"This car climbed Mt. Washington," says the usual bumper sticker.
"This car wants to jump OFF Mt. Washington." That's the bumper sticker Patty Konjoian came up with as she and her sister were penning their book and Web site, "Shut Up About … Your Perfect Kid!" While their work was inspired by their particular children's challenges — one has Asperger's syndrome, one has bipolar disorder — they've been surprised by the response they're getting.
"What we didn't realize was that a lot of people with 'average' kids would say, 'You know, I can relate to this because my kid is not a Rhodes scholar,'" says Konjoian.
The truth hit them like a ton of underachievers: Most of us are sick of perfect kids, perfect parents and, worst of all, those paragons of perfection — supermoms (if anyone could ever stand them in the first place. Wasn't unspoken anti-perfectionism really what sent Martha Stewart to the slammer?) In any event, we are in the midst of a big Anti-Perfect Mothering Moment.
On behalf of all the normal-to-slacker moms out there, I'd like to request TV, movies, magazines and advertisers to please stop showing us happy moms with every hair — and kid — in place. And if you really want to make us love you, throw in a crumpled-up Burger King wrapper.
Former Letterman writer Jill Besnoy is part of the anti-perfection wave. She created the Web site honestbaby.com, where you can buy tiny T-shirts that say, "Not sleeping through the night," and, "I survived nipple confusion" — a retort to all the breastfeeding-only zealots who think giving the kid a bottle now and then is pretty much on par with infanticide. Take that!
Konjoian and her sister have labeled this "The Movement of Imperfection," and you can find plenty of books on the shelves proffering the same message, including "Good-Enough Mother" and "Mommy Guilt: Learn To Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids." (For dads, there's "Daddy Needs a Drink.")
The cover of a recent Hallmark Magazine trumpeted the story "Letting Go of Perfect" by Karen Houppert, who confessed to living in a rundown house with no time or, frankly, oomph to spruce it up. All she was looking for was the courage to tackle the chaos, "and the wisdom to accept the bathroom tiles I cannot change."
To find these, she went to a lifestyle guru — the new kind, who teach acceptance and meditation rather than competition and makeovers — and there she had a revelation: Just as she never judged people by the neatness of their homes, why would anyone normal judge her? It's a realization more and more people are coming to.
"I think years ago, there was much more of a sense among young mothers that there was a need to do everything and be perfect," says the magazine's editor, Lisa Benenson. As the former editor of Working Woman, she remembers when women first entered the workplace; they felt they had to give 110 percent on all fronts. "Personally, for me, I spent years hand-making my children's Halloween costumes until they got old enough to say, 'You know, we'd prefer the store-bought ones,'" she says.
As do my kids. And many more. They like instant ramen more than homemade chicken soup, too.
So don't feel bad if you're not a supermom, or not being raised by one, or not married to one. But do feel free to enjoy some moments of tortured self-doubt if you are one.
Then you'll be just like the rest of us.
Lenore Skenazy is a columnist at The New York Sun and Advertising Age. To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.