The perfectly imperfect mother


I wear my mother’s perfume from time to time.

And when I say her perfume, I don’t mean the scent she wore. I mean the scent my well-meaning father bought for her, despite the fact that I never, ever smelled perfume on my mother in my life.

Perfume gave her a headache.

Something you’d think my sweet father would have figured out after 60-some years of marriage.

So, the bottle of Jessica McClintock sat on her dresser for a loooong time. After she died, my sisters and I were going through her things. And the bottle of perfume no one wanted was the one I could not throw out.

Jessica McClintock is not really my scent. I wear Creed or Bottega Veneta, usually. Something with a bit more of a bite. But, I wore JM back in my high school days. When I put it on now, it takes me back to a simpler time.

And it reminds me of my parents.

As Mother’s Day approaches here in the States, I think about—who else—my mother, who passed on about three years ago.

FeaturePics-Mother-Son-Walking-082028-2462358It’s funny. You become a mother and you have visions of long heart-to-heart talks with your kids as they lovingly help you in the kitchen. Or a gaggle of young kids hanging out at your house on a Friday night, shooting hoops and eating you out of house and home.

Those things happen. Some of the time. And some other, unanticipated things happen also.

You lose your temper on a bad day and yell when your son is disrespectful. Which isn’t exactly the respectful example you wanted to show him as you lecture on appropriate behavior.

After a particularly trying day, you put your toddler to bed at 5:30 p.m. You know you’ll probably pay for this with an ungodly early wakeup call but if you don’t get a bubble bath, glass of wine and hour of mindless TV, you feel your head will explode.  You know this will not win you Mother of the Year.

You say “yes” one too many times to assuage your guilt for being a mom who works longer hours than anyone in your house appreciates.

You screw it up from time to time, basically.

And you hit homeruns from time to time also.

As I look back on my mom’s mothering, it was far from perfect. As is mine.recite-12461--511036291-owjqc2

But most of us are way too hard on ourselves.

It is our very imperfections, our humanity, that provide our children a window into self-acceptance when they screw up. Which they will do. Sometimes in colossal fashion. The world may not be so nice about it. But, hopefully, in that dark moment when they realize they’ve made a mess of things, they’ll look back and remember . . .

. . . that after I yelled, I apologized. And many times, instead of yelling, I gave myself a time-out and some deep breathing . . . and they will give themselves some room to breathe and move on in wiser fashion . . .

. . . that sometimes the best thing to do on a bad day is hit the sack early. Because tomorrow is another day with a shiny new glow to it . . .

. . . that “no” is a word we all need to learn and use often with ourselves, as well as others, to keep life from getting out of hand and to keep from losing our focus on what is truly important.

They will love me as they look back, hopefully, for my imperfections. Because a perfect mother is a sterile myth—one some women like to perpetuate.

But they don’t fool me.

I had the best teacher in this respect. My beautifully imperfect mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I’m still celebrating you.






22 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris Edgar says:

    I love how you say that apologizing to your children when you would say something critical toward them is so important — it seems like such a critical thing for children to understand that their parents aren’t perfect and that perfection isn’t expected of them.

  2. Anne says:

    I am almost 62 & stillmiss my mother and whenever I smell a bar of ivory soap I think of my Nana

  3. I love this and relate to it so much. We are so hard on ourselves. You did a great job putting our job as mothers into perspective and I will read this again after I’ve had a tough day! Happy Mother’s day to you!

  4. I love this! Reminds me of Brené’s parenting manifesto! Beautiful, thank you for sharing! Justine

    1. candidkay says:

      I’ve not yet read Brene’s parenting manifesto but you can bet I’ll look it up now! Thanks for the tip and for stopping by my site.

  5. Great post and thanks for the reminder that it is OK to accept our own imperfections and those of our loved ones – even our mothers.

  6. Faith says:

    My mom — definitely not perfect — but a hoot — has been gone 27 years. I think of her every day. And also stop by the perfume counter for a whiff of Shalimar every now and then. Happy Moms Day to all but especially those of us missing ours.

  7. My goodness. This is just perfect.

    Perfect enough to make me get a little sappy. It’s the sappy I should have gotten earlier today, but wouldn’t allow myself.

    I’m at the back of the line for perfect moms. I have no clue what I’m doing and I probably never will. But thank you for letting me see that that’s ok.

    I’m so sorry you won’t be with your mom this Sunday. Smell her perfume and remember her imperfect goodness. And her many blessings she passed on to you.

  8. Well said! Have a great Mother’s Day!

  9. Thanks for your post! Being “way to hard on ourselves” really hit home for me. The word “no” is so difficult to use but I know it will help in the long run. 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day!

  10. Really great post and one I very much needed to read today. I’ve spent most of the morning avoiding work (my actual job for which I get paid) because I’m berating myself for being a bad mother. My temper has been short all week. I lost it last night on one kid as we were leaving a very late soccer game, and then this morning everyone was either crying or angry as we hurried out the door for school. I do not have the greatest relationship with my own mother who happened to be visiting and witnessed both of incidences. I’ve worked hard to forgive her and understand her and we are doing much better, but before she left this morning, she reminded me of many things that I was NOT doing — one of which happened to be my inability to whip up a homemade pound cake on short notice — um, okay. I’m honestly doing the best I can right now and it would be lovely if she could actually recognize this. So I was attempting write my own post about Mother’s Day and couldn’t get one word out because I feel like such an epic failure at the moment. I seriously considered packing up and telling my kids’ dad that I’m checking out for the weekend and heading to the beach to spend Mother’s Day alone — still haven’t totally scratched that idea. So THANK YOU for writing this. You’ve inspired me to celebrate the amazing women in my life — imperfections and all, and I’m including myself. Wishing you a very happy Mother’s Day.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m sorry. When you have those weeks, you feel like you’re the only one when in reality, you’re far from alone. I remember my mother telling me it was “shameful” that I hadn’t ironed my son’s shirt when we visited. And I gave her an earful on what shameful would be–and it was anything but an unironed shirt. Not sure why these relationships become so very fraught but my theory is–we choose each other. As souls. So we can learn. Sometimes it’s ugly:). Leave the dirty dishes, the poundcake and whatever else will make you nuts this weekend. Good moms can only be good moms when their tanks get filled. Fill your tanks. Wishing you peace . . .

  11. Lovely ode to your mom. My mom wore Chanel 5. I can’t walk past a perfume counter without finding it and taking a bit inhale.

    1. candidkay says:

      The scents bring back the strongest memories, don’t they? Lavender soap makes me think of my mother. She put it in her drawers so her clothes would have just the lightest scent of lavender . . .

    2. My mother, who passed when I was wee, wore Chanel No 5, also. Years later, my sister and I found an old scarf of hers, a scratchy old woolen thing that we couldn’t imagine being comfortable to wear. We buried our noses in it for hours.

  12. My mom died when I was 9 and some days I wonder how it would be to meet up with her for tea and a long talk. To be able to pick up the phone when I feel low, just to hear her tell me that everything would be okay. And then I think that it is a blessing in disguise to have never had that. Because I have no idea what I am missing out on. Your post made me so sad for you though. Will be sending lots of good thoughts your way on the day xxx

    1. candidkay says:

      I have that same thought many times. And I know how it felt–and how it feels now not to have it. You usually don’t realize how lucky you are when it’s here . . .

  13. Lovely, Kay. And insightful. A pleasure to read.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for stopping by and always being so lovely, Cynthia.

  14. That’s an absolutely spot on and gorgeous post 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Shane. I appreciate the kind words.

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