Want to be a good friend? Burn dinner every once in a while. Want to be “real” at school drop-off? Better not show up in clean clothes or makeup! And did you know that the difference between a good mom and a great mom is that great moms’ kids have uncombed hair and crappy lunches?
I get it: no longer being held to Donna Reed-era standards of motherhood is a goddamn relief. And I appreciate that many of these “bad mommy” pieces are meant to be humorous and hyperbolic, but the message is undeniable: trying hard is for losers, so pop on your dirtiest yoga pants and come have a glass of sauvy b at the cool moms’ table!
This disdain for perfection seems like more than just eschewing the 1950’s supermom or making a good joke. Where, exactly, does it come from? Could it be that parents, overwhelmed by the high expectations of 21st century parenting, are simply fed up? Is the pressure to serve organic food, discipline without timeouts, and make every moment Pinterest and Instagram-worthy just too much? Maybe. It is an undeniably greater burden than our parents shouldered, and in a world eager to judge our every parental misstep in 140-character burns, to boot.
But something more insidious seems to be at play here, too. “Imperfect mom” rhetoric relies on the assumption that pulled-together moms with tidy homes and well-dressed children are judging them, that behind those freshly glossed smiles lie sneers of quiet superiority. Which leaves you to wonder: who’s really doing the judging here?
It’s not funny or cool, but I LIKE trying hard at being a mom. Sending my kids off to school in clean, matching outfits with nutritious food in their personalized lunchboxes feels good to me. It stresses me out when my house is messy, so I keep it clean and organized not to impress you but for my own sanity. I host friends for (ideally) unburnt meals because cooking and bringing people together around a pretty table brings me joy. This isn’t about you, other moms; I’m doing this for ME.
I certainly don’t get it right all the time. There are plenty of days when my house gets messy, my ponytail is dirty, the laundry pile threatens to overtake my basement, and dinner is takeout burritos. (My children’s favorite, as it turns out.) But I keep trying anyway, because I have standards I’ve determined are meaningful for me.
What “imperfect mom” rhetoric gets so very wrong is that my standards are just that: mine. I sincerely don’t care if your house is messy or your kids’ clothes don’t match. I happily accept all dinner invitations for takeout on paper plates. Right on for deciding what works for your family!
Look, we all have a limited number of f**ks to give, and it’s up to each of us to decide how to allocate them. So perhaps, proudly imperfect moms, you might do me the courtesy of refraining from snickering from behind your venti lattes at my kid’s color-coordinated hair bows? Because that’s just as “fake”, just as unsupportive, as me talking trash about your kid’s Lunchables. Which I’m not. Really.