The pressures of trying to be the perfect mom

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Sabrina Almeida

Manushi Chillar, our newly-crowned Miss World, caused many moms (including me) to shed a few tears as she paid the ultimate tribute to motherhood in the final round of the competition. Her answer— “I think the profession of highest respect and salary should be that of a mother” was spot on!

She got the easiest question… and if I were asked the same on any stage, my answer would be no different.

While Manushi expressed the views of a loving and grateful child, I’ve had the privilege of being on both sides of the fence. As she rightly pointed out, motherhood is not about monetary compensation. However, it is definitely about the status our kids achieve, I’d like to add. We mothers measure our success or failure in terms of our kids’ accomplishments.

As media makes it point to reveal the highest earners every once-in-a-while, conversations among colleagues and friends will turn to what it would be like to own that purse. My focus shifts to the expectations and pressures that come with it. It can’t be a cushy job… and I’ve learned that being a mother is no different.

While there is no doubting the importance of a father, child rearing continues to be largely a mother’s domain. This is not about stereotypes but a natural progression of life. (There are always exceptions.) Few fathers can expect to equal that special bond (and growing anxiety) that develops right from the time your child is in the womb. Those nine months are exclusive to a mother.
And somewhere between hearing the good news to the time your child moves out and has a family of their own, we take on the challenge of becoming the ‘perfect mom’.

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Let me be clear that it is self-inflicted, nobody holds us to this unattainable standard… and no amount of advice from our own mothers (who also set out on this path eons ago) will deter us.
Yesterday, I listened to friend’s rapturous account of her first year with her baby. It took me back 23 years. A mother’s thinking and aspirations hadn’t changed much, I thought. We were both obsessed with getting it right and convinced that only we knew how and could. I was tempted to share my observations but realized, recalling my days as a new mother, that it would not bode well. Time would teach her what it took me more than 20 years to learn. I hope she is a quicker learner than I was.

There’s no such thing as the perfect mother. Every mother you know or meet, will eventually testify to that. The one’s whose lives and kids are enviable, usually seem that way because you don’t have the full picture. Each one of us must navigate the rocky road of motherhood with no prior experience. What’s more with each child it seems like the first time because they are so different. And just when it seems like everything is under control, life throws a curve ball to ground you.

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As today’s woman looks to accomplish on all levels—personal, social, professional and economic—being a mother comes with a whole new set of challenges. There are so many things to do and only those many hours in a day. Moreover, we’re not just trying to be the perfect moms anymore… but wonder women who are the gold standard in every role.

Here’s where the adage “something’s gotta give” comes into play. Usually its our sanity and self worth.

Realizing this will help prevent the sinking feeling of failure when things don’t work out according to plan. Mostly unrealistic ones! Mistakes and failures are a normal part of life, we can’t avoid them. But we don’t have to set ourselves up for failure with impractical expectations either.

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Our children don’t need us to be perfect, just human. A couple of friends shared how they made it their mission to be different from their “perfect moms”. Only to fall into the same trap when the little ones appeared.

The problem stems from linking our self worth to the accomplishments of our children and society’s acknowledgement of the same. We’re conditioned irrespective of our ethnicity, creed or age. I too dream of my boys giving speeches like Manushi did and posting flowery tributes on social media like some kids do… Tons of conflicting advice, now even more easily accessible via the Internet, adds to the confusion and the pressure. Social media is probably our worst enemy. We forget that the glowing posts are selective, and nobody would air their problems. It’s not cool.

Motherhood is hard and while we should always try to do our best, being realistic is equally important.

There is no perfect mother. Trying to be one can break us. Growing unrealistic expectations cause us to be stressed, irritable and unhappy. One thing’s for sure we’re no good to our children that way! It’s perfectly okay to put your feet up, take a break and be human once in way! – CINEWS


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