A self-care exercise: Imagining the imperfections

Amy Fenster Brown

By Amy Fenster Brown

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only mom who yells at her kids. Are you with me? Few things bring me as much pure joy and happiness as hearing another mom yell at her kid, especially a “perfect” mom. That sounds mean. It’s not. It’s self-care. 

Every parent has yelled at their kids. Right now anxiety is high, families are spending tons of time together at home, and we are all a little more prone to snapping like a tightly-pulled rubber band. 

Let’s say you’re at the grocery store, with your mask on, and see a cute mom with a flat stomach and taut arms wearing leggings and a sleeveless shirt that doesn’t even cover her tiny hiney. She’s with her adorable offspring and you think, “She’s certainly got it all together.” That’s when her little angel starts screaming “I want that candy!” Cute mom says, “no, sweetie.” Sweetie starts screaming and throwing a tantrum. You want cute mom to lose it, yell at the kid in public, and act a fool like you would in this situation.

You stop and stare and think, “I know my kids would never ever do that, and if they did I would stop them in their tracks and make them wish they had stayed home.” This comes right after you stop and stare and think, “Dang, if I had that body, I would be wearing two Band Aids and an eye patch to the grocery store. In the frozen food aisle. In winter.”

Advertisement: The Grande at Chesterfield

Perfect moms have well-behaved children who don’t wrestle during a FaceTime call with their grandparents. There’s no way that mom ever yells at her kids. Or is there? Cue the Hollywood movie dream sequence…

The setting: at home during “suggested  stay at home more during a pandemic” (a real stretch for the screenwriter).

The scenario: Kid A, we’ll call him Tex, is playing an age-inappropriate police car chase game on the non-branded electronic gaming device (we’re going non-branded to avoid licensing fees). Kid B, we’ll call him Chubbs, wants a turn at the joystick. Dad, we’ll call him Hot Dad, is working from home, sequestered in the guest bedroom/makeshift workplace. Mommy, we’ll call her Zen Mommy, is mindfully sipping a refreshing homemade green juice and feeding her sourdough starter now that she’s finished her online Pilates workout.

The arguing escalates between Tex and Chubbs over a game filled with mayhem and violence on the non-branded electronic device. Mayhem and violence aren’t the issue for Zen Mommy right now. Tex and Chubbs arguing is. Some days, Tex and Chubbs breathing is too much for Zen Mommy to take. Hot Dad hears it. Even though he’s working in his shabby chic home office, he hears it. He is on a Zoom call and cannot get up to discipline Tex and Chubbs. Truth be told, the Zoom call is a midday break he scheduled with his college buddies to pretend they have things to catch up on, but they don’t. Zen Mommy is busy with the new puppy the family got during quarantine, which Chubbs named Quarantine Puppy because he hasn’t had any real education in months and this is the most brain power he could muster on short notice. Chubbs. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. 

Tex and Chubbs are getting louder and angrier over the non-branded gaming device. And then, it happens. Chubbs says Tex is being the “B word” (bully) and Tex loses it, calling Chubbs the “S word” (stupid). The real S-word is hitting the fan now! Zen Mommy can’t even get to two on her “10 deep breaths to calm” scale. She snaps.


Zen Mommy screaming: Tex and Chubbs. Hot Dad is working and you are acting like caged animals, which is ironic because we only eat cage-free animals in this house. I certainly don’t expect you to understand the definition of “ironic” because you haven’t done any actual schoolwork since two official seasons ago. And while I’m at it, two official seasons means Earth has rotated halfway around the sun. Boom! Science! I’m homeschooling. 

Good thing I was home for this outburst, because last time you two went bonkers Hot Dad told me Tex shoved Chubbs into the dishwasher. Tex, I don’t know how you managed to actually fold him in there, because despite my healthy Zen Mommy meal prep eating plan, Chubbs lives up to his nickname. If you two don’t behave, you’re not going to your friend Blakesleigh’s virtual birthday party and car parade! Go to your special time-out spaces, sit with your hands in your lap and think about your behavior. I paid good money for someone on that Facebook local crafting page to make those hand-looped rugs that say “special time out space” on them — you’ll use them. 

In 15 minutes, you will do physical exercise to let out your aggression and then write in your feelings journal about how you plan to be a better sibling. I’m going to make peace with my own feelings right now. (Zen Mommy excuses herself to go into the walk-in pantry, which she refers to as her “safe space,” to eat pudding, marshmallows and non-branded crème-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, which she will wash down with a glass of organic almond milk to bring her back to center.)


I know my fantasy is farfetched, because realistically Zen Mommy would have reached for the whole milk. The point is, all moms really do lose it and yell at their kids at some point. I know this because I ask my perfect friends if they do. Usually they laugh and think I am joking. These are the same friends who think because I am funny, my house is like a comedy club. The only truth there is sometimes the club regulars get unruly and the bouncer has to knock some sense into them. It’s possible I am said bouncer.

Rest assured, even the perfectly perfect moms aren’t perfect. Perfection is a lie anyway. Sometimes good enough is good enough. And rest assured, that cute grocery store mom one day will have “bingo arms” like you. You know “bingo arms” — it’s when you raise your arm and your upper flab jiggles like you’ve just finished the cover-all and you’re furiously waving while screaming “Bingo!”

Amy Fenster Brown is married to Jeff and has two teenage sons, Davis and Leo. She volunteers for several Jewish not-for-profit groups. Fenster Brown is an Emmy Award-winning TV news writer and counts time with family and friends, talking and eating peanut butter among her hobbies. Her column appears monthly in the Jewish Light. Email Amy at [email protected].