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Don't believe the 'perfect mother' myth

Why do I and so many other mothers feel suffocating guilt for not being a supermom?

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As I was watching my son's soccer game just before Mother's Day last year, a mom was trying to get her husband to get a chair out of the car. She implored him but he just looked at her. I couldn't help but chime in: "Hey, it's Mother's Day weekend!" He went to get the chair. On his way, he told me half-jokingly, "That was no fair." Everyone chuckled. A reminder about Mother's Day inspired him to do an unpleasant chore.

In retrospect, I'm not so amused. Why is it funny that the mom wanted help? Why are moms only allowed one day of leisure? It's partially our fault. Most of us have taken on the sacred role of mother goddess. As such, we believe it is our obligation to do everything, to sacrifice, to give up our desires. For those of us who have pursued some of our dreams along with motherhood, there is often an aching, never-ending feeling of guilt. We feel that somehow by pursuing our dreams we have stolen from our children's happiness.

This issue follows us everywhere. How many times have I scoffed at a mother who was groomed impeccably with perfect hair and manicures? I judged her as a selfish mother. Surely she could use that money and time for her children.

The problem is that this kind of thinking extends beyond self-care. From work-life arrangements to day cares to housekeeping, we mothers often feel we must take the shorter end of the stick. If we ask for more, somehow we are less than perfect employees, less than perfect moms, less than perfect women.

If I admit that I am not an accomplished cook or housekeeper in certain circles, gasps of horror erupt. If I dare to share how my husband takes an active role in child-rearing and housekeeping, suspicious eyes are cast my way and sympathy for such a beleaguered man overflows.


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