Who has a perfect life? What does a perfect life look like? Is it dependent on things like having wealth and society’s concept of beauty? Do you need to live in a certain kind of house or drive a certain type of car? Do your job and relationships need to fall in line with what you think is “perfect?” In reality, the perfect life probably looks different for every individual.
I have recently been talking to a friend about her mommy expectations and she shared she wants to give her kids the “perfect” day every day. This is a tall order! So I asked her what a perfect day would look like. What I learned is we so quickly compare ourselves to others via social media like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc. My friend told me she “follows” women who look like supermoms “whose kids are so perfectly dressed and poised each day that they are actually sent free clothes from designers.” Do I want my kids to wear designer clothes every day? Heck, I’m pretty pleased when they are 1) dressed at all and 2) the clothes they have do not have yogurt stains and marker on them.
My friend went on to say she looks at social media and finds moms who report “No tantrums here, just perfect kids with a perfect, skinny mom who only cooks organically from the vegetables in her back yard… and her “real life” friends (on Facebook) [are] constantly going on vacations and having ‘best day ever’ moments daily.” If I compared myself to the world created by social media, my typical day with my kids would look incredibly unglamorous (which is a big reason why I am not very active on social media and only recently signed up for a Facebook account, it’s distracting from what I find important in my life and just too much to keep up with!).
I have an awesome work schedule which allows me to be home with my girls every other Friday (this speaks to work/life balance which is a blogpost for another day). I go into my Fridays at home with a tiny bit of apprehension thinking, “Oh, three kids aged three and under, how am I going to do this solo all day?” but this anxiety always subsides after the first round of diaper changes in the morning. These are my kids! My day is going to be awesome simply because I am with them, so I just go with the flow. If we have an errand to run, then I try to make it happen, but if nap schedules conflict, then we stay home. There are some Fridays we don’t get out of our jammies! If you haven’t figured it out yet, getting dressed at all is a pretty big accomplishment in my book (and this means putting on a real outfit and not throwing on workout clothes, especially because I’m not kidding anyone… I’m not going to exercise). My days at home with the kids are mostly full of a series of never-ending crumbs on the kitchen floor (which always stick to the bottom of my feet), easy-flowing tears over seemingly inconsequential things like my three-year old melting down because she blinked when she did not want to blink, or I was not playing the right way, and twin babies constantly trying to crawl all over me or begging me to push them around on a toy car (which makes my back hurt because I’m bending so far down to the floor). And yet, these are my perfect days because they are days I am with my kids and I get to marvel at them uninterrupted.
My friend said she’s fallen into creating a picture in her mind of what a “perfect mom” looks like, and not only is it a fictional picture but it’s just not who she actually is! For example, she bought a pair of fancy boots she thought a “perfect mom” would own. Not only did she find she didn’t really like the boots, but her seven-year old daughter said, “Mommy—those don’t look like you. Do you really like them? The reason I’m so picky [with my clothes] is because I stay true to being me, and you should do the same.” The fact her young daughter has a clear idea of what she likes and has already developed a strong sense of self is mind-blowingly powerful to me. This means my friend is doing an amazing job being the perfect mom for her kids. Our kids will not know if we are sporting designer duds or if their lunch is made of organic homegrown vegetables. They just want us, and this makes them happiest.
My perfect day is any day I am mindful and feel present with my kids. I want to soak up every moment with them because I know every moment is fleeting. What does it mean to be present? For me, it means I’m not thinking about the next thing to work on from my endless to do list. I’m not stressing out about getting all the kids to bed exactly on time, or counting down the minutes until they are all in bed and I can get some time to myself. When I am holding one of my babies in my arms I want to breathe in their scent, let their curly hair tickle my face, and squeeze their chubby little thighs in my hands while I give their gorgeously round cheeks so many kisses my three-year old has to tell me to stop. These moments will not last forever, so I am trying to imprint them in my mind now.
READ: How I find mindfulness
Currently, getting ready for bed is an exercise in procrastination for my three-year old. She will take her sweet time going potty, brushing her teeth, picking out jammies and narrate every action as she goes through the motions. She’s only talking to herself, but she’ll say “This is how I go potty. First I turn on the light and put my stepstool over here, then I bring my potty seat over here, and oh look there’s a ducky in the tub!” Instead of trying to rush her through the process (for what reason?), I have decided to embrace it. While she’s taking 5 minutes to even contemplate picking up the toothbrush, I am taking a few moments to tidy up my room a bit, sit and read a book in the rocking chair, or even do a few yoga stretches to release my lower back from crouching down to push that darn riding toy for hours on end, and suddenly the stress is lifted off my shoulders. What was once a battle of wills has become a few enjoyable minutes for me to do some self-care, feel productive and relaxed. The bonus is when Esther realizes I’m not watching her every move, she suddenly goes through the motions much faster because she wants my attention and wants to make sure there is enough time for bedtime stories. I cherish climbing into bed with my tiny toddler (she’s rather petite) and laying my head next to her head on the pillow and reading books to her. During this time she kicks her legs up in the air, drapes her limbs all over me and asks me obvious questions about the story just to prolong our time together. I do not mind this because one day she will be able to read to herself and she will no longer welcome a mama-cuddle before bedtime.
In another recent conversation I heard people talking about which age they like best regarding young children. My husband said he does not favor the brand new baby phase because they really only sleep and breastfeed, and another said they like it better when the kids can talk and tell them what they want. I said I like every phase and it’s not an embellishment. I like every age because they offer such different and unique experiences. The newborn phase is full of breastfeeding and bonding, cuddles and staring at a perfect little sleeping face (and enjoying the fact the baby can sleep through anything for the first 3 months of life), then they start to become more aware and alert and smile when they recognize me (what joy!), each age and stage comes equipped with something new to discover and love.
Nothing is permanent. Life is always changing, and there is no “perfect day” with the ability to hit “pause” and feel like we’ve “made it.” We’re never done growing. With this said, perfection is what you make of it and it is always evolving. The best day ever is the day I feel like I have focused on the things which matter to me most and feel like my most authentic self. Thankfully, I can say I’ve had a lot of best days ever.