After spending the earliest part of my life as a classic Type-A overachiever, I've discovered that my constant pursuit of unrealistic goals was killing my mental health, and threatening to take my physical health right with it. Yet even now that I theoretically know better, I still occasionally (OK, frequently) find myself slipping into those old "be the best!" patterns, especially when it comes to motherhood. When I think of the other "types" of moms we all know, I definitely think there are lots of things you can learn from a hot mess mom, if you can be humble enough to try.
In a high-stakes endeavor like motherhood, where so much of our effort may take years to pay off, it can be really tempting to look for external signs that we're doing things right. Unfortunately, that can often take the form of engaging in an invisible, unspoken competition with other moms, or with our mental image of the "perfect mom." Yet while a lot of mom "types" may engage in that competition, the Hot Mess Mom opts out. She's content to leave everyone else to their hoop-jumping and blue ribbon-grabbing; while they're out trying to cram in one more prestigious after-school activity, she'll be cuddling her kids on the couch in her best tattered leggings and a content smile. Though she might not be doing it on purpose, she inherently understands that "good enough" is all her kids need in order to thrive. We could all stand to internalize a little of that wisdom.
Besides, we're all a hot mess sometimes, and it's OK. We learn more from our mistakes than from the things we get right the first time. As long as we are honest and upfront with ourselves and our kids, and admit it when we make a mistake, chances are we will all survive and be better off for it. Hot mess moms are great friends to have, because they teach us that it's possible to fall far short of the picture perfect ideal mom, and still be good moms (and worthwhile people more generally). Hot mess moms also help us remember that...
It’s Important To Reality-Check Your Expectations...
Whenever I have extra energy — or when our family and I are approaching a new beginning (like the new year, or a new school year, or the first week of summer camp) — I always start imagining allllll the things we're going to do to make the most of it. I see us adhering to some life-changing new routine, and eating only the healthiest, tastiest meals, and volunteering for all the things in our neighborhood, and having lots of guests over and impressing them all with our picture perfect hospitality and, well, you get the picture.
All of this is somehow supposed to fit into the same 24 hours we had before, back when we didn't manage to do most or any of that. Hot Mess Moms know that trying to do too much never works out, so it's not worth it to beat yourself up trying.
...And Avoid Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Almost invariably, all the times when I am the Hot Mess Mom are the times when I try to do too much, without checking in with what I and my family really have the capacity to handle at that moment, and then I end up scrambling trying to make it all work.
If you consistently try to cram too much into a day, it's only a matter of time before you get tripped up by traffic, or a sick child, or a partner who has to work overtime, or some other unforeseen circumstance that leaves you rushing around like a chicken with her head cut off.
There’s No Extra Credit In Real Life…
It’s no surprise that many of us approach parenthood as a high-stakes performance or competition, especially if we got used to getting lots of gold stars and praise for being overachievers earlier in life. For better and for worse, our culture rewards that mindset in school and lots of the activities we do as children, which often gives us false expectations for adulthood. Hot mess moms understand that parenting really isn’t a competition and it's certainly not one that’s worth falling all over yourself to win.
...So You Can Probably Afford To Chill Out A Little
Is it important to pay attention and do your best for your kids? Absolutely. Is it important to do everything perfectly? Nope, and it’s not even possible. The Hot Mess Mom and her kids are not busting their asses trying to out-Pinterest everyone else around them. We don’t need to kill ourselves trying to do cutesy crafts or volunteering for every last thing in order to be great moms.
Mistakes Are Normal…
Every parent makes mistakes, because every person makes mistakes. Even when we do everything the way we think we're supposed to, we can still (and probably will) make mistakes.
We're definitely more prone to mistakes when we try to do things that are beyond our current abilities or capacity (like when we're already barely getting by with work and household responsibilities, and then decide to try to hand-make Halloween costumes for the first time on Oct. 28th.) Hot Mess Moms remind us that it's normal to make mistakes from time to time, and that we can do that and still be loved and valued by our families. They also remind us to be realistic about what we can do, so we don't end up making really harmful or totally preventable mistakes.
...And Being Imperfect Doesn’t Make You A Failure
No one is perfect, so perfection is a pretty bad goal to set for ourselves. Also, there are a lot of other possible outcomes in life besides "perfection" or "abject failure." It's great to have grand visions and intentions for our lives with our kids, as long as we recognize that it's possible for things to turn out really, really well, even if they don't go exactly according to plan.
Nobody Is Always In Control...
No matter how graceful or put-together we are, none of us are immune to the fact that no one is always in control. There is a whole huge world out there that doesn't revolve around us, our plans, our intentions, or our vision for a perfect family life. It shouldn't surprise us when things fall apart. Hot Mess Moms teach us that we should expect the mess at some point, because it comes for all of us.
...And That’s OK
Hot Mess Moms might not set out to teach the importance of embracing imperfection, but they do. If everything always went the way it was supposed to, our kids would never see us screw up and figure out how to recover from it, robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to recover from their mistakes, too. It's OK, and even good, that we are imperfect moms, because that means that our kids will get to observe what it looks like for real people to get knocked down, dust themselves off, figure out a Plan B (or X, or Y...), and pick themselves back up. No matter what our kids end up doing with their lives, that's a lesson that will serve them well over and over again.