The Pursuit of the Perfect Mom: MOPS President Mandy Arioto
Mandy Arioto is not your typical mom. During our interview, she admitted to us that she was wearing bikini bottoms instead of underwear as a result of the laundry “not being the boss of her.” In her book, Starry-Eyed, she also confesses about hiding in the bathroom so she doesn’t have to share the last brownie with her kids. In addition to being a mother of three children, she is the President and CEO of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). MOPS was created to help encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as mothers, women and leaders. It was founded in 1973 and today serves millions of moms in more than 40 countries. Their scope has grown to include moms of school-age children, teens and military. Risen caught up with Arito to learn more about her new book, the “perfect mom” myth, and the importance of fellowship.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: What would you say is one of the common things all moms struggle with?
Mandy Arioto: If I had to say one thing that all moms struggle with it is the idea that “I have to do it all and I have to do it all well.” Even when I travel overseas, I see the same message. We all want to nail this mommy thing and do everything we are doing and do it really well. We want our kids to thrive. That is a pervasive feeling that we all are working through.
RM: Why is fellowship with other moms and women so important?
MA: The idea of how much women need each other started for me when I was watching my girls. I have two little girls and we developed a thing in our family called, “sister courage,” which means when one of them is afraid to do something by themselves one of the girls will ask, “Do you need sister courage?” And the other girl will go with her and help her. I realized we all desperately need one another to stand next to us and to remind us that we are not alone. I think that it is especially true in disorienting circumstances in life and one of those is when you have kids.
RM: How can moms manage the feelings of comparing or the need to compete?
MA: What I see most, is less of people competing with one another and more competing with themselves. I feel like the “mommy wars” so to speak are done and women see themselves on the same team in so many ways. Rather, our competition is against ourselves. We want to appear like we have it all together. We can appreciate people who are willing to say, “I don’t have it all together.” We actually love them more for it.
RM: n your book, Starry-Eyed, you challenge readers to confront the “ghosts” in their past, accept their failures, relinquish control and ultimately recognize that no one is perfect. As a mom you are speaking from experience. What was one of your “a-ha” moments?
MA: Every single day, when I take my kids to school, there’s a woman in the drop-off line that has it “together.” She is dressed, full-face of make-up, hair done, and on point. Every day, I look at her and think, “She has it together and I totally do not.” I parked my car a couple of months ago and struck up a conversation with her because I was feeling jealous and decided that I needed to become her friend and learn her secrets. I went up to her car and invited her out to coffee. As I’ve gotten to know her over the months I have learned that there are lots of things that are far from perfect in her life. It was this “a-ha” moment of when you dive into people’s stories and put yourself in their shoes.
RM: You share that you regain your joy and perspective when you are given permission to live free and not feel like you need to be in control. Practically speaking, how do you do that?
MA: I have to work really hard at that because I really like to be in control and have everything organized and together. I have to give myself permission that not everything is going to go exactly how it should all of the time. I spend 15 minutes with each kid looking at them in the eye and having conversations with them. Having that time with each kid really frees me a lot. It gives me permission to laugh with them and be silly. It’s really an intentional process on my part because I have a tendency to be serious and focused.