As a mom I have, at times, striven for perfection. Especially in today’s society where our lives are broadcast on social media, and judgement abounds around every mishap. The past month, I have seen as the world has sought to “crucify” parents who have made unintentional mistakes (the gorilla and alligator incidents): critics call them careless and avoidable. Of course these situations can be deemed avoidable now. As it’s always said “hindsight is 20/20.”
I have experienced several of these moments in my own three years as a mom. Many of these experiences were due to my son, DR’s food allergies.
Since I found out, he had these allergies I have blamed myself for plenty, even things that are beyond my control. First, I blamed myself for the fact that he even had allergies. I am allergic to tree nuts as well as other environmental elements, so I assumed that my genetic make-up was the cause of his allergic tendencies. It took me a very long time to realize that I had no control over this. I could not have predicted in a million years that he would develop his peanut and egg allergies because of my biology.
Then came the guilt when he would break out for no known reason. I would scour ingredient lists and pour over food diaries to find the culprit, only to be disappointed when it was something I had missed earlier that caused the reaction. I would beat myself up for days after he had healed, determined to overcome my own stupid, fallible, human nature.
Finally, I felt less than human when he would catch me eating something he couldn’t have. I was lowly, unworthy of his love because I expected him to go without when I couldn’t. I would vow not to give into the cravings.
So as you can see, I alone have placed this blame; unfortunately, this is not the end of it. I have been on the receiving end of unsolicited and cruel comments about my parenting by many others. When we had to rush him to the Urgent Care because of a reaction to peanut butter months before his diagnosis, the doctor basically accused us of feeding him an egg product to which we knew he was allergic. When he breaks out it his eczema rash, people constantly comment like we aren’t trying to fix the situation, like we are the reason he has this issue. When he ended up in the hospital (non-allergy related), a close friend called to inquire that perhaps his illness was a punishment for the fact that his father and I lived together before marriage. All of these comments were unnecessary and unwanted. They did not help us. In fact, they caused more issues. They made me doubt myself as a parent, made me work harder toward an image of perfection I could never reach.
I couldn’t bear it anymore, so I stopped. I stopped striving for perfection, and instead focused on those things I could do to protect my son. I spent less time listening to others and more following my intuition. Had I continued listening to and caring about these comments, I would have lost everything: my self-confidence, my mind, and my relationship with my amazing son, but by accepting my imperfections, I now have everything.