Shop the fall collection ➔

My husband and I didn’t find out the gender of either of our girls before they were born.

We reasoned that since so many of life’s surprises are less than thrilling— “Surprise! This transmission is shot!” or “Surprise! You get to install a new septic system with the money you were going to use to upgrade your kitchen cabinets!” (one supposes)—we’d go ahead and take a guaranteed good surprise where we could get it.

Our obstetrician, on the other hand, took a different view. She’d delivered our first daughter, and while she was checking me immediately prior to the birth of our second baby, she said, “I think it’s going to be a boy.” Yet when our decidedly non-boy second daughter was born, my doctor announced, resignedly, “It’s a girl.” Very much without an implied exclamation point. As if what she had just delivered was bad news instead of a blue-eyed baby whose full head of dark spiky hair was born about five minutes ahead of the rest of her. 

And I am not making this up: my doctor had barely finished performing her “obstetrical duties” when she told me, “If you want to try for a boy next time, come see me and I’ll tell you how.”

In the years that followed, up until it became obvious I was clearly too old to try for anything more than a pet goldfish, my husband and I heard the “all you need now is a boy” comment more than once. 

I understood where it was coming from: people who knew the incomparable joy of having sons wanted those delights for us. 

But underneath that comment lurked a common myth: the myth of the perfect family. The myth that it exists at all, for starters, and then that it looks a certain way…most likely like a dad and a mom and one son and one daughter, all of whom look fabulous in matching sweaters in a Christmas card picture.

This myth is an equal-opportunity liar.

If you are a childless couple, it says you need a child to be a perfect family. 

If you have one child, it says you need to give that child a sibling to be a perfect family.

If you have several children, it says you need to “figure out where babies come from” to be a perfect family.

If you have all girls, it says you need a boy to be a perfect family.

If you have all boys, it says you need a girl to be a perfect family.

If you are a family that has experienced death or divorce, it says you need remarriage to be a perfect family.

If you are a family affected by disease or disability, it says you need healing to be a perfect family.

The problem with this myth is what we all know to be true: there are no perfect families. Every family, in whatever configuration, with whatever set of realities, is made up of imperfect people.

We all have flaws. We all have shortcomings. We all have physical and emotional challenges. We all have unhealed hurts. We all have empty spaces. We all have unfilled longings. We all have wounds. We bring all of this into our families, partly because we have no other choice and partly because family is supposed to be a safe place where we can be who we are while we work on who we can become.

But for all this messiness, we still are families. We are imperfect people trying to love each other and care for each other and build each other up and support each other and encourage each other and comfort each other and care for each other the best we can. We do it one day and fail and try again the next day to do it a little bit better.

And as a society made up of imperfect families, we can all help each other out by celebrating what each family has, not by pointing out what we don’t.

I love this quote by Sanchita Pandey in Voyage to Happiness: “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” Did I want a son? Yes. I would have loved for my husband and I to have had that experience. A son is what our family did not have. I know all-boy moms who long for daughters. I know a young couple who hoped, after a late-term ultrasound showed the possibility, that their baby might not be born with a cleft palate.

But what our family and all imperfect families do have are unspeakable blessings and joys. My husband and I are crazy about our daughters. Life without them is something we can’t and don’t want to imagine. My boy-mom neighbor is crazy about her sons. My young friends are crazy about their brand-new baby.

As families, we are none of us perfect, and if we are honest, we should never hope to be. Perfection does not belong to us. But as families, we are blessed and often happy and driven, in the end, by love.

And that imperfect truth about what is real is better than a perfect lie about a myth any day.

You may also like: I’m a Mom Who Doesn’t. You Don’t Have to, Either. 

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

I Love it When You Smile at Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little girl in wheel chair with classmates, color photo

I gained a bit of insight today. We were walking past the checkout at the store this afternoon when we came upon a mom and her children, waiting in the checkout line.   RELATED: A Simple Invitation Means the World To a Special Needs Parent My daughter Chloe rolled by them in her wheelchair. I watched, as I often do, as the children noticed her. One girl about Chloe’s age smiled at her as we walked by. As soon as we had passed them, Chloe turned to me and said . . . “She’s the first person to smile at me!”  Let me say I...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading