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When Your 'Best' Could Be Better

02/06/2015 05:01 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015
Rafael Bialy via Getty Images

A few months ago, Momastery's Glennon Melton (of whom I am a big fan) posted a message about treating ourselves with grace. She wrote:

Today when we lose our temper with the kids, when we accidentally eat that third brownie, when we don't send that thank you card for the fortieth day in a row, when we forget to stop at the gym, when we're late for that meeting -- anytime and every time we fall short of the ridiculous expectations we put on ourselves -- we are going to say to our sweet, well-meaning selves: "Whatever. I'm fabulous anyway."

And I was right there. I was at home yelling to my computer screen, "THAT'S ME! I had Oreos for breakfast" (that I ate while huddled behind the counter so my kids didn't see). And I have a list, A LIST, of things (MANY things) I haven't done for the 40th day in a row. And I loved that this sweet, well-meaning message was letting me off the hook. At the end of the day, when my to-do list was barely touched, I could say, "Whatever. I'm fabulous anyway." Like the 39 days prior when my list just mocked me from the corner of the kitchen.

You see, I'm afraid I treat my sweet, well-meaning self with too much grace, all the time. I'm not sure I put ridiculous standards on myself. Most of time, I'm really OK with adequate. I try to keep my house clean enough to remain sanitary. I try to cook somewhat healthy, somewhat balanced meals. I try to make sure my kids feel unconditionally loved. I don't dare enter the world of Pinterest because I am completely aware of my imperfections and I don't need prickly pins reminding me. I work as a stay-at-home mom, and most days, I'm just trying not to get fired. (I'm testing the limits as to how long something can remain on a "to-do" list before getting canned.)

But isn't it time I expected more of myself? I know I'm good enough, but I think I can do better. I'm not talking about perfection, but I should be able to get through my to-do list in less than six months and still manage to make my children feel loved. (It's not that outrageous.)

Since reading Glennon's message, I seem to be seeing similar messages all over the mommy-dominated Internet and at playgrounds: "you are enough"; "be kind to yourself"; "you're doing OK." (Isn't it funny how the world speaks to you like this?) It's a message that used to resonate with me. My kids ate ice cream for lunch, but it's OK, I'm doing my best -- and the supportive Internet moms would shout "yes," in unwavering support. But the more I hear these calls of "you're doing the best you can," the more I am beginning to wonder if I've taken the message too much to heart, and the world is trying to tell me something. Is this really my best? I am good enough, but maybe it's time I start striving for better?

Perhaps because I am in the trenches of toddlerhood and read too many "mommy articles" (that are starting to sound awfully whiny -- myself included), I'm a bit more sensitive to this topic than the average person. Perhaps because I've been so firmly grounded in the "No judgment! Whatever works! Let's support one another no matter what" camp, I've not noticed how far we've moved from the dreadful "let's all try to be perfect parents" movement, to the equally dreadful "its cool to be a 'bad' mom" movement I first read about here. There are wonderful, hilarious and touching stories about imperfect parent moments that are such a relief to read, but I fear all this support has helped me to set the bar too low. I feel like maybe I've stayed at the party too long, and while the other moms have gone to bed in the hopes of doing more and better tomorrow, I'm still out desperately shouting, "Whatever. I'm fabulous anyway."

We were late for school three times this week. It's preschool and we were only late by a few minutes. It's not the end of the world, and I could list for you all of the reasons this happened. (OK, I will: It was the first week back after a long winter break in which we traveled halfway around the world; we're getting back into our routine; we are over our jet lag but our new sleep schedule has us sleeping later in the mornings; my son kept insisting that he was about to poop and wanted to do so at home so he needed "a couple more minutes." Fair enough.) So I opted for being late and repeating the "doing my best" mantra. But honestly, it would be easy enough for me to get everyone going 10 minutes earlier. Doing my best would mean: stop finding excuses and just do better.

I have a supportive husband, happy, healthy kids and enough of everything. There is no good reason why I can't manage to eat a healthy breakfast, get the kids to school on time, pick up the dry cleaning and cook dinner. I normally don't respond well to tough love, but I think maybe it's time. I am enough. I am kind to myself. But maybe if I start expecting more than just OK (but slightly less than perfect), I'll actually start to be truly fabulous.

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