Mediocre Parenting and Other Lofty Goals

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I was recently at a graduation party where I was involved in a conversation with a few other mothers
about what they were planning to do for their own kids’ parties. Ideas included creating and displaying quilts made from their child’s sports team jerseys, gathering yearbook photos dating back to kindergarten for a scrapbook, and playing video montages of all their child’s shenanigans over the years. My wine had suddenly lost its appeal.

Now, to be honest, I have never had a shred of guilt over being the “corporate working” mom. Seriously, never. It is part of who I am. My kids have never suffered from having a dual-working-parents household. If anything, they’ve had a pretty darn good life. But during this party, I must admit I felt a smidge of self-doubt. I am the least artsy, crafty, quilt-making mom you can find. If I bake cookies, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll burn at least 4 of them. I was not very good at taking videos of my kids when they were young, either. Regrets? Perhaps. But until this graduation party, not a ton.

On my walk the next morning, I was listening to a podcast interviewing Sallie Krawcheck. As a pioneer and trailblazer in financial services, it was not long before she faced the typical bullshit question that follows just about every woman with children. Disguised as a compliment by the interviewer, he asked how she managed to have a successful career while also being a mom. Her answer resonated with me on a level I never expected. Sallie said something to the effect of “I strived to be the best at my job, and I strived to be the best mediocre mom.”

Wow. Did she just say her goal was to be the most “mediocre” mom? You mean it was okay not to chase this idea of perfection that simply does not exist? Here was this successful woman with a successful career who seemed to have raised successful kids, and she was voicing what I think so many of us feel. I have never felt like a supermom. I do not claim to wear the big “S” on my chest. And for the first time, someone was telling me that was okay.

I have always felt fortunate because I have two areas of fulfillment in my life: my career and my role as a parent. These coexist in my world. My best, my “mediocre” will always look entirely different than
others’. No two are the same, and while we may have concocted some image of a perfect mother, she is not real. We are what is real- in all our mediocre glory.