Happiness without Perfection

The Cates Family

I am a stay-at-home mother of two boys under two years old, but before I ever felt a kick in my belly or held my babies in my arms, I was a wife. And before I was a wife, I was a woman. Well, admittedly, I was a girl; I walked down the aisle to meet my middle school sweetheart at the altar at the ripe age of 23. I went from being taken care of by my parents, to trying to take care of my husband and not too long after, trying to take care of the tiny, seemingly fragile lives we created together. It all seemed a tall order to me. I didn’t know the exact path or steps to take to cultivate a healthy, happy family, but I was sure it must be paved with all-natural salves, homemade babyfood, and crafty, at-home projects. A tall order, indeed. 

In striving to attain “Momma Perfection: Pinterest Edition,” I realized I was garnering way more guilt than satisfaction. I wish I could say that I hung up my overachieving, over-striving ways all at once, but the fact is that I had to let go slowly. A store-bought disinfectant here, a pre-made babyfood there (albeit an organic one…). Fear was driving my efforts, not enjoyment or fulfillment. It became easier and easier to let go as I realized two things: 1) my little baby was much tougher than I gave him credit for, and 2) it felt really good to relax and enjoy him instead of constantly trying to protect him from parabens and high fructose corn syrup. 

This over-told anecdote of real world enlightenment that many new moms experience has a purpose at the beginning of this column. It is to say that I get it. I am one of you. It is to say that although I strive to give my family a clean, healthy, nutritious, loving world to live in most of the time, I may only succeed some of the time. After all, if I succeed in feeding my family organic, home-cooked meals seven nights a week, but I’ve missed out on quality play time with my boys and been short-tempered because I’m overstressed, then I haven’t succeeded at all. What families need to grow up healthy is a daily dose of happiness. We need play. We need love. We need relaxation. We need sticky hands and skinned knees (can you tell I have sons?).  Yes, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are essential to these things, but they are not equivalent to these things. 

My Boys

My Boys

As women, and especially as mothers of young children, we want someone to tell us we’re doing okay. We may not be getting it all right. We may not be doing it Pinterest-perfect, but we are doing okay. We can be that voice of reassurance to ourselves and to each other. Every time you see your child smile, laugh, jump, eat an apple, or flip through a book, know that you are doing okay.  I don’t mean to celebrate mediocrity, by all means we should be trying to be the best versions of ourselves everyday, but there is no room for perfection in reality. And where else can you truly live?  Small goals, little victories, a grateful heart. These are the way to a happy family and a happy self. We mothers are a powerful lot. It begins and ends with us. Our children are reaching out for the future with one hand but still holding tightly to ours with the other. One day they will let go, and they will need courage, not fear, to truly soar.

Wishing you the joy of imperfection,

Melissa Cates