I Became 3 TV Moms for a Week

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vintage tv on stand with yellow flowers

Hand me the remote

Discouraged, I slumped to the ground. My kids yelled at me and I yelled back. I got stressed and lost my patience. I failed. Yet again.

If only I were the perfect mom. If only I knew what to do when my kids were fighting. If only I knew how to hold space for their challenging emotions.

If only, if only I weren’t myself.

I sighed and paused at an impossible thought: what if I were someone different, someone perfect?

I picked my defeated self off the floor with a challenge to radically become the perfect mom this week by acting like a perfect mom. If I was going to act like a different mom, who better to emulate than actresses themselves? After some research, I chose Mom Tiger from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, and Haley Dunphy of Modern Family.

Change the channel

I can’t be a perfect mom but I can act like a perfect mom. And who is more perfect than Daniel Tiger’s mom? Pbs.org even provides an article of parenting advice from Mom Tiger! Although I was eager to embody Mom Tiger, I felt apprehensive. Do I want to willingly set myself up for failure by setting too high of an expectation?

Mom Tiger’s voice quietly sang in my ear. “Grrr, grrrr, grrrr out loud, keep on trying, and you’ll feel proud.”

Daniel Tiger and Mom Tiger

That advice inspired me to take on the Mom Tiger challenge with bravery. As the day started, I was nailing it. My sons had a sparkle in their eyes every time I sang a new song, every time I used a calm voice, every time I used a playful spirit to gain cooperation. Mom Tiger parenting was magic.

Until nap time hit.

Acting like Mom Tiger required me to be “on” allllllll the time. I was drained. My boys were tired and couldn’t cooperate. Through gritted teeth, I sang a little nap time jingle. My kids were not phased. I crouched down to their level, my gentle hands on their shoulders, and tried to sing another song. They were not impressed. In frustration, I yelled and they froze.

My 4-year-old must be a better Mom Tiger than I am; he reminded me that it’s not okay to yell at people. Together we sang a Daniel Tiger song — “when you feel so mad that you want to ROAR, take a deep breath, and count to four. One…two…three…four…” We all breathed and headed upstairs to nap.

The remainder of the day went as well as a trolley ride on a pebble road – bumpy, with many ups and downs. The soft tone of Mom Tiger’s voice, especially when challenges surfaced, was not a parenting skill that I could even act out. Even with my struggles, I found that I did manifest Mom Tiger’s character. I had the intention to guide my boys through their challenges with songs and love. And maybe I did just that, imperfectly so.

Wait, turn the volume up

I took a day off to reset before becoming Linda Belcher of Bob’s Burgers. I was going to need every bit of vitality to channel Linda’s parenting pizazz. While she’s the fun-mom type, I also appreciate her deep sincerity in caring for and accepting her family as they are. In studying her character online, I became overwhelmed.

Bob's Burgers family

Where does Linda find the energy to do it all? She is a mom to three kids whom she adores, she works to support Bob’s business and still loves him at the end of the day, and she finds time to express her creativity. I already felt defeated and questioned how I would manage to love my family unconditionally, especially myself.

I looked in the mirror, trying to peer into my inner Linda. How would Linda encourage me right now? I heard Linda loudly whisper (you know how she does), “Look at yewwwwww! You’re already me! Just love them.”

I put on some fake cat-eye glasses and took on the day. My preschooler was riding quite the emotional wave (too many parenting inconsistencies perhaps?). I put my hand over my Linda heart trying to channel how she would respond. My voice naturally became so matter-of-fact when I started to say that I loved my son no matter what, when I let him feel how he wanted to feel, when I accepted the challenges of the moment.

Reflecting on the day as Linda had me tenderhearted. The day looked chaotic and all sorts of up and down. I know Linda can relate. But she stays steady through it all, authentic to her values of loving her family. Do I have the Linda flair? Nah, it was difficult even portraying that. But I think I do have a similar heart to embrace the challenges of a quirky family and love through it all.

Can you pause it?

While browsing the internet for insights on Haley Dunphy as a mother, I found the selection of articles lacking. I knew she was an unconventional pick but I loved how her character drastically matured when becoming a mom. There were numerous incidents when she had no idea what she was doing. Overall, Haley’s love, protection, and dependability are the parenting qualities I’m ready to act out.

Haley was, by far, the easiest mom of the challenge to become. At times, I even forgot that I was acting as a TV mom! I threw our usual routine in the trash and just sat with my kids, tended to their needs, and played with them. It was a beautiful morning that fell apart just before lunch.

My boys were constantly bickering and whining. They were both intruding on physical boundaries and making unsafe choices. The preschooler was a ball of energy and the toddler was clingy. Things were getting heated and stressful.

What should I do? What would Haley do? Think think think. I didn’t know what Haley would do because she wouldn’t know what to do. Great, we ARE the same person! I’m not acting anymore.

I thought for a second more and tried to remember a relevant episode. Haley asked for help. She got stressed out, frazzled, and asked for help. So, I called my mom over and took a short break while she managed my boys.

Haley Dunphy holding a baby while her mom looks at her

Being Haley went much differently than I expected. I thought pretending to be her would be easy going, just being with my kids no matter what. Admitting that I was overwhelmed and needed help took more courage than I realized. Haley taught me that although I feel solely responsible to care for my kids, I also have to take care of myself when the stress hits and build up my own supportive community.

Is this show over?

At the end of this week, I’m sitting here more exhausted than I have ever felt. My intentions for this self-challenge were much more comedic and lighthearted. But with anything involving parenting, floods of feelings find a way to creep in.

TV moms cannot accurately portray what motherhood should look like. Reality is messy and imperfect. So maybe the answer isn’t to be a perfect mom, or use all the right parenting tools. Maybe it’s just to be authentically myself and show up as a mom with love in my heart. Just like every other mom does, even the TV moms.

What TV mom is most similar to you?

For me, I am like every mom. I do make up jingles and I’m great at it just like Mom Tiger. I get through the chaos of the day with love and acceptance for my family just like Linda Belcher. I figure out this huge responsibility of parenting with immense love for my kids just like Haley Dunphy.

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Amanda is a 31-year-old wife and mom, occasional secretary, on-pause knitter, sparse writer, and postpartum doula. Amanda neglects her dishes and laundry to play with her kids. She stays up too late and wakes too early. She loves volunteering at her sons’ school. One of her goals is to get a macaroni and cheese tattoo because she loves pasta that much. She enjoys learning about nature and early childhood education psychology. She’s a strong enneagram 4 which brings all the feelings. She hopes to grow into the hardcore, cool boy mom of her dreams. She mostly grew up in the Portland metro area but has also lived in AZ, VA, ND, and CA. She has been married to her sorta high-school sweetheart for almost 9 years. She and her husband have two sons - Oliver(4) and Osten(1). She currently lives in Unincorporated Hillsboro renting an old farmhouse there.