What do moms really want? A chance to be imperfect

With Mother's Day approaching like a breakfast tray of burnt eggs and a glass of OJ with lots of little fingerprints on it, it is time to ask that burning question: What do moms want?

The answer? We want to relax a little.

Not just relax in bed reading People and pretending to eat the eggs. ("Mm-m-! These brown parts are so good!") We want a whole new way of parenting, one that is not quite so overwrought.

That's a tall order in a country that has brought us a dozen different parenting magazines, a whole section of the bookstore devoted to child-rearing issues, and the typical baby superstore, which is filled with 10,000 different items — literally. We are swimming in so much advice, so many products and so much pressure to DO THE RIGHT THING every second of every day that it is hard to feel as if we are doing decent jobs.

One parenting magazine, for instance, gave parents this oh-so-helpful tip: When you're taking your toddler to someone else's house, be sure to bring some shoelaces with you.


To tie shut the other person's cabinets!

That's right; the magazine was kindly suggesting we parents (come on — we moms) start babyproofing the WORLD. That's not too much to ask, is it? After you've checked the Internet for any product recalls and any new scares about plastics or food or bottles or classes your kid is supposed to take if you don't want him to fall off the fast track forever.

My friend Jill in New Jersey is debating what to do with her son. His coach wants him to get serious about the swim team and start practicing four days a week. But if he does that, Jill worries: What about his soccer and tennis abilities? He shows some promise there, too. And how old is this promising athlete?


That kind of commitment is a lot to ask of both generations — but at least the boy gets to splash around. The mom gets to prep and schlep. Hope she wasn't planning to do anything else with her week!

We moms are freaking out because we're only trying to do the best by our kids, but society has set that bar impossibly high. Thou shalt buy only the right brands! Thou shalt buy only the right stroller, car seat and after-school treats! And, of course, thou shalt stimulate thy child's development constantly. I'm not talking about a couple of rounds of patty-cake, which can be fun. No, now there are whole books telling moms to get down on the floor and encourage, instruct and be oh-so verbal with their kids, lest a single synapse fail to spark.

Remember that whole brouhaha a couple of weeks ago about strollers? "Experts" are worried that kids in strollers facing the street (i.e., 90 percent of them) aren't going to talk soon enough — or well enough or with big enough words — because during that time, they are not interacting with their moms.

As if in order to raise decent children, we have to spend every waking second staring into their eyes and talking Kierkegaard.

And when we're not enriching our children, our job is to keep them pampered like pashas. So we're sold baby kneepads for when they crawl and baby-wipe warmers so they never suffer the trauma of a wipe that's room temperature. And then there are the new diapers shaped like — I kid you not — the placenta. It's almost gross!

But apparently, a mom's job is to make every single moment of her child's life as safe and snug as his time in the womb was yet as developmentally stimulating as a Harvard education. Plus swimming lessons. It's too much!

As we enjoy our Mother's Day breakfasts, let's take deep breaths and try to make the next day Mother's Day, too: a time to remember that as much as we love our kids, we have been pushing ourselves too hard to make everything perfect — them and us.

Perfection is overrated anyway. There is something to be said for slightly burnt eggs and a sticky glass of orange juice poured with love.

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist at Advertising Age. She is the founder of FreeRangeKids.com and the author of the upcoming book "Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry."

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