Farewell to the Unattainable Ideal Of What A “Good Mother” Looks Like

Nikki Pennington posted a photo on her Facebook page about her messy car and for a second I thought it was mine. Every day I climb into my car and simultaneously knock over quinoa bowls and Whole Foods shopping bags and have to dig seaweed chips from the cup holder. Actually, I’m totally kidding. It’s McDonald’s bags and Burger King fries with a Dunkin Donuts cup thrown in for good measure.

When Nikki posted this photo on Facebook she had over 6,000 likes on Facebook and 800 plus comments from other self-proclaimed “hot mess” mothers who praised her for honesty.

But what is it about a picture of another mom with the overflowing minivan that is resonating so deeply with other hot mess moms?

Posts like this from Nikki and others give permission to those moms like me who are just treading water and trying to step out of the shadows and with our chipped nails to raise a trembling hand and say “Here. Here I am world.”

The gig is up. We know by now that those of you posting perfectly lit living rooms with your chic color palette and mid century modern style are really only capturing that one little corner that you’ve managed to keep tidy for a few minutes.

We know that you’ve put a filter on your photo so no one notices that your sofa has some kind of weird stain on it. But aren’t you exhausted? It’s tiring trying to live up to this literally unattainable ideal that we think a “good mother” looks like.


I am irrationally angry this morning and trying to calm myself before the culprits wake up. My children are abnormally destructive. This is the third lamp they’ve broken since January. Like how do you break a lamp? This is why everything we own is from Ikea and when I walk by West Elm and Restoration Hardware and see actual families inside I resemble the blinking meme man because like How? How? How? How do you have white couches? How do you have glass? How do you have anything that isn’t from WALMART!? How do have couches that aren’t covered in yogurt and floors that don’t have Baby Bell cheese wax glued to them? How do you have couches that aren’t being held up by bricks because your kids are using them for a parkour course? How do you have fabric dining chairs that aren’t decorated with Fruit Loops? How do you have lamps? How?

A post shared by Alexandria Campbell (@allieleighann) on Jul 31, 2017 at 8:14am PDT

In a world full of carefully “curated” blogs and Instagrams I think it’s nice that we are {hopefully} moving into a space where it’s going to be more acceptable for us all to just embrace our messy existence. I’ve started sharing on Instagram tales from my own parenting crypt. I have 4 children and 3 of those are boys and the devastation that my house has suffered in the last 9 years is one for the books. Our couches sit on top of bricks because my kids jump from couch to couch and IKEA isn’t really built to withstand their park house practice. At any given moment you can find a toothbrush in our kitchen, a measuring spoon in the homework box and once a box of cream cheese behind the couch.

Once I was in the middle of folding “laundry” (my code word for catching up on Bravo while Instagram shopping) and my 5-year-old started screaming for me to come to the kitchen. And what do I see when I get there? My 3-year-old and 20-something-month-old eating cheese off the kitchen floor. Obviously, I did what any hot mess mother would do in this situation and I filmed it. But the entire time I’m just thinking “Why? How? Why?”  Well, I really don’t know, but it’s probably because that’s just life. I’ve fretted over the rogue cream cheese and plenty of other things that I probably shouldn’t admit to more times than I can count. And I still do. When you’re in the thick of things it can feel like you are the only one who has impossibly ridiculous kids and sub standard living situations.

But I for one am so grateful for the truth speakers and the day old clothes wearers.