Friday, September 9, 2011

Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

I’ve had this sitting unwritten in my draft folder for a long time. Sitting there, because I felt like it needs to be written. Blank, because I’m not sure how to write it or where to take it. I’m not even sure what exactly I wanted to accomplish in writing it, which is unusual for me…but I still feel like it needs to be written.

I think, at least partially…I just want other people to know I’m not perfect. Partially because I know sometimes it’s encouraging to hear about others’ imperfect lives. And partially…because I don’t want my ideals to keep me from being able to be real- from being given the chance to be accepted for who I am, even at my worst.


I want to encourage people and share high aspirations for motherhood. As a passionate idealist, I have strong ideas and high standards I hold myself to. I desire to be the very best mom I can be….sometimes in a radical direction. I cling to goals and ideas that seem to many to be impossibly unrealistic- I know, because people don’t mind saying so. I throw my whole self into this journey…my energy, my passion, my thoughts. It’s who I am…and in a lot of ways, I think it’s a good thing. I like it….I can’t imagine floundering through each day without goals and ideals to strive for. It helps me to think and rethink through what I’m doing, and what I believe in, and whether or not it’s the very best for our children. I’ll never reach them perfectly…but in striving, I’ll reach higher than I could’ve otherwise.

But my journey isn’t perfect…and like everyone else, it’s fraught with struggles. Because when I don’t uphold my ideals perfectly, I feel like a crashing failure. Many mornings after a long night I’ve indulged in a cry and begged God to help me be a better mother….to help me cling to what I believe and know is best. And yet…I fail again. And sometimes, it feels lonely….because I know that I should be living out my ideals, and what on earth would people think about me if they know that I fail? That I can’t even live out what I passionately believe in?

But, the raw and honest fact of the matter is that, although I strive for the very highest- although my dreams, ideals and ambitions are sky-high…I’m not there as a mom. I wish I could say that we perfectly practice everything I write about here…but I screw up. I wish I could say I had the patience of a martyr…but in the end, I’m just a human. I wish I could look back on my parenting journey with no regrets….but the truth is, there’ve been imperfect days- and especially imperfect nights.


There’ve been nights- when we’re up at 2 am for the 6th time that night, or when it takes over an hour to get Vivi to sleep- when I wonder what it is that was so bad about cry-it-out. Yes, even though I have very specific reasons for being opposed to it.

There are nights when I get so frustrated with the constant wakings that my frustration turns into stress- and what would’ve been being up for an hour or two with Vivi turns into three, because my stress doesn’t exactly help sooth her to sleep. And it ends with me begging God for forgiveness…and patience to better nurture my little girl at night. And it’s only then that she finally drifts back to sleep “for real” and stays asleep for a little bit….safely nestled against a relaxed mama.

Nights when I don’t even enjoy nursing Vivi, and it’s just a chore…and I would just like space and sleep.

There was a night recently when Vivi was up around 5, crying. And instead of reaching for her and drawing her close, I lay there, paralyzed. Fighting an emotional and mental battle while the rest of me was still. I was frustrated….frustrated that for the past 7 hours, she’d woke up every time I started to drift off. I was desperate to be allowed to just fall asleep. And yet I knew…Vivi needed me. For whatever reason, she was having a hard time sleeping, and I knew she needed my help. But I also knew that if I picked her up right then, it would be in frustration, unless I got past myself…and that wasn’t going to help anyone or be very comforting to her. And, I couldn’t just break through my selfishness to take care of her needs…like a good mom would. Moms are supposed to devote their whole lives to selflessness…and I couldn’t get past this one little thing without a struggle…couldn’t just be rational. And then Ben came (who’s been sleeping on the couch for a long while, now, due to a severely irritating poison ivy rash that makes the living room more comfortable)…and patiently walked with and held Vivi for an hour and half…while I slept and cried and prayed. (Not the first time Ben’s helped in the night…he’s pretty awesome!) When Vivi came back to me, I was ready for her….ready to comfort and soothe and get back at it…

Somehow…I’ve had a harder time dealing with all the nighttime wakings lately. In general, I didn’t have a problem dealing with them when she was younger. But somehow, it’s harder to remember now that this is what she needs. In not remembering…I fail.

There are days when I find myself counting hours to bedtime…even though I want to cherish every moment with my little girl.

Days when I let stress creep in because I’m not getting everything done- even though I know how harmful it is to my family…. when I suddenly realize I need to stop- everything- and sit with my girl and enjoy her, because stressed-out me trying to get caught up while Vivi cries on my back for no particular reason isn’t helping anybody.

There are days when my shower’s a highlight, and I thoroughly enjoy the minutes alone….untouched, unneeded. Even though I’m passionate about babywearing and meeting little ones’ high touch needs, and believe that God gives the grace to fully meet our babies’ needs.

Days when I ask Ben why Vivi can’t be like everyone else’s baby we know and, on a “bad” night, wake up 3 times, instead of 10 or 12. And I have to be patiently reminded that she isn’t “everybody else”…she’s Vivi, with her own set of blessings and challenges…and she needs us to remember that, and to meet her unique needs. (Side note: I’m sure it isn’t everyone’s baby we know that has such good nights….it just feels like it when everyone you talk to has a similar story!)

Days when I’m all too eager to send her Ben’s direction for a while….while I regroup and catch up on stuff that Vivi was determined shouldn’t get done.


So, we have our moments…and brief times when I consider throwing in the towel on something that rationally, I passionately believe in.

But for the most part, life is good. For the most part, it’s a fantastic journey we thoroughly enjoy as a family. Usually, we have good days and we enjoy whatever gets thrown our direction. Vivi and I have lots of fun sharing life together…and most days are filled with pleasant memories- small and big- to cherish and hold on to. Most nights I smile as I pick up all Vivi’s messes…all the little reminders that she exists in our lives. Most nights I suck in my breath at how sweet she looks sleeping in the middle of our bed…and I enjoy all the midnight snuggles that accompany nighttime nursing. We grow and laugh and play together…and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. It really is my dream job…and it really is more wonderful than I could’ve imagined.

So I’ll continue….to nurture my family, to meet their needs, to throw out stress, to love life and laugh often, to cherish the little things that slip by too fast, to reach for the best. The thing is, it is a continuing process…continually picking up from a failure, dusting off, and with God’s help, trying harder. Continually moving towards being the better mom I so much want to be….but could never achieve on my own. Life is good, but we haven’t arrived.

Because when all’s said and done….I’m just a mom, and an imperfect one at that.


  1. (((Hugs))) You are a wonderful mom! That sounds like an incredibly difficult situation. Is there a chance of food allergies? It sounds much like some of the things we have been through, and once we were able to determine and eliminate her allergens it made a huge difference.

  2. We have our good nights, too.... :-) Just feeling the need for more transparecy, lately...and to not have to be perfect for anyone.

    I would be interested in hearing more about your allergen-hunting process and the results and so forth- if you have the time, and/or have blog posts you could direct me to. Were her nights/issues essentially the same the whole time, or did they vary? Did she have any other signs during the day (or night) or was it just excessive night wakings? Did she have the same issues on breastmilk through when she was on solids?

    I haven't really seriously considered allergies yet....I remember doing so briefly when she was just a newborn, but the people I asked about it didn't think it likely, at least not yet. And I never really considered it after that, till recently, when I was reading some stuff about how much food can have an impact on your little one, and the wide range of symptoms (including milder ones, which is what we'd be dealing with) you can have. I was wondering more in the direction, though, of if I should try a GAPS diet to clean out my own gut (which would be more for the sake of future children, though the breastmilk difference would probably effect Vivi and baby), as my understanding is that makes a huge difference in a baby's food sensitivities. So I haven't really considered the possibility of trying to hunt out allergens in Vivi's diet, and the potential that could be causing some of her problems.

    I think one reason I've been slower to consider in that direction (besides the overwhelming factor of where to start, how to go about it, etc....which definitely feels like a lot) is that when someone has pet topics, and they see those things work for them, it's easy to subscribe everyone's problems to that one cure. I know I'm just as guilty of it at times... And it seems like some babies truly are just higher needs than others, without there being a medical (nutritional) fix, and that's okay. But....considering this is the 2nd time in the past month that food has been brought to my attention, I'm interested in pursuing it, or, at the very least, investigating the possibility further.

    Thanks for the in-put!

  3. I appreciate hearing how other moms also fall short of their ideals. I am really sick of "perfect" people, even though I find myself trying to appear "perfect", too. I had an awful-mom "moment" this afternoon, actually. One of those where I had to apologize to all of my children and talk with them about how I can work through my emotions without behaving the way I did. I don't believe that emotions should be suppressed, but I also don't believe that I can use them as an excuse to hurt (no one was physically hurt, but hurt is not just physical) people. I've been trying to teach my children how to deal with strong emotions without hurting anyone else, and here I have this STRONG reminder that I am still learning how myself!

  4. I often wish I could be a better mom, and feel bad for working 8-12 hour days. It's nice to see that even moms who seem way more perfect than me are still human!

    I wonder if dreams could be the cause of Vivi's wakefulness? I read that toddlers start dreaming consistenly around 13 months old, so maybe she hasn't adjusted to dreaming yet.

  5. Hi! I am so sorry that I missed responding earlier. We ran into a lot of the same things early on, but fortunately our ped referred us to a great pediatric allergist. Actually, food allergies are very common in even tiny babies.

    For us, some of the symptoms were mild rashes, more like tiny bumps around her cheek bones, occasional green stools, at times a red ring around her anus, and much later, hives.

    I didn't realize until we had eliminated all her other allergens how much she reacted to wheat. The only symptoms were behavioral, but they were intense. She would wake up in the night again, and it was like the worst caffeine/sugar buzz you could imagine in a little kids. Bouncing off the walls, irritable. We did a trial in the allergist's office after several challenges for other foods. The nurse knew us fairly well by then, and told us that it was definitely a reaction, even though there was no visible physical reaction. Dd's behavior was not at all the same little girl she had seen the other times.

    We did the blood test and the skin test, with different results, but between them we found her allergens. She has since outgrown most of them, although she is allergic to eggs, olives and green beans still.

    I felt really hesitant to push the allergy testing, because her symptoms seemed so mild, but I am so glad that I did.

    Prayers and good wishes for you guys!

  6. Rachel- it's always nice to hear about others short comings- so long as you don't have to fess up yourself, huh? :-) It's too easy to want to look like you have it together, even when you appreciate others' honesty. Ben and I have experienced some abundant blessings lately though, in growing in transparency and grace, which makes it well worth not appearing perfect anymore! And we've talked a lot about parenting philosophies, what to discipline for, how to handle negative emotions, etc., I'm often reminded of how far I have to go in venting/sharing my emotions positively. :-D

    Sarah- yeah, we're all human.... :-D

    Dulce de leche- thanks for the further input! It's always nice to hear others' experiences as you piece together your own. On a positive note...we've had lots of good nights lately, yay!

  7. Are you still Co-Sleeping Brianna?

    I know a fussing baby right next to me hour after hour would be tough but getting up out of bed would be murder for me. Although come to think of that, I do that with my bladder some nights 6-8 times. Gah!

    You are a super mom in my book, human or not. =D

  8. Yeah, we're still's easier than trying to make the transition to her own bed. :-) Most nights, though, she does well...we've made a whole lot of progress over the last couple months and except for certain traceable circumstances (consuming sweets at night, which have been long cut out now; teething (a phase we're just getting over again after a couple weeks or so of regressions); illness, etc.), she's sleeping well- and doing well with Ben being the one to put her to bed and sometimes soothe her when she does wake up in the night! :-)

    LOL, yeah...currently on her good nights I get up way more than she does for the bathroom.... :-)