The Incredible Importance of an Imperfect Mom

I had a wonderful mother. She not only gave birth to six children (I was the youngest), she bravely left her homeland and the life she knew in Iraq to start a new life in the United States. There were eight of us living in a tiny Queens apartment, where she not only cared, cooked, and cleaned for us, she also found work as a seamstress, even though she spoke only broken English.

Remarkable as she was, she was by no means perfect. Her cooking was often haphazard, and she was occasionally fired for mistakes she made as a seamstress. Yet she took all of this in stride. She accepted herself as she was, laughing at her mistakes along with the rest of us. That self-acceptance was a wonderful gift: she taught me, too, that I didn’t have to be perfect to be valued and loved.

It’s no secret that modern moms have one of the most stressful and under-appreciated jobs in the world—and their jobs have become even more challenging as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are now home-schooling their children along with telecommuting to work; or are struggling to make ends meet on less income; or are caring for sick ones without a break; or perhaps are sick themselves and suffering alone, due to the requirements for social distancing.

Moms, too, tend to suffer from perfectionitis. If they’re a fulltime caregiver, they worry that they’re neglecting their career. If they’re working outside the home, they fear they’re failing their children. If they’re trying to do both, they fear they can never do any of it well enough. If their children are struggling, they feel it is their fault.

The truth, however, is that no one is perfect and trying to live up to standards of perfection only robs us of joy and devalues our actual accomplishments. Besides, no one else embodies the unique combination of interests and talents, strengths and weaknesses that you do, so how can you fairly measure yourself against anyone else? Or against some imagined idea of perfection?

(And, as an aside, children need to struggle sometimes in order to develop strength, resilience, and belief in their own abilities! By modeling to your children that you accept yourself as you are, you’ll be teaching them to accept themselves as they are. This is the foundation of internal strength and self-confidence.)

Scientists have studied the importance of mothering and confirm that mothers don’t need to be perfect; their most important role is comfort. In one particularly revealing study, baby rhesus monkeys were given a choice between a wire “mom” who was equipped with a bottle from which they could drink, and a soft cloth “mom,” where they could feel warmth and comfort. The babies so preferred the comforting cloth “mother” to the one that offered food, they would keep themselves at the point of starvation in order to spend as much time as possible with the comforting cloth monkey. Even though this “mom” was far from perfect—she wasn’t even alive!—she gave her children what they needed most.

In my practice of treating more than 50,000 patients, I’ve found that no one deserves a day of recognition more than mothers. Although we may be unable to celebrate our moms in person this year, I hope you’ll take a moment to honor the mothers in your life—including yourself, if you are one. Send a mom flowers—and maybe send some to yourself as well. Write Mom—or yourself—a note of appreciation. Splurge by getting all Mom’s loved ones to a virtual party on Skype or Zoom or Google Hangouts. Make the day special by ordering your favorite food delivery. Attend a virtual concert.

One of my favorite forms of pampering is with a facial. It’s a form of self-care that one can give oneself—with physical and emotional benefits as a skin brightener and a stress reliever. Murad offers many wonderful choices you can find here: https://www.murad.com/products/masks-peels/. And to make it a real treat, take time to create a relaxing environment: Unplug the phone, darken the room, light a scented candle, and put on relaxing music, perhaps a nature recording of waves lapping at a lakeshore, birds chirping, or rain falling.

Spending an hour this way, putting others’ needs aside and pampering yourself—or getting a family member to pamper you—is a wonderful investment in your own well-being. Honor yourself! You are so worth it!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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