My daughter doesn't want an imperfect mother. But here I am, sick in bed with the flu and of no use to anyone, which doesn't fit in at all with her concept of the perfect mother. Nevertheless, I am surprisingly free of guilt. This is just the way it is right now. Not everything is within my control.

My tendency to get sick is not the only part of me that is imperfect, and yet, it is the only imperfection that doesn't induce even a small measure of guilt. Everything else seems somehow to fall under the realm of my control, into that fantasy realm of: "It should be otherwise. It could be otherwise if only I…" What would life be like, I wonder, if I could view all my imperfections as blamelessly and dispassionately as I view this flu? If I could really accept that I am not in control, and perhaps not even capable of perfection.

In a day without guilt, sleep is no longer an earned indulgenceA Day in a Life Without Guilt: My son comes into the kitchen. He takes out the cereal, and opens the fridge. "We're out of milk," he exclaims, surprised that I hadn't anticipated this early morning need with a pre-emptive shop.

"I'm glad you mentioned it," I reply. "Would you mind jotting that down on the shopping list?"

"But what will I have with my cereal?" he complains.

"Yogurt?" I suggest.

He studies the fridge. "Nope, we are out of that too."

"Okay, better add that to the list as well," I respond.

As the list grows, I don't feel any corresponding sense of heaviness. I know that yesterday, I got to the essentials, and today will be similar. Lightheartedly, I take the list and head out to the corner grocery store. We've identified what we need. All that is left is to meet the need.

Later that day my husband calls. "What's doing?" he asks.

"Nothing's doing," I respond.

"Do you have any plans for today?" he asks.

"Yes, I am planning on taking a nap. I am tired."

Both of us know I can still function when I am tired, but it goes without saying that tired people sleep. Nobody asks how I can justify being tired, how I can allow myself to sleep. In a day without guilt, sleep is no longer an earned indulgence. It is simply a response to being tired.

But what about deeper imperfections, and real areas of brokenness? Is it possible to acknowledge their existence and forgive ourselves for being imperfect, even as we struggle to grow? If a mom can have the flu, can she also have a broken heart, a quick temper, or an absent-minded nature? Can we raise our children to be a little more whole than we are ourselves?

I think about this as I watch my daughter struggle to integrate my temporary illness into her worldview. Right now, I can't be other than what I am, but I can still be her mother. Is it possible to take this further, I wonder, and mother her more deeply, from the depths of who I am, from the darkest, cob-webbed corners of my soul, despite the lack of perfection these dark corners conceal?