Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Don't Want to be the Perfect Mom: One Teacher's Perspective

As a mom and a teacher, I have seen many parenting techniques, and many women striving to be the perfect mom.  I do not want to be the perfect mom.

For some people, the "perfect mommy" protects her children from all harm, entertains her child for hours, and fixes all mistakes for her child.   Apparently, she makes fancy lunches for her kids, complete with the crust removed.  When school is not in session, the perfect mommy has activities planned for her children to work on throughout the morning and onto the afternoon so they are never bored.  Perfect mom rescues her child from the “mean kid” in class by sending in long emails to the teacher.  She enrolls her child in multiple activities and sports at once, and “goes to bat” for her child when he or she makes a mistake at school and has to miss a fun activity due to his/her choice.  Super mom swoops in to save their children from potential mistakes, only wants her child to have fun and lovely experiences every day, and wants to help fix all the problems that her child will face.  She is wonder woman.  Or is she?

I do not want to be the perfect mom.  I want to be a mom who helps her boys become strong, hardworking, compassionate leaders who learn from their mistakes. 
My ideal mom is one who teaches her children how to make their own lunch in the morning, and shows them how to pack it in the backpack before the bus.  She teaches her children how to be responsible, independent, capable, and help out around the house as well.  If her kiddos forgets their lunch, and the ideal mommy receives a phone call about it, she does not bring it to school.  Her child will not die of hunger from missing one meal, and the next day, her child will remember their lunch and learn a little bit about organization.
My ideal mom lets her children explore the house, invent their own games out of cardboard boxes, and build forts in the living room.  She reads stories, plays board games with her children, but she also allows for down time, so the kids can think and create on their own.  They learn to make mistakes, get dirty, explore the world, and make new friends in the neighborhood; maybe they will have dance contests, play rain on the roof, kill the robots, or play poor/rich people if they are like me.

My ideal mom talks to her child about friend problems, and offers suggestions by explaining what others have done in similar situations.  She discusses how to approach the problem, but allows the child to work on solving the friendship issues on his/her own rather than expecting the teacher to solve it or trying to solve it herself.  If the child can learn and grow independently, then he/she will learn to solve friendship problems in the future.  The kiddo will also be able to have the tools to feel confident that they can accomplish things on their own. 

My ideal mom is someone who encourages her child to ride his bike around the neighborhood, play in the woods, and chase after a ball on the playground.  If her kiddo is interested in joining a team, or acting, or piano, then she helps foster the growth but not at the expense of free time or family time.  My ideal mom makes sure free time and play time and family time are balanced with structured activity time, so her kids aren't stressed and have time to imagine. 

My ideal mom knows that all people make mistakes and that is how you learn and grow.  She helps her kids realize that there are both good and bad consequences for behavior.  For example, if ideal mom's kids clean their rooms on their own, they might have extra time to go to frozen yogurt on Saturday rather than doing chores.  Or, in contrast, if ideal mom’s kid writes an inappropriate word on a poster board, then they might not be able to participate in the fun sporting day event that requires a team to carry the board.  My ideal mom is sympathetic to her child but explains that sometimes there are disappointing consequences for actions.  
I am far from being the “perfect or ideal mom” that I want to be.  I am not a very cutesy person, and I am tired at the end of the day.  Sometimes I yell, and sometimes I step in when I should not.  But I know that I am working toward making my kids responsible, kind, respectful people who can feel proud of their accomplishments.   Sometimes that means Carlo gets a timeout when he is sassy and doesn’t get to do the fun lunch date that was planned because mom cannot trust that he say nice things to others.  Other times, that means that Eli doesn’t get a cookie, because he bit Carlo rather than the cookie.  But I know in the end, my kids will be better people because of my compassion, ability to give choices and consequences, and expectations that they need to solve their own problems.