Aviva Pankowski
"Change the way you see your world"

A Journey from the ‘Perfect Mom to the ‘In-between Mom’

Around day 5 of this lockdown way of life I woke up and saw the house looked like the day after a tornado full of toddlers decided to party. Toys wrapped up in clothes and somehow no matter how many times I did the dishes the sink magically refilled with colourful Ikea plasticware. I officially lost the battle. If this were pre pandemic, the narrative in my head would be an endless slew of “should have” and “need to”. Having been the one who answers the door with “close your eyes, the house is so messy” or “don’t judge me, there are toys everywhere”; I realized that keeping a clean and spotless house was a huge pressure for me. Why? Why did I care there were Magnetiles on the carpet so much? Because it’s not simply a spotless house. A spotless house to me meant I was that mom. You know, the one who has it all together. The perfectly behaved children, the perfect Pinterest inspired outfit and the perfectly placed Starbucks coffee. The one we all hate to love. “The perfect mom”.

But I realized something sitting in the middle of the carpet of my toddler trashed home. That basically the perfect mom just doesn’t exist. I guess they were right when they drilled in our heads at school “there’s no such thing as perfect”. But, I also guess as you get older you succumb more and more to what’s expected of you as a mother. And all of a sudden, you’re wearing a numbered jersey and endlessly running towards that glowing trophy engraved with the letters “number 1 mom”. But it’s just so unrealistic.

Lockdown or not, having two kids under the age of 5 and keeping a spotless museum house is just not in the cards for me. And that’s awesome. Why? Because I no longer need to wag my finger and say “nu nu nu” to myself for once again dropping the ball. Nor, do I need to rely on a sparkling clean house as “physical evidence” to prove I’m a good mom. Instead I decided to define the 200-piece mosaic of Magenitles on my floor as a symbol for good. A symbol that my kids played and laughed and imagined and learned something. I decided to question those intrusive nagging thoughts by asking myself: “If the house was clean 24/7, what does the mean for my kids? It paints a pretty bleak and boring picture.

As I began to unravel the perfect mom persona, I sadly realized that many of my interactions with my kids were being clouded by this overbearing pressure. If I wasn’t degrading myself for not cleaning the house, then I was belittling myself for not teaching my 4 year-old the alphabet every day. But after my eureka moment, I realized that a crash course in coping with stress can be equally beneficial as a crash course in letters. As my unrealistic and narrow-minded expectations faded I was able to be more forgiving with myself. And a funny thing happened, as I replaced self-criticism with self-compassion, I was more present, happy and motivated when with my children. Now, on day number “who knows” of lockdown, I find myself far a long in my journey towards being not the best nor the worst but somewhere in between and that’s perfectly fine with me.

About the Author
Aviva was born and raised in Canada and made aliya in 2010 where she now works as a low intensity cognitive behavioural therapist providing therapy for individuals and families in both Netanya and Tel Aviv. She specializes in using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help patients suffering with depression and anxiety.
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