The Myth of the Perfect Mother
Chapter 2

Every Mother is Unique

I have nothing to wear," I whined to myself. I felt like the ungrateful stepsisters in Cinderella who discarded perfectly good clothes and grumbled that other people always owned better clothing. Yet I had spent half an hour trying on various combinations of clothing and none had been to my liking. Some were too tight in the hips, others didn't match, and still others were outdated. We were already ten minutes late for a wedding and I was still in my slip. I had enough clothes; there were piles of them on the bed, the floor,and the dresser. Still I struggled to find the right outfit. I forced myself into something and remained uncomfortable all day. And my husband, Dave, had trouble understanding why I had such difficulty in, of all things, dressing myself.

.....I had a lot of clothes in my closet. Yet each time I needed something to wear, I struggled to find the right outfit. I had many colors, many styles, various levels of dressiness and, most of all, many sizes from which to choose. But after having two kids my body had changed size, shape, and weight. My frustration grew until I decided it was time to consolidate my wardrobe.
.....I agonized for hours sorting my clothes into piles and deciding which ones to keep. With resolve I scooped up all the clothes that used to fit, put them into a black 40-gallon trash bag, and gave them away. In another 40-gallon bag I deposited the pile of older clothes that were worn out or were out of style. The attic became home for the clothes that I really love and hate to part with, such as good suits and nice dresses. I put the clothes that needed sewing or mending in my sewing dresser. Lastly, I placed the remaining good clothes in my closet, disappointed that there were so few left. No wonder I had such difficulty deciding what to wear.
.....Pregnancy had done a job on my body. Yet I had clung to my clothes thinking that maybe someday they would fit. Perhaps they would have -- some day. But in the process I had been frustrating myself and complicating my life. I had never been the perfect Cosmopolitan shape, and any hope of looking exactly like that were disappearing.Cleaning my closet freed me up; I had let go of the myth of the perfect body!

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit...

.....Becoming a mother brings changes that are difficult for many women to accept. Just as you may refuse to acknowledge the changes in your body after giving birth, you may refuse to acknowledge the fact that the very fabric of your life has changed. After all, how could one little baby cause so much change? And if you do admit the changes, you may be at a loss, at least initially, to know how to handle the transition.
.....What role should a new mother step into? There are so many options and choices. The world, through the media (television in particular), holds out many possibilities. And then you look (naturally) to your mother, grandmother, peer groups, and other mothers to try to figure out motherhood. But then many options disappear when you consider your style, personal preferences, and family needs. You can find yourself thinking, Why does motherhood feel so awkward? As a woman, you may feel as if you are in a bind because mothering does not fit you, yet the old life doesn't fit either; neither one is comfortable, neither life fits. At first that seems discouraging, but it doesn't have to be.
.....Like the clothes in my closet, not all the roles, styles, and options available to moms are right for me -- or you. We must eliminate and concentrate our lifestyle wardrobes so that they fit us. And that starts with knowing how we are designed, what our strengths are, and what fits each of us.
.....That process must start with you. As with clothes, you need to decide your size, your style, and your good colors, and put them together so that the combination works.

...Maybe You Need a New Pair

....."I always wanted to be a mom but I'm disappointed that it's so hard," a friend lamented in my play group. Many of us nodded in silent agreement. This silence spoke volumes as we each privately reviewed the demands of mothering that had surprised us.
.....Perhaps you have felt like that. Mothering is hard work. But you can make it harder -- as many women do -- by trying to live up to perfect (artificial) standards and idyllic images. Most women have unrealistic expectations about how to be a mom. As one mom wrote, "So many people have unrealistic expectations, and then reality appears especially hard."1 We need to give ourselves some tender loving care in the job of mothering. What moms need is specific help instead of perfect standards and idyllic images.

...Tailored to Fit You

.....The main message I want you to catch from this book is that the responsibilities of motherhood can and should be tailored to your intrinsic design as a woman. This will reduce stress, guilt, inappropriate "ought's," and frustration in mothering -- in effect, providing care for you as a caregiver. Eventually, most moms find out what works for them by luck anyway -- and with a lot of unnecessary frustration and guilt. As you'll soon see, it needn't be that way.
.....The tack we'll take is to apply career counseling techniques to your job of mothering. Together we'll evaluate the jobs, roles, and tasks involved in motherhood and help you tailor the responsibilities to fit you. After all, motherhood is not what the books say, not what you thought it was before you had children, and not how society defines it. Motherhood is how you define it and what you choose to make it. Therefore, you should strive to fit the role and tasks of motherhood to the needs of you and your family.

See the Light, the Green Light

.....The Green Light Concept (GLC) was developed by Richard G. Hagstrom. From thousands of interviews with people, he found out what makes people unique and, therefore, what jobs suit each one. There are four Green Focus areas in the GLC model. You are strongest in one of these; this is your personal Green Focus area and a description of your greatest strengths. You will have another focus that is somewhat strong for you, your Yellow Focus area. Together these two combine to form your Green Light Profile.
.....The Green Light Concept helps a woman to see that she has a particular design that influences what she likes to do and does well. For example, my Green Focus area is the world of Ideas. Knowing my design has alleviated stress in my life and allowed me to set my own standards instead of those set by others. I am free to make individual decisions based on my Green Light Profile. From these decisions I can set realistic expectations for myself.
.....For some women, the application of the Green Light Concept means altering their expectations of motherhood. Yet for other, GLC means not only altering their expectations but also taking on some new jobs or responsibilities that utilize strengths they had not been using before. In my case, I needed to work for pay part-time as well as volunteering. Though I love my husband and my children, I needed a source of additional fulfillment which resulted from using my Green strengths and skills. Tasks moms may need to begin a new hobby. Relationships moms may need to develop more relationships. And Strategy moms may need to oversee some process or group of people outside the home.
.....While bookstores are filled with "how to" books, guidebooks, cassette tapes, and videos for many kinds of jobs and careers, I have never seen any material that examine motherhood as a job and treats the mother as a skilled worker doing that job. While career men and women are encouraged to utilize their potential and to find a job that suits them, mothers' books emphasize the tasks that need to be done (such as housecleaning), and seemingly without regard for the design of the mother.
.....In fact, almost all books on parenting leave me with specific feelings after I've read them: either I'm overwhelmed with what they say I ought to be doing, or I'm perplexed by their vagueness and lack of solutions. After reading these books I feel like asking, "Is everyone the same, having the same needs and doing the same activities to meet these needs?" I don't think so.

Proceed with Realistic Expectations

.....With an emphatic burst I say, "We are each different in how we are made!" Each person has a unique design and every mother has her own Green Focus area, personality, and set of Green Action Skills to be used in effective mothering. Realizing your personal strengths can rescue you from being deluded by the myth of the Perfect Mother.
.....By applying career counseling techniques to the job of motherhood, you will better realize that your work as a mother is valuable. One author wrote, "The glut of books on parenting seems to make things worse, for many postulate, often in a condescending tone, impossible ideals of parenthood, focusing on what we should do and be, instead of who we are."2 The Myth of the Perfect Mother will help you escape from "impossible ideals of parenthood" so that you can focus on the reality of who you are.
.....Here's how I'll proceed:

Part I -- Unrealistic Expectations on Moms
Perfect Mother expectations can cause frustrations and stress because many of those expectations are inappropriate for you. In these first two chapters I've described where Perfect Mother expectations come from and what's wrong with them.

Part II -- Foundations for Realistic Expectations
Chapters Three and Four will help you identify your personal strengths and acknowledge your lifetime dreams. They are foundational in setting realistic expectations for yourself.

Part III -- Setting Realistic Expectations in Family Relationships
The topic of Chapters Five, Six, and Seven is family. Your life is intertwined with others, especially family members. Each person in your family has his or her own dreams. Knowing that you are a team and that you have different abilities and personal strengths can make mothering easier and strengthen your family ties.

Part IV -- Setting Realistic Expectations in Housework
In Chapter Eight I'll evaluate the job of maintaining a home in light of the four Green Focus areas. Determining your housecleaning standards and adjusting expectations for these time-consuming jobs may free some valuable time to pursue lifetime dreams or give you the encouragement to concentrate more effort on your home.

Part V -- Setting Realistic Expectations in Work
In Chapter Nine and Ten you'll get a broad examination of the work options available to you, taking into consideration your Green Focus area, lifetime dreams, values, and lifestyle decisions.

Part VI -- Maintaining Realistic Expectations by Saying No
By saying no to inappropriate options, your lifestyle will be filled with activities and opportunities that are suited to you. In Chapter Eleven I'll show how the measly word no can simplify your life and free up precious time for pursuing your lifetime dreams.

Part VII -- Maintaining Realistic Expectations through Balance
You are more balanced when you establish and maintain your physical health and relationship with God. Chapters Twelve and Thirteen will help you maintain balance in those two areas.

Part VIII -- Reviewing Realistic Expectations
Your life is full of changes and options. You'll need to determine realistic expectations with each new season of mothering so you don't let perfectionism and unrealistic expectations run your life. In Chapter Fourteen, you'll get an opportunity to do that. Contrary to popular belief, motherhood is a job. It is absolutely essential that you learn your areas of strength and weakness so you can adjust mothering to how God made you. I want you to be able to identify the sources of expectations in your life, to look at those desires for perfection in the light of your Green Light Profile, lifetime dreams, and values, and then carve out your own mothering niche.

Dispelling the Myth

.....Applying the Green Light Concept can help you as a mother:
~ Accept your style and skills
~ Set realistic expectations based on your style, skills, and levels of competence
~ Adjust your responsibilities to fit your strengths
~ Reduce frustration and stress
~ Increase your confidence in your mothering abilities
~ Strengthen your family ties

.....My intention is to help you be a mom in the '90's (and beyond!), with all its expectations, stresses, and many complications. It's a book that encourages you to look at who you are as a person and how this affects the way you rear your children. As you read, you will examine how you can be effective in many responsibilities based on who you are. The question is not, "Are you doing enough?" but, "Are you doing the right things based on your Green Focus area?" As a mother with two preschoolers I have very little free time, so I want to use it to its full advantage; I want to use my time doing what I enjoy and do well. By making such adjustments, I am able to recharge my batteries and rejuvenate myself.
.....Once you know who you are, you can make some adjustments to your lifestyle by setting realistic expectations. Sometimes that means you will lower your standards. (Some moms tell me if they lower their standards any more they'll be at zero!) In other areas you'll need to increase your standards. As you'll see later though, accepting realistic expectations does not give you license to ignore responsibilities or not to work on improving your weak areas. It is merely a way to say, "I'm not good at such and such; when I do it too much I feel frustrated and bored, and I never do a good job at it."
.....I may sound confident in telling you all this. Do I have it all together? No. What I thought had been a relatively together life unraveled with the arrival of children. I struggled with motherhood and with my self-esteem. Through use of the Green Light Concept and the support of a local mother's support group, I altered the job of motherhood to fit the person I am. Having found my balance for this season in my life, I'd like to help other moms achieve a working balance for their lives.
I have days of frustration, when I feel like screaming and wish I could stop being a mother for a while. I still dislike juggling schedules and running out of mild for morning cereal, bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or diapers for my little guy. I'm not a happy camper when my kids are sick, sick, and sick. I still overschedule myself, feeling stressed out as I try to do too much.
.....But there are fewer days like that for me as I schedule and care for my children in the light of my Green Light Profile. My esteem is out of the cellar now, in part because I have a sense of accomplishment. I raise my voice at my kids less often. And when I'm with them physically, I'm also with them mentally and emotionally because my batteries have been recharged. I use my strengths more and I understand why I feel drained when I can't!
.....So who am I that you should listen? I'm certainly not an expert. Rather, I'm a mom, just like you. A mom with a desire to help other women find their GLC mothering style to relieve some of the stresses and frustrations of motherhood. I want you to find your mothering niche. I don't do power lunches or satellite conferences or mega-meetings; I do "Happy Meals," potty training, and sleepless nights. And I write.
.....I didn't write this book because I have it all together. I wrote it because I wanted to share what has helped me. Moms need concrete help and encouragement, not mythical ideals. I also wrote it because gathering information and writing is part of my Green Light Profile; it's a strength of mine. (B.C. -- before children - I did career counseling with Richard Hagstrom). I don't have all the answers to your mothering dilemmas, just a message of hope.


.....While in California I once saw a minivan with a license plate that read: "HLP5KDS." I understood immediately. I'm not sure what kind of help that mom wanted or needed, but I certainly understood her pleas. After reading one too many of those self-help books that do a wonderful job of describing the stresses and frustrations of motherhood while offering little concrete help, it became my plea as well.
.....Do you compare yourself unfavorably to other moms? Do you thing you have nothing unique to offer your children? Do you think your accomplishments look simple? I'll repeat it again and again because it's central to the message of this book: You are not like any other mom. Understanding your Green Light Profile will help you know why you feel frustration with some aspects of motherhood and give you a way to handle your unpleasant responsibilities. In the next chapter you'll learn what makes you unique and what your strengths are.

~ End of Chapter 2 of The Myth of the Perfect Mother ~

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