The Courage to Quit

March 21, 2013 by  
Filed under current, Mothering Space


I’m calling it quits. Throwing in the towel. Raising the white flag.

My name is Miki, and I’m not a perfect mother.

For the last seven years, since my darling daughter took her very first breath and screamed her very first scream, I’ve been trying to get it right. I’ve read all the books and followed all the programs.

When she didn’t even remotely slightly perhaps maybe consider possibly sleeping until she was 13 months old, I thought it was my fault. A failing in myself as a parent. And proof that I was doing it all wrong, completely incapable.

Once she finally started sleeping, other “issues” arose—the whole list of things young people do to test boundaries, assert independence, learn, explore, and grow. She lived, and still lives, life to the ninth degree, with her whole being, full throttle and out loud.

In my desire to do the very best I could for her (and for my son who came two and a half years later), I strove to be the perfect mom and raise the perfect children. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering what other people must be thinking about us while watching our actions with their eyes.

And I bought into the story that because she was not always compliant, quiet, and calm, that I was a bad Mom.

And then I noticed, with the wonderful irony of the universe’s sense of humor, that the very things I was doing in my attempts to be perfect were actually pushing me further and further away from my children. Because I was looking at everything through such a critical lens—wondering how we were measuring up, always falling short—I couldn’t see those tiny beings who I love so much.

So I’m summoning my courage and stepping off the merry-go-round.

I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. Their definition of perfect is toxic. It does not match me, my family, or what we want out of life.

I get to define for myself, what “perfect” looks like for us.

First, I want them to know that I always love them no matter what. This is the prime directive, the one that steers the ship.

Second, I want to keep my big mouth shut. I continuously practice biting my tongue against the constant stream of criticism, corrections, and “teachable moments.” I’m putting my trust in them to figure it out on their own, or learn to ask for help when they need it. Hearing my voice in their heads as a critical one undermines the prime directive. I hope that as I continue to practice, our focus will shift evermore to the positive.

And third, I want them to feel seen by me. To have an uninterrupted span of connection and attention every day. Right now that means playing Harry Potter and Iron Man. As they change and grow, I imagine that what this looks like will change and grow with them.

And that’s it. Just these three things.

And I am trusting that everything else that is my job as a mom will fall into place around this vision.

This feels courageous to me because now I know what I’m working towards. I have my own compass to guide my decisions and my behavior. I am not a slave to an unknown, ever changing, unspecified list of goods and bads, of some indefinable and unattainable perfection.

In creating my own definition, I am free.

And I’m claiming the courage to declare that, while I may not be perfect in anyone else’s eyes, I am the perfect mom for my kids.

Image Credit: Miki DeVivo


Miki DeVivoHi, I’m Miki. I am a photographer, family history chronicler, and creator of The Book of Love. I create and tend spaces in which we can be truly seen and deeply loved. I am passionate about collecting and tending stories, capturing moments of everyday tenderness and beauty, and reflecting back to people the very best parts of themselves. Come share my story (and share yours if you like) at


7 Responses to “The Courage to Quit”
  1. Chris Owen says:

    BRAVO MIKI!!!! Well said. Wish I could have have had those kinds of realisations and courage when my kids were young.

    • Miki DeVivo says:

      Thanks Chris. Even after discovering and naming that this is what I want, it’s been an ongoing practice (and struggle!) for me =). Do you think you would’ve done things differently if you could? Or did things turn out ok in the end?

  2. Carolyn Leslie says:

    I loved your post Miki… Perhaps we could form the not-perfect mama’s club tother!’Their definition of perfect is toxic’ – so true…

  3. Maree says:

    I applaud you Miki. I really don’t understand why many women continue to perpetuate the myth of “the perfect Mother”.

    Your kids will love you for it.

    • Miki DeVivo says:

      Thanks Maree. It is strange isn’t it? I’m not sure how it feels in AU, but here in the states, I find that it’s a general expectation of “perfectness” that comes from images we see in the media, which leads to a fear of being judged by this standard, which perpetuates this feeling of shame and “not enough”-ness. I’m hoping that by giving voice to these feelings, I can make it safe for moms to start telling real stories instead of “ideal” stories.