The Perfect Mother

By Amy Wall Lerman, Baby Bloomer Editor

I have this fantasy about motherhood that makes my life difficult: Aprons, cookie-baking, ironed sheets, schedules posted on the fridge, clean house with made beds. All this and I’d still have time for sock darning, starching collars, and “The Young and the Restless.” Yep, the whole “Leave it to Beaver” perfection complex.

Okay, I exaggerate slightly. I know the difference between black and white TV and Technicolor reality. But seriously, I did have certain preconceptions about what motherhood would be like and so far I’ve only been right about one piece of it. Maybe we all start out with the fantasy of being the “perfect mom” but what does that really mean anyway?

I started thinking about this as I pulled my arts and crafts supplies from the depths of my basement. Yanking the cobwebs off the large Tupperware bins, I started plotting the construction of my son’s Halloween costume. In looking for ideas online, I considered how easy it would be to just point and click and “abra cadabra” a costume would arrive complete in all its prefabricated glory neatly packed in an box on my doorstep without me lifting more than my index finger. Fight the urge. Fight the urge. What would Mrs. Cleaver say?

First let me say that I think I’m a decent enough mom. I worry about his nutrition. I worry about the television shows I let him watch. I give him Ibuprofen when he has a fever. I make sure his chicken isn’t too hot and his milk is organic. I kiss his boo-boos and usually have tissues on hand for his runny nose. He’s always on my mind – even as I book satellites from my desk in a noisy newsroom. So what if his clothes are a little wrinkled, his footed jammies have a hole in the heel, and his bed linen is a few days past clean. I know that’s not really all that important.

What does worry me, however, are some of the things I’m somewhat ashamed to admit – like sometimes my mind wanders when I’m with him. When we “play trains” I find myself thinking about work or a short story I’m longing to write. As I move the little black engine around and around….and around…on the wooden track I wonder how many more rounds I’ll have to make until I start smashing my head against a wall. Then there are the times I play Texas Hold ‘Em on my Blackberry when he wants me to watch The Wonder Pets save the baby honey bee for the thirty-third time. And I just don’t have the muscle to fly him through the house more than once – well maybe twice.

Do these things make me human or do they make me a bad mom?

I guess part of my problem is what it has always been – I want everything. I want to be the selfless Mrs. Cleaver but I also want to write the great American novel and have a successful career. I want all the things I wanted when I was younger – all the things that pushed me to later mommy-hood in the first place. While my life has changed – I haven’t really changed along with it.

So what is really important?

As I wrote this article (the closest I will come to writing the great American novel – at least in this decade) my little boy came to get me a total of eleven times. He told me a space ship had landed on our house as he served me imaginary soup and a plastic cheese burger for lunch. He showed me how he’d painted a clown picture entirely black and with raised hands asked me, “Where did he go?”

Suddenly it clicked. What’s important is that one piece I was right about all along in my ponderings of perfection. It’s about the love. I knew it would be powerful and perfect – and so it is.

“Thank you, honey, I’ll eat this off my imaginary ironing board,” I said as I sipped invisible tea and one-finger typed the rest of this article.

Amy Lerman, Editor of Baby Bloomer, is a television news producer and freelance writer. She is the author of several instruction books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Reading and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games. Her poetry has been published in the online literary journal Patchwork. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, Grig, and 3 year old son, Evan. The Lerman family recently started a small jewelry company called Turtleback Gems.