I was a perfect mom . . . until I had kids.

It’s everywhere. I don’t know about you, but my Instagram and Facebook have been plastered with this phrase as of late. Everyone’s got their carefully-curated letter boards all ready to go with this nugget that’s sure to get you thinking.

And when I first stumbled upon it, I definitely let out a good chuckle. Oh, I remember those days.

The days of watching a toddler throw a wild tantrum on Aisle 17 at Target, wondering what monumental mishap on the disheveled mom’s part had resulted in such a dramatic meltdown. (Little did I know it was because she wouldn’t let him drink the shampoo. Smart move, Mama.)

The days of swearing up and down that my child would most certainly not be the annoyingly clingy kind; I’d ensure such a thing would never, ever happen by passing him around a lot as a baby. Family? Friend? Random stranger? Sure, take him! Certainly that was the answer. Duh. (Suddenly dropping my two-year-old off at our church’s childcare has become that of an epic battle scene straight out of Braveheart. Clearly I didn’t pass him around enough.)

The days of wondering why in the world parents would ever allow their children to eat snacks in their sacred, clean, oh-so-pretty master bed. That’s just plain gross, and not to mention unnecessary. (My husband recently asked me why there are a multitude of minuscule crumbs covering our sheets on a daily basis. Seriously, though, our son just looks too cute all snuggled up under our duvet, munching at his crackers like a little chipmunk.)

Oh man, those were the days. Being the perfect mom before actually being a mom was so stinking simple.

Yet something about that whole phrase still kind of irked me. I completely agreed, identified a plethora of examples of this pre-mom-mom-perfection in my own, naive past, and still, it didn’t sit quite right with me. It was so true, while being so very, very wrong.

Because, you see, for me . . . I was undoubtedly the worst mom until I had kids.

I was the “mom” who judged other women as I waltzed past them and their screaming children at Target.

I was the “mom” who thought having a child who wanted nothing more than to just be with me would be beyond irritating.

I was the “mom” who placed greater priority on a crisp, bleach-white sheet set than the joy of my child simply wanting to be near me as I fold laundry and he devoured his afternoon snack.

Before I entered this marvelously messy journey of motherhood, sure, I was perfect at a lot of things: I was perfect at being selfish. Selfish with my time, my money, my food, my life. If I could grip it with both hands, only ever letting go for the sake of appearing “good” for just a moment, I did.

I was perfect at latching onto pride as my son does his teddy bear, fearing ultimate vulnerability if I were to let it go. I put myself on a superbly crafted pedestal; I spent years and years assembling it to my liking, yet motherhood took all of five seconds to absolutely obliterate it.

I was perfect at condemning moms for their parenting decisions, at determining that because I had hopped on my laptop and researched various methods and opinions for approximately 10 minutes, I knew best. Not just for my family, but for everyone’s family. Never mind that every single child is so completely unique, with individual needs. Never mind that every single family structure is so completely diverse. Never mind any of that; I promise, I still knew best.

I was perfect at desiring nothing more than to have children while swearing up and down that they would never get in the way. I had a real “be seen and not heard” attitude toward raising kids. (I literally just laughed out loud typing that. I’m pretty sure that if you were to come over for a visit, you would hear my sweet boys from outside our front door, giggling, yelling, and just being kids, long before you ever saw them.)

So, while I understand the sentiment of that phrase on everyone’s cute, little letter board, I think I’m going to stick with my version over here.

I’m going to believe that the woman who I am now is the woman I was always meant to be. I’m going to hold fast to the fact that the “perfect” woman I used to be couldn’t have lasted a single minute in motherhood; she honestly didn’t, after all. I’m going to pray that I continue to transform, becoming less and less like that pre-mom me every single day.

Because I’m not afraid to admit that the me before motherhood was a real piece of work. And I’m still a work in progress, no doubt, but when I dig down deep into my heart, I love the me that my children are shaping me into. It’s a me that’s far from perfect. It’s a me that’s been magnificently refined and thoroughly humbled.

So keep whittling away at that “perfect” me, little ones. And please, for everyone’s sake: never stop.

Krista Ward

Krista is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom to three insanely precious little boys, Hudson, Jones, and Royce. She is married to her best friend and high school sweetheart, Randy, who is the peanut butter to her chocolate. Krista hopes to be a light and joy to the world, especially other mamas feeling stuck in the daily grind, through her writing.