Women may often be described as goddess-like, but perfect we are not. When my daughters were born I was ill-prepared and scared, and I momentarily felt like I lost a sense of myself.

Don’t get me wrong – my little miracles were precious to me from the first hint that I was pregnant, but it was a major life change. Sharing these mixed emotions seemed to perplex people, as though I should have been ever-joyous, selfless and nurturing, even despite sleep deprivation and my body being transformed beyond recognition.

I was a working mother who also attended school but I wanted to ensure the girls were my first priority. I made sure I was home most days after they were dismissed from school. We spent our afternoons doing homework, laughing and talking as they eagerly told stories of their day. Each night, I was thankful that I was able to read to them, pray with them and tuck them in. And as soon as they dozed off, I cracked my schoolbooks open.

Everyone familiar with my dreadful schedule would wonder, “You’re so hard working and brave. How do you do it?” I didn’t think I was either of those things. I just knew I wanted to show my children what determination looked like and how love felt.

The girls quickly moved into their teenage years, which brought on some unexpected challenges. I suppose that’s the art of being a teenager, doing the unexpected. And this is when everything shifted. I was no longer seen as hard working or brave.

Instead, people began to insinuate that maybe I had done something wrong. No one seemed to consider the neurological and hormonal changes all teenagers go through. No one seemed to remember how hard it was to navigate friendships and relationships in high school.

Well, maybe if I were around more, they’d hint, maybe if I didn’t go to school. Maybe I should have been a stay-at-home mother. Maybe I should have been more attentive, they’d imply, maybe more emotional. Some wondered whether I should have allowed the girls to have more freedom, while others said maybe I shouldn’t have allowed them to have so much. And slowly over time, I too began to question my abilities as a mother.

I also wondered why people judged me so harshly. Yet, in my heart, I knew the reason why. Society has developed an unattainable definition of the role of mothers: all sacrificial, never tiring, never stopping and relentlessly giving. We are supposed to raise our children perfectly, to get them through their many milestones seamlessly and to maintain composure gracefully, all the while pretending that none of this is detrimental to our own well-being.

There were times I locked myself in my bathroom and wept until my brown face turned a shade of deep red, wondering what I could’ve done to turn things around. I considered quitting school or sleeping less to get more done. Guilt rippled through my body, leaving knots in my stomach and tightly wound blood vessels throbbing in my temples.

Despite all of this, I knew that teenage hormones are powerful, that raising children isn’t linear, and that despite sometimes succumbing to guilt, everything wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault that my children sometimes had a hard time in class or that boys were sometimes crass and girls were sometimes mean. It wasn’t my fault that they sometimes felt depressed, as heartbreaking as it was to witness.

My responsibility was to be there to help them when they fell, and sometimes even to catch them when I knew the fall would be too hard. It was my responsibility to listen, to love and to share my wisdom. And knowing this reassures me that although I’ve made mistakes, every imperfect thing in their lives was not due to my inadequacies, and things happen even despite my attempts to protect them. Being a mother is not about perfection. In fact, it is an imperfect art and a glorious blessing.

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Category: Motherhood
Tagged with: Gender Equality    Motherhood    mothers    Social norms    Stigma    Women's issues    women's rights

Patty J

I'm Patty and I recently finished a memoir on immigration and racism. I'm also a psychologist on a journey to find out how nutrition changes mental clarity and physical health.

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  • “…that raising children isn’t linear…” This statement is it. Raising children (especially during the girlie-teen years) is more like a continuous connect-the-dot process, for them and for you.

    • I agree with this, even for those of us raising boys. The best thing to do in parenting is be flexible with your plans. Each child has his or her own path, and we have to find a way to meet him/her right there, where s/he needs us!

      • Yes, you’re right, this is so true with boys as well. Flexibility is so important in parenting. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Yes, that’s a great analogy, connecting dots. We go from one dot to the other, re-evaluating what’s happening at each dot. Thanks so much for reading!

  • Reblogged this on pj temple.

  • A great and brave post! It is so easy to point fingers at mothers and place on them a burden that is far too heavy. Good parents are loving parents, good parents are not parents who prepare a perfect path for their kids.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments. Yes, I am learning first hand with my teenagers that I have to hang back and let them make their mistakes. So hard but that’s life.

  • There is no perfect way to be a mother. We do the best that we can. As long as we are consciously thinking about what is best for our children and we are trying, that’s all we can do. Mothers always live with guilt. Maybe that’s just part of being a mother. We have so much love and want to do so much. Great post.

  • Moms are super-human beings. Let them be. If you are one, don’t judge the other, stick to your lane. You don’t know her challenges. If you are not, please leave the room. There is no space for judging.