"Even if I'm setting myself up for failure, I think it's worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn't fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn't worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she's both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad. "
There must be something in the air. Maybe it started with the infamous blog post judging a mother on her iPhone at the park. Or maybe it started with the thousand responses to that, judging the person who judged. There was a great one I loved from Chantal, and a couple more passed around on Facebook (this and this). It's as if someone drew a line in the sand of good moms/bad moms, and arbitrarily pushed us all to one side or the other. Thank goodness it isn't really that simple.
The week after Millie was born, I wrote a post about the unexpected things that had happened already. I haven't really written one like it since then. The thing is, I knew there would be some 'survival' days while Sky was gone. I guess I didn't realize how many of them there would be. Just about every day, I have moments of guilt. It's not even from comparing myself to other moms. I compare myself to the image in my head of a me that could do it all perfectly. I should be doing this better. This should be easier by now.
I have had to lower my standards with him away. In fact, I've probably had to lower them a bit since the day Millie was born. Most mornings now, Millie sits in front of something on PBS while I guzzle coffee and try to lift those early hours of fog away. She's had to spend nearly a whole day a week- and during midterms, even more- with my dad just so I can get all of my homework done. Dinner isn't fresh fish or organic, vegan something- but it has been Spaghettios, a monotonous turkey sandwich, or part of a frozen pizza. There have been plenty of days where the two of us stay in our pajamas from the night before. And there have been lots of days where I planned to take her to the indoor park or the library and end up too tired to ever make it out the door.
But you know what? I'm not failing as a mother- because my two year old says please and thank you. I'm not failing as a mother because I'm teaching her to be kind to people and love God. I'm not failing as a mother because nearly every time I tell her that I love her, she nods and says, "Mmhmm." She hears it so often, she takes it for granted, and I love that. I'm not failing as a mother because she wants to do everything 'like Mama' right now, and in God's mercy, some of those things are good things.
And I'm not failing even when we went to a pancake place for dinner last night. She sat beside me in her booster seat, leaning against my shoulder off and on, dancing to the Muzak playing overhead. She put down her bacon and began to stroke my hair, and say, "Mommy, I taking care of you." I nearly broke down into tears in the middle of that Denny's. She learned that at home.
It's hard for me to even write those things- it feels like going into an interview and rattling off all my accomplishments and good bits. But you know what? We write those things on our resume for a reason- because those things are a part of us. Sometimes, I think us mamas downplay everything positive we do- maybe out of humility, or not feeling like they make up for the negative things- and focus on all we believe we're doing wrong. It's sad, though, because we have it hard enough as mothers.
We know that this is the most important job we'll ever have- and gosh, isn't that a lot of pressure? It's like telling someone they must get 100% on a test. And when they get a 99%, the tears start flowing because they aren't perfect. The big secret is that none of us are, but that doesn't mean we've failed. Even on the days we give ourselves a bad grade, we get the chance to do it all over again the next day. And these babies of ours give us much more grace than we ever give ourselves.
I'm writing this for myself just as much as anyone else. Because I know, in a matter of minutes or hours, I will already feel like I've screwed it up again. There is so much more to being a good mama than what we feed our kids, or if we're on our phones at the park, or if we can get through a day that would make a good Leave It to Beaver show. We're good mothers because we keep going. We do this every day.
And practice might not make perfect, but that's okay. Our kids deserve realness, not perfection.