The "Perfect Mom"

Last weekend was my second weekend in three weeks that I was flying solo. My husband was on a well-deserved golf trip with two of his best buddies from residency, so I was home with my three kiddos for another weekend with mom. If you'll recall, the last time he left town was a little crazy with Easter thrown in the mix. I definitely had a case of Going Through the Motions. This time, however, things went much more smoothly. Reflecting back on the weekend/week, I tried to figure out what was different. The short answer is: I took care of myself FIRST and was then able to better take care of my family.

Here's the long answer with what my "mom guilt" was telling me that the "perfect mom" would do vs what actually occurred:

Friday night:
What the "perfect mom" would do: 
Take all three kids to the elementary school May Fest celebration because it's my first child's first year in kindergarten, and his first May Fest.
What the outcome would've likely been:
I would've been stressed to the max trying to wrangle three kids in the midst of hundreds of one would've actually eaten dinner, someone would've ended up crying (very likely me), and we would've gone to bed way too late and grumpy.
What actually happened:
The hubs left on Friday afternoon, so Friday evening, the younger two kids and I went to a dear friend's home and had a late afternoon playdate/dinner. She had prepared a delicious salad and a fabulous tomato pie (it spurred me on to make my own Tomato Pie this past week). The kids enjoyed some chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, and fruit. We relaxed while our four kids enjoyed the gorgeous weather, the swingset, and each others' company. We left there with our hearts and bellies full and picked up my oldest son who had been having a playdate (and an absolutely blast) with his best friend who now goes to a different school. We were all tired when we got home, and the kids were all in the bed by 7:30pm. That left me and Dateline to have a little date night ourselves.

Saturday morning: 
What the "perfect mom" would do:
Spend the morning with my kids in the kitchen making a big breakfast. Breakfast would be followed by a run on the greenway with the baby in the jogging stroller and both of the boys on their bikes. This would get some energy out so that we could have a lovely special lunch on a restaurant patio somewhere and then head home for some outside play and quiet time.
What the outcome would've likely been:
No one would've actually helped in the kitchen (well, maybe the four year old), I would stress myself out to get the meal made while they were starving and upset not to just have their typical frozen waffle with peanut butter, the kitchen sink would be full of dirty dishes, the floor would need a thorough mopping...all before 9am. I would've rushed to get everyone dressed and ready for our bike ride. I would've worn myself out loading up the jogging stroller plus two bikes in the magic mini before even hitting the pavement. Someone would have to peepee halfway through the adventure, someone would get tired and want me to carry their bike, and someone would end up crying (possibly me, again). We would've skipped our special lunch because we would've all been too sweaty to step foot in a restaurant, and we all would've gotten home a hot, tired mess.
What actually happened:
We scarfed down aforementioned frozen waffles with peanut butter so that we could make it to the Y in time to meet some friends. I went to body combat with my friend while the kids had a ball playing in the Y playrooms/nursery with their friends. After getting my butt thoroughly kicked, we took my oldest son's best friend home with us while his mom went to grab some lunch for us from the newly opened Zoe's Kitchen. The kids enjoyed a picnic outside of homemade pimento cheese, marinated cucumbers, hummus and carrots, and fruit that were all in the fridge waiting to be eaten. The baby went down for a nap and the rest of us continued to play into mid-afternoon.

Saturday night: 
What the "perfect mom" would do: (even she's not crazy)
Keep dinner simple and order a pizza. Allow the kids to watch a movie before heading off to bathtime and an early bedtime.
What would have likely happened:
I would've waited too long to order the pizza and the kids would be going nuts saying how starving they were. Because we cleaned out the fridge at lunchtime, there would be no option as a backup dinner so we'd wait it out. We'd start watching a movie and someone would get scared halfway through while the others wanted to keep watching resulting in a fight. We'd cut the movie off early and send everyone off to the bath upset either because they weren't watching a movie or because they were still scared and worried about nightmares. My patience would be gone because I had already been with them by myself for too long, and we'd all have a crash landing at bedtime with someone crying (probably me) least one would wake up with nightmares in the night.
What actually happened:
I had enough foresight to get a babysitter. I gave the kids an early bath and pulled out some frozen chicken nuggets and edamame for a 5:30pm dinner. The sitter played with all three kids in the backyard until the sun went down while I enjoyed dinner and dessert with my best friend. We were home by 8:45pm (further confirmation that 35 is definitely NOT the new 25), and the kids were down for the count. My best friend stayed for another glass of wine and headed home an hour later. I enjoyed another date night with Dateline.

Sunday morning:
What the "perfect mom" would do: Get up before the kids and make a special Sunday morning breakfast. Head to Sunday School at 9:45am (myself included) and then to the formal worship service at 11:00am because it's important for my oldest to sit in church with me and head to his own Children's Worship (I whole-heartedly believe this). Get home around 12:30 for a quick lunch and put the baby down for a nap.
What would've likely happened: The kitchen would've again been a mess, and I would've raced to clean it up so that my husband wouldn't walk into a disaster if he got home before we did. While cleaning the kitchen, I would've been yelling upstairs for my boys to get ready and then walk up to see that no one had changed out of their pjs 20 minutes later because they were too busy playing dinosaurs. At that point, I would've lost my religion before we even made it to church.
What actually happened: We again ate our staple breakfast of frozen waffles with peanut butter. The boys dressed themselves in golf shirts, khakis, and athletic socks & shoes. We left the house 20 minutes later than we normally would have, made it to their Sunday school late, and I headed to the Jazz Service at 10:10am and was 10 minutes early. I had time to catch up with some friends in the lobby before the service started, I relaxed and worshiped without my kids, and we were home playing in the backyard by 11:15am. We had a picnic for lunch and spent the early afternoon enjoying the beautiful weather. I had time to get some Korean Beef Tacos prepped for a family dinner that night. My husband got home around 3pm, and all was right in the world...until the next morning when he woke up with the stomach bug...I'll save that story for next week's post.

Now, what is the moral of all of this? The clear answer is that I'm not perfect! ;) And thank goodness I'm not trying to be. I would've been a hot mess by the time the weekend was halfway over if that were my goal. Rather than being "perfect," I decided to be what felt a little "selfish" and took care of myself first. The fact of the matter is, it wasn't selfish at all. It was self preservation. It was giving myself little breaks so that I was able to better take care of my family. The kids had no idea what "the perfect mom" (who exists only in mom guilt land) would've done with them. They didn't know that I was "supposed" to take them to May Fest. They didn't know I was "supposed" to make them a gourmet breakfast each morning. They didn't know I was "supposed" to spend every waking moment with them, not taking a break for myself, breathing in all the cuteness that they had to give. They just knew that their mama was there taking care of them, with enough energy to give them extra playtime and extra snuggles. I have been on the other end of the spectrum, totally wiped out, emotionally exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel, and I can tell you, that's when the mom guilt really steps in.

It's not that any of those "perfect mom" scenarios are bad or even unrealistic for some, but I know myself well enough to know that when my husband is out of town for four days, I am not going to be at the top of my game. I just tweaked those "perfect mom" expectations to fit into what I thought that I could handle for the weekend. I am trying hard to do a better job of setting realistic expectations of myself and of my children, of setting myself up for success, and of not worrying so much about what I'm "supposed" to do to be the "perfect mom."

I received Mother's Day cards from my kids today, and, there is no mention of the word "perfect" on them. It is nice to see, though, that through their eyes, I cook with them, I play basketball with them, I make play dough with them, I tie their shoes, I love them, and when I get dressed up, it usually means I'm heading out to dinner ;) My kids will never look back and use the word "perfection" to describe their mama, but I hope they'll look back and see a mama who LOVED them despite her imperfections, and a mama who loved HERSELF enough to take care of herself FIRST, so that she could love them better.

To all of you mamas out there, Happy Mother's Day and Happy Cooking!

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