Who is the IMPERFECT Mama?

What I mean when I refer to IMPERFECTION…

I wanted to explain why I chose the name “IMPERFECT Mama and Therapist” to you. It  might seem pretty basic. The “Mama” and “Therapist” are self explanatory. I am both of those things. I am also IMPERFECT. When I had the idea for this blog, I kept circling back to the first word. I started with “Bad” but didn’t want to use that because that didn’t capture really want I wanted it to. I asked some friends for their opinion and a lovely friend of mine suggested IMPERFECT. I knew immediately that it was exactly what I was looking for.   I chose it and then moved forward without thinking about it again.

I literally just looked up the actual meaning of the word and this is what Webster had to say:

Imperfection: Fault or Blemish

Synonyms: Blight, blotch, defect, deformity, disfigurement,

excrescence, excrescency, flaw, mar, mark, pockmark, scar

OKAY… I don’t even know what some of those words mean but I have a real problem with the few that I do. I am for sure rejecting the word “defect.” THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING IMPERFECT! I suppose these words don’t fit the best when talking about a person’s actual being. We aren’t talking about a piece of clothing with a snag or hole or a toy that doesn’t work no matter how many new batteries you put in it. We are talking about real people. All kinds of people. Every person. Every person is IMPERFECT. The sooner you wrap your head around this and get comfortable in it, the sooner you will begin to actually live your life. There is no perfect Mom, Dad, worker, husband, wife, pet parent, friend, anything. We are all flawed.

A big part of my therapy practice is spent with me trying to knock this idea of perfection out of my client’s vocabulary and head. I have been a therapist for something like 12 years now and I have been seeing the most anxious children I have ever seen most recently. I work with elementary, middle and high school aged children (almost always girls) daily on learning how to understand and control their anxiety and this anxiety almost always stems from them feeling like they need to be “perfect.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Perfect in school. Straight As, all 100%s. Perfect in the eyes of their friends, peers and parents. These young children already have these narratives in their heads that if they aren’t perfect, they won’t get into college and be successful and they certainly won’t have any friends and I truly believe a lot of them feel like they won’t be loved unless they meet these unrealistic goals. I am hearing that elementary school teachers are already telling these sweet, young and naive children that they need to get better grades or they won’t get into college. It’s killing our children. It’s creating so much false anxiety (that actually feels very real to these children) just in order to try to motivate their students and children.

Let me tell you something: WE DO NOT DO BETTER WHEN WE FEEL BAD! Don’t make someone feel anxious, sad or like a failure or dissapointment and then think they are going to do better. They can’t. They won’t. It may look like they are doing what you want them to do on the outside, while they are suffering on the inside and crying in my office every week.

So, can we agree to just STOP? STOP trying to be perfect. STOP valuing being perfect over having a balanced and happy life. STOP telling your children or the children you work with that they constantly need to do better. START finding your joy. START giving you and everyone else grace and forgiveness, even if you don’t get that apology you think you need. You don’t.  START valuing yourself and your needs instead of trying to please everyone else. START telling your child and the children around you that they are awesome and perfect just as they are. START showing others kindness. START now.

A Good Reminder

I am going to be real honest here. That’s the point of this blog, right? I have always been honest. Blunt, straight to the point and even rude. I was going to let you know what I thought about whatever it was we were talking about and I was also going to make my feelings so loud that you had to pay attention to them. As a young child, I was never a pleaser. I didn’t care who you were, I was going to tell you like it was, I was going to throw a tantrum every single day after my Dad picked me up all the way home because he wouldn’t stop for ice cream. I was going to roll my eyes at you in disagreement. I was going to tell you what I thought about your outfit. I was THAT kid. And guess what? I haven’t changed. You either love me or hate me. I was told this as a teenager by a friend (or enemy or frenemy, I can’t remember). It was likely due to the fact that I had a really good resting bitch face. I still do.

With age and brain development, I have learned how to soften my approach and hold off on my impulses, but for the most part, I am still brutally honest.  Obviously, as a therapist I am able to balance my honesty with the support I give. A long term client recently called me “brutal.” We both laughed after and I took zero offense because, I believe, that part of the therapeutic process is confronting clients about thought patterns or actions they have that aren’t serving them well. I am an IMPERFECT therapist, but I am always my client’s advocate and # 1 fan.

So, what’s any of this got to do with me being an IMPERFECT Mama? A lot! You know people say that your children give the payback that you deserve from when you were a child? Well, it’s true in my case. I have two children (a 5 year old girl and a 3 year old boy). They are both handfuls. My daughter is strong. Strong willed, strong minded, spirited, whatever you’d like to call it. She has the stamina to argue and throw a tantrum that I’ve only seen once before (hint: I am married to that person). But, dang, she is so cute. Her smile lights up the room, her sense of humor is years ahead of her and her music taste is strong! My son is a bit easier. He was a super tough baby but a generally easy going toddler and big kid. When he is upset, you will know but we can get him back on track relatively easily (usually). And when both children are struggling, they make my husband and I want to hide in the bathroom all day with bottles of wine.

Before I had children, I didn’t understand why it was so hard for my clients (usually I was seeing or helping the Dad and/or Mom navigate parenting or manage his/her own emotions more healthily) to be calm or rational when their children were losing their minds. I’d go into their home and help problem solve whatever was going on and be so confused that the parents were so rattled by all of it. That confusion stopped immediately after I had my daughter. Day 1 of bringing our daughter home, I understood why the parents I work with were emotional, mad, sad, anxious, irritable, constantly exhausted and mean to their partners. All of it made sense. Pre-kids, I could empathize to a certain level. I could listen, support and help. I did. But now, I get it on a whole different level. I don’t just have the tools and empathy, I now have the experience.

A big reason I wanted to start this blog was to normalize parenting. The IMPERFECTION of it, the realness, the struggle, all of it. I am here to tell you that even with all of my experience, knowledge and tools I am also an IMPERFECT parent. Today would be a great example of this. My friend and her kids can attest to this. Within the first 5 minutes of beginning a hike at a nature center, both of my kids had stepped into a swampy puddle with their tennis shoes on. My daughter recovered quickly (which isn’t necessarily typical but very appreciated). My son, who was tired because he decided to get up too early, could not recover. He didn’t want his shoes wet even though he plays in water in his clothes almost daily and never cares. Today was the day he cared and of course we didn’t have any extra shoes or options. Initially, I validated his feelings. I told him that I understood that his shoes were wet and he didn’t want that. He still screamed. Then, I tried telling him we didn’t have any options and tried helping him understand that there wasn’t anything I could do for him. He still screamed. Like he really screamed at the top of his lungs. The kind of scream that simultaneously makes you want to run away and pretend that that’s not your child but also the kind of scream that makes you kinda proud that he feels confident and secure enough to just let it out and not give a crap. After that, I wanted to abort the mission. I said we would have to leave but my daughter really wanted to stay so we stayed.  I then was the parent ignoring him, then carrying him, then telling him he had to walk (because he’s giant and my back hurt).  I was trying to reason, then I carried him some more, ignored his crying more, told him to stop. It went on and on. I felt embarrassed and horrible for my friend and her 3 boys who had to listen to my son cry and scream at the top of his lungs for 75% of our hike. It was beyond annoying. I was never so happy to see a Dyson hand dryer in one of the buildings along the way. We finally got our acts together (mostly) just as it was time to leave.

As soon as we got home, I noticed a message from a Mom that I worked with years and years ago thanking me for helping her and her husband learn how to communicate with their daughter and that I normalized parenting for her way back then  (even before I had children) when I said that the parents who look like they have it all together are the ones who usually have the most problems. It helped her change her perspective. She says she still thinks about that today. It was the perfect timing for me. A reminder that even I need. Parenting is IMPERFECT but it is all about our perspectives. That reminder from her, the reminder of the advice I had given her, helped me let go of any disappointment and embarrassment I had in my parenting that day. The reality is, our children are little humans. They have the same feelings we have but little to no coping skills or tools to manage them. Our job is to remain calm and sometimes we just need to wait it out and to care less about what others think about our children or our parenting. Surround yourself with true friends. Friends that know you are a good parent. Friends that give you grace or a laugh or a glass of wine when your child is throwing a fit or being an a**hole. And stop worrying about what strangers think. Their opinion of you is none of your business. We act worse as parents when we feel we are being judged. Give yourself and your child grace. It’ll pass. It always does.

 

 

 

My Dirty Shoes

Hi!

So I didn’t intend on this being my 2nd blog post but oh well. That’s kind of how I run my life anyways. I think and plan and then don’t have the time to act right away and then I just do something else. Today, I am going to write a quick post about my dirty New Balance tennis shoes. No, it’s not actually about my shoes. It’s part of a bigger idea.

So often, we want to be portrayed as perfect. Like we have our shit together. We are on top of it. We have it handled. Even when we talk to our best friends, we don’t really tell them how we feel or how we are struggling because we don’t want to be judged or we THINK everyone else is so perfect and we are the only IMPERFECT one. NOT TRUE, GUYS and I am here to prove it today.

I was getting ready this morning. I was actually getting dressed for physical therapy and bringing my work clothes with me to change in after. As I was brushing my teeth, I thought ‘Don’t forget to pack your sandals.’ Well… that fleeting thought escaped my brain as I came downstairs to pack up my work stuff, help my kids, say hi to our nanny, etc. It totally slipped my mind until I went to grab my bag after PT to change and realized I forgot to pack my sandals. “OH SHIT!” is what I said out loud. Yes, I swear more than I should but oh well. I like it and it’s actually been proven that people who swear manage stress better so I am pretty sure that I am not going to stop anytime soon.

I got dressed and had the option to race home, grab appropriate work shoes and then race to work but I weighed my options and decided that 1.) I really WANTED to grab a coffee and a muffin before work and wouldn’t be able to do that if I went back home 2.) The shoes, although dirty and not shoes I would ever plan to wear to work, were fine enough 3.) I have been trying to cut down on the amount of rushing I do. I have been trying to not act like everything is an emergency. When my kids yell for me or scream as if the house is on fire (but I know it’s not), I finish what I am doing before going to help them. I knew that if I CHOSE to race home, grab my sandals and then race to the clinic to meet my first client, I would be going into my workday more frazzled than I wanted to be. So, I decided that I was going to choose to rock my dirty tennis shoes with my cute jean dress for work. I grabbed my muffin and coffee and leisurely drove into work.

You know what happened? NOTHING! I had 9 clients back to back and not one of them commented on my dirty old tennis shoes. I will note that they were all established clients that I have a good rapport with. I will also note that I AM REAL. I am not the kind of therapist that wears a black pant suit and heels and analyzes you while you lay on a $5000 couch. I am the kind of therapist who looks nice and pretty decently put together but I wear jeans and 3 day old hair for most of my work days. And it’s likely that while I was pumping and nursing my children when they were infants, that I saw a client with a breastmilk stain on my shirt a time or two. Again, no one said anything. I didn’t lose any clients and life went on, just as it does. Life is real. The sooner you can ACCEPT this, the sooner you get to live a life with less anxiety and sadness. Less guilt. Less negative self talk. MORE HAPPINESS. MORE JOY. MORE SATISFACTION.

Why now?

My confession:

I am a child therapist, child specialist, family mediator and a really imperfect Mama to two children. Like, really imperfect. Recently, I have been reevaluating life. You know, like you do every once in awhile usually when things aren’t quite going your way? Ideas keep swirling around in my brain about how else I can help people grow their authenticity, contentment and just generally be happier and emotionally healthy. I have been also wrestling with this idea of being an imposter on some level.

I spend my work days counseling clients of all ages on a variety of mental health issues, stressors and struggles in their lives. I spend my non work days breaking up fights between my 4 and 3 year old, doing housework at the speed of a cougar running after its prey and trying to healthily and calmly manage the flood of emotions that come pouring out of my children seemingly on a second to second basis.

Yo, I am really good at chores. I mean, I am not one of those people who will soak their children’s stained clothes in some natural cleaner before they wash them carefully on the right temperature and dry and fold them to perfection (remember the title of my blog: IMPERFECT). I am the chore doer that gets it done. I have a mental or physical list of my tasks that need to be completed, I run around and do them as fast as I can in between managing my children and then I feel pretty good about it for a few seconds until something else is a disaster. But this job as a Mom of managing your children’s emotions constantly with ease, peace and patience has escaped me. This is the funny part. I will sit in session with a client’s parent and teach them how to be the most unicorn parent ever, they will use my suggestions, see the change in their child and the stress they personally feel, we all high five and go on with our days. But, at home, it’s like all that escapes me. Well, not all. You’ll see reward charts for sleeping nicely (my son’s is really lacking the stars I would like to see on it), you’ll hear me promote assertiveness between the two of them and we talk about our private parts in a body positive way more than I swear in a day (which is actually quite a lot). But, it’s not all even tones and calmness.

I have realized that sharing my struggles (appropriately and therapeutically, of course) helps my clients. It helps them know that they don’t have to be perfect. Making errors is human, it’s what we do after that that matters. So here I am, I am going to put it out there. I am going to write a blog and share it with whomever wants to read it. I am going to write about how actually ridiculous it is to be a child therapist and Mother in hopes that I can normalize this thing we call parenting.