Motherhood and the Double Dog Dare to be Perfect

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I am enough.I am enough

That is my new mantra. I am enough. It feels good to say out loud, like exhaling after you have been dared to hold your breathe as long as possible. Perfect parenting feels like an impossible double dog dare.

After the birth of my son in 2011 I remember the fear of screwing the whole thing up. I had given up my teaching job to stay home with my son. The role of mom now felt like the beginning and the end of my identity. This was the most important role I had ever played and I was bound to do it perfectly.

In general I was pretty good at holding my breath with this new baby. I faked perfect when I had to, and didn’t let anyone {except very close friends and family} see me fall apart, ever.

It was not until we welcomed our twins into the world in 2013 that all of the effort I put into “perfect” blew up in my face. It suddenly became not only impossible, but a joke. You took one look at me and knew I was a complete and total mess. There was no hiding the unwashed hair, the vomit stains on my shirt, or the desperate look in my eyes. These tiny, beautiful beings had successfully drowned me.

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Moms take on this ultimate parenthood dare and aim to not only be great, but to be perfect. We throw all of these balls into the air and think we should be able to juggle with ease: kissing boo-boos, driving carpool, paying bills, submitting that proposal that will lead to a promotion, exercising regularly, maintaining close friendships, keeping the passion alive with our husbands, tutoring the oldest so he gets into the perfect preschool, mowing the lawn, teaching our children values and morals so they lead perfect lives, volunteering in the community, and ultimately collapsing from the exhaustion of it all, {in privacy of course}. Gotta keep up the façade.

But what if we stopped, exhaled and said, “I am enough.”?

One day I did just that, and here is what life looks like for us now. On most days my house is more fit for a pig than for a child. On most days my kids have watched multiple episodes of TV while I hide in the bathroom with my cell phone to check Facebook and remember to breathe. On most days I have not taken a shower. On most days I am surviving on coffee and my children’s smiles. But I am enough. As a recovering perfectionist I cannot tell you how liberating it feels to truly embrace that sentiment.

My sink is full of dishes AND I am a good mom.

My son was in his pajamas all day AND I am a good mom.

I lost my temper AND I am a good mom.

Suddenly the shame of what feels like failure on top of failure is lifted. That first breath of air after holding your breath for too long is the one that saves your life. Holding our breath may work for awhile. I can fake perfection. I can clean my house before guests arrive, make cookies for the neighbors and deliver them with my three smiling kids in tow, but eventually the façade will crack. My body will run out of oxygen and ache for a breath of fresh air.

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My toddler will tantrum in Target. My son will hit someone on the playground. I will forget to bring snack for my child’s preschool class. It will all fall apart. And there is an option to fall apart with it. I am less than perfect and I am also enough. I need to believe it, and most of the time I do.

I double dog dare you to try it.

What is your “Mom mantra?” We’d love to hear from you!

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Mom to a 3 ½ year old boy and 16 month old girl/boy twins, Liz Fendell is a recovering perfectionist hailing from St. Louis. Her current aspirations are showering three times a week and keeping all three of her precious munchkins alive. She survives on her ability to laugh at herself and with her nearest and dearest. Her new mantra is, “I am enough” and believes a healthy dose of humility and grace can get her through anything. And if that doesn’t work there’s always Plan B: witness protection. She exercises when she can and has recently pondered strapping her Fitbit to her 3 ½ year old son. Surely that kid is reaching 10,000 steps per day! A full time stay-at-home mom and talented lifestyle photographer {at Liz Fendell Photography}; she is passionate about capturing both the ordinary and the extraordinary moments in her clients’ lives.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am repeating this mantra to myself today and it really helps. I get hung up lately on how disorganized my house has become, how hard it is to keep up with keeping the crumbs off the floors and all the other things too. So, I just needed this today. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    • So many crumbs! Sometimes I think I should just duct tape a broom to one arm and a dust pan to the other. Glad the mantra came in handy for you. I used it yesterday when I lost it after my 17 month old threw my cell phone in the water table and a 5 year old girl commented as we walked past, “that’s a lot of kids for one lady.” I am enough:-)

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