Admit it. As a parent reading this, you’ve said this to yourself at least once in your life as a fellow mother drones on about how quickly her son learned HTML programming while mastering Xbox Live, or when another highlights how often her daughter earns straight A’s in school. I too have fallen victim to envy when hearing others gleam about the successes of their little ones. Not often mind you, but enough times where I have to admit to it.
In our society bent on being perfect, pressure to be physically, mentally and emotionally above- average is intense. To achieve said perfection, mothers are often driven to extremes as they facilitate the duties of grocery shopper extraordinaire, culinary expert, chauffer and maid. They run errands from dawn til dusk, provide medical care using mommy-ready tools of Neosporin® and Band-Aids®, and put Tim Allen to shame as a Ms. Fix-It. Beyond these daily responsibilities, she still finds time to be a wife and social planner while effortlessly handling with grace all awkward and apology-rich situations—like when her child decides to bite the arm of another during play, or takes crayons to the freshly painted walls of the neighbor’s house. Never mind that some moms even have to juggle a career…
Given this aggressive pursuit of perfection, local mothers (entrepreneurs and sisters) Gina (Terrasi) Gallagher and Patty (Terrasi) Konjoian decided it was time to throw their hands in the face of perfection and instead, raise a flag in support of ‘imperfection.’
“We think our society is a little too crazed with perfection,” said Konjoian. “We're expected to live in a perfect house, be married to the perfect spouse, and have the perfect body. But, there's no greater pressure than the pressure to achieve perfection with our children.” And these two women, who grew up in Maynard and now live in Marlborough and Andover respectively, should know -- as they are each mother to a child with a disability.
Gallagher, whose 11-year old daughter has Asperger’s syndrome and Konjoian, whose 13-year-old daughter has bipolar disorder, poured their shared talents and years of parental knowledge into a self-written book titled, “Shut Up About….Your Perfect Kid!” The self-published work became one step in an aggressive umbrella effort designed by the sisters called the ‘Movement of Imperfection,’ giving parents of ‘imperfect’ children an outlet for their voices.
“Several forces drove us to write this book,” continued Konjoian. “We wanted something that was uplifting, and also felt that ‘perfect’ parents who constantly brag about their children, don't understand or appreciate why we're proud of our special kids. Our book opens a dialogue.”
Through humorous, real-life scenarios, the authors have compiled personal comments and experiences from more than 50 families raising children with disabilities—including themselves-- which today contend with a society that strives to emulate perfection. Within the 165-page are true stories about self-absorbed therapists more concerned about their own ‘gifts’ than the needs of patients, nail-biting days at home waiting for a child’s school to call, and unexpected adventures on the athletic field.
“We want parents to know that no matter how dark their days may be, they are never alone,” said Konjoian.
Through their entrepreneurial venture, Shut Up Industries, Gallagher and Konjoian make available their book, bracelets, bumper stickers and other assorted paraphernalia in support of the ‘Movement of Imperfection.’
“We envision doing a series of books to offer support to people -- to tell them to embrace imperfection and be real,” said Shut Up Industries co-founder Gina Gallagher. “With the explosive growth in disabilities and the pressure on children, we think our movement could not come at a better time.” Future titles under consideration at Shut Up Industries include: ‘Shut Up About...Your Perfect Body!,’ and ‘Shut Up About...Your Perfect Career’ -- a book for stay at home moms.
“We expect to publish a series of books and travel around the country to participate in community events and make speaking appearances,” continued Gallagher. “The ‘Movement of Imperfection’ will remain alive and well.”
On Mother’s Day, the co-founders of Shut Up Industries want to, “wish all mothers a wonderful day and encourage them to encourage their children to look beyond the labels of our children. In short, love and appreciate your children for who they are—not what the standards of society would dictate.”
Just two weeks ago, my mother-in-law Kathy asked me, “Why can’t everyone just enjoy children for being children—regardless of their shape, size, or level of ability?” I pondered this for hours after she asked and even now, I don’t have a perfect answer. But, thanks to Gina and Patty, ‘imperfect’ answers served with a side of humor, are available.
To all the moms reading this article, Happy Mother’s Day!
By Wendy Bulawa
GateHouse News Service