afternoon standing up in my kitchen eating the ice-cold chicken nuggets she’d refused, tears streaming down my cheeks as I silently prayed she would take a nap and give me a much-needed break.

I know that I’m not the only mom who’s posted something that has looked really cute in spite of chaos and drama and it’s not just about the pictures. There’s always some new article circulating feeding into this unattainable holy grail of maternal perfection. Gave up and let them cry it out one time before they turned 6-months-old? You royally messed that kid up for life. Ditched the boob in favor of formula for whatever reason felt right to you? Forget Yale; breastmilk is the only surefire way to get them into an Ivy. It’s not just the articles; women are saying rude things to and about each other, critiquing others’ parenting while holding their own up on some pedestal.

When I hear a couple of other moms prattling on about someone else’s “bad” choices, I roll my eyes. But late at night when I can’t sleep, I have to admit they get in a little. And what is perfect, anyway? Is it all about using only eco-friendly, astronomically expensive cleaning products? Looking amazing at all times, never fighting with your husband? If so, I fail. Does perfect mean giving birth vaginally without pain meds? Not me — epidural AND a C-section in the end. Is it about breastfeeding? Because I did that for 18 months and it was not the bohemian mommy dream I thought it would be. It was hard!

I accept that I’m not perfect, so, why can’t I stop comparing myself to other moms? Why is it that when I see a gorgeous mom with an angelic child out in public, I feel a pang of jealousy? Why is it when I’m scrolling my own Instagram feed and see some adorable parenting moments, do I wish my morning was going as well as theirs? Why did it take me the better part of a year to “forgive” myself for having a C-section? Why did I ever let any of self-righteous “natural” moms make me feel like a failure?

What we display to the public is always prettier than what happens at home — women have been showing good face in public for decades, centuries even. But these days there’s less separation between home and the outside world. Thanks to social media we’re constantly finding ourselves “inside” other people’s homes, and it’s easier to compare what we see there with what’s happening in our own. Here’s what I want to know:

Who’s going to admit that she let her kid have a few sips of her watered-down iced coffee just to get them to be quiet while she took a phone call, or that she used bleach to clean the bathroom last week? Who else was super rude to her husband this morning for no reason and feels like crap about it now? Am I the only one who has trouble sleeping and looks like a nightmare in the morning? Who’s taking to social media to talk about the moments that being a mom doesn’t feel like the most incredible thing ever?

The bottom line is this: If you love your children with your whole heart, you are a perfect mom. If you are doing the best that you can with what you have, you are a perfect mom. It does not matter how they came into your arms, what your birthing or adoption journey was, you are perfect. If your child is acting like an ungrateful little sh*t and you drop him or her with a family member, sitter, or daycare because you need the break, trust me, that was a perfect move.

There will always be days when I compare myself to other moms. It’s hard not to, if you have a phone or ever leave the house. It’s hard to remember at times that we all have our faults, our failures, our moments where we just feel like the worst mom out there. Because motherhood is not just beautiful; it’s difficult, confusing, and stressful. We aren’t always going to look or feel our best, our homes won’t always be neat and tidy, and our children won’t always behave. Our relationships will suffer sometimes as we navigate these murky waters, but that’s okay.

Because at the end of the day we have little people looking up to us and all they really want is the knowledge that their moms are there. And when I look at my little girl, I know I don’t really need to live by anyone else’s standards, because I’m her mom, and to her (right now, at least), I’m already perfect.

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Photo: Getty