I want to be a good mom.
You want to be a good mom too, right?
A decade and four kids into motherhood, I still haven’t nailed down what a “good mom” is.
I thought I had it pegged once. When I entered motherhood, my list of expectations of what a good mom was read something like this:
1. Patient and loving ALL OF THE TIME
2. Organic and natural ALWAYS
3. Well read, researched and readily applying theory to foster the wellbeing of my child.
(Do I need to continue…)
Essentially, I was going to be a super mom raising a super baby.
I was completely delusional and unrealistic, but how many of you had this same vision of conquering motherhood? How many of you out there tried to be supermom…..and failed?
The way I look at it, motherhood knocked the wind out of my perfection sails or rather, my supermom cape. I was forced to surrender and accept I am flawed, imperfect, and don’t know what the heck I am doing:
1. I STRIVE TO BE patient and loving
2. I am organic and natural SOMETIMES
3. I am well read and researched, but I RARELY apply any theory to raising my children: I just lead from the heart and wing it.
Some days I am grateful I came crashing into motherhood the way I did, because it made me humble and hungry for answers, perhaps more helpful to you.
See, I once thought I was going to be the most perfect and happy mom ever because I was a perfectionist with a masters degree in the science of happiness. The first book I dreamed of writing was how to be “Positively Pregnant” (eye roll…)
That’s the sort of book I cringe at these days.
Let’s just say a traumatic birth experience and postpartum anxiety buried that book real fast….
I cannot live up to the expectation of perfection or serial happiness. I also don’t need anyone telling me I need to tackle motherhood any better than I am. Neither do you. All these parenting experts need to just chill out and understand we are doing the best we can. No, I don’t care how well-researched their argument was……have they been in the trenches of motherhood?????
Did I mention I really wanted to be one of these parenting “experts” once…
But I am not a perfect mom so I have no business being a parenting expert.
I can’t even say that I’m always a good mom (though I try).
I've decided I am a resilient mom, and I am not going to pretend I am any better than that:
I try, I stumble, I keep going.....so if you are interested in hearing about how I do that (keep going), then stick around.
Parenting is hard and I say we need to ignore all the chatter that makes us feel less than we are in any moment, and just show up with love.
Love is always the foundation of my resilience.
Yup - all my reading, research, and experience, and that’s the best I can come up with.
In fact, a girlfriend sent me yet another article full of advice on how to parent, and asked what I thought about the “techniques” it suggested.
I replied, “All well and good. Thoughtful and researched….but just too complicated. Honestly, this sort of stuff makes my head spin.”
It was the suggestion to make my "don't" response a "do" to empower my kids that really threw me....
I understand the theory behind this suggestion but as a real mom, sometimes I am just too plain tired to think about how to do anything differently.
She asked, "Then what would you say..what article/book would you write on parenting advice?"
I reiterated my earth shattering “Just show up with love” theory because it’s all I can muster in the trenches of motherhood.
Do you really want me to tell you how to better manage a temper tantrum? I mean, I can…there are things that technically will work, but when you are exhausted and your kid is crying incessantly over something insignificant, what you really need is just to survive that emotional outburst as best you can and know you aren’t alone.
Take for example, the Wednesday morning banana tantrum: I got two on the bus and I am trying to get two more out the door. The four-year-old demands a banana (even though he already ate breakfast) but I give it to him so we can just get to where we need to be without conflict.
As I am wrestling the toddler into her shoes, I hear a whiney complaint that, "Mamma, it’s not the banana with the sticker."
I point to the sticker on the banana I intentionally chose, because I know the Chiquita sticker makes banana's taste better to him.
Anyway, I peeled it for him in advance knowing he would ask this next. Enter the meltdown of the century:
“I didn’t want it peeled. I wanted to do it myself!”
Do I really need to tell you that if I didn’t peel the banana, he would’ve asked me to do it?
I don’t know if there is a way to analyze his behavior other than he is four and this is the sort of nonsense four-year-olds pull sometimes.
But this is the moment I should find a way to "empower" him? Right....
Want to know how I handled this one? I took that banana away and carried him to the car kicking, screaming, and shoeless. He carried on about the banana he didn’t want peeled all the way to school.
I didn’t yell. All 15 minutes of that ride I was oddly calm. I zoned out. I turned up the music, and I thought about the next article I was going to write.
Is ignoring a parenting technique? I probably could package this up as a moment of “flow” (I posted on that earlier this week) and sell it to you. But if you are reading this and are/have parented a four-year-old, you would roll your eyes at me if I told you I channeled a moment of flow to survive a tantrum.
Want to know what stopped this tantrum? Wasn’t me. Nope. I had no idea how to shut him up, but his teacher did. She bribed him with a cookie.
…I’m pretty sure there is a parenting book out there that would say bribing a kid with food is not a good thing, but I was damn grateful for that cookie and the silence it evoked.
In the same moment, I felt terrible leaving my boy behind at school so sad. However, there was no time to lament my parenting fail because I was off to the elementary school for Children's Book Week. I signed up to wear a costume during a book reading because a mom friend of mine said this is the sort of thing that would make my second grader really happy.
Let’s just say that after I danced around as a giant donut (complete with light up eyes and sprinkles) there is no way to describe the joy on my daughter’s face when she realized it was me. This priceless moment was a parenting win right after a parenting fail.
Yesterday, I was back at book week again to dress as an elephant for my kindergartener.
In these two moments I felt like a really good mom.
Before you go beating yourself up for not doing THIS for your kid, can I tell you that I was so tired from my costume wearing escapades this week on top of my ordinary “I am raising four kids under 8 chaos,” I couldn’t pull off a proper dinner last night.
I put my kids in front of the TV and popped a frozen pizza in the oven. It was organic, ok?
I burned it.
Yup, couldn’t even get a frozen pizza right: #dinnertimefail.
But I’m not going to harp on that failure, because I was a dancing donut and an elephant all in the same week.
Besides, my older kids ate the burnt pizza without complaint because they know I went out of my way for them this week. The baby threw most of it on the floor but that's just what she's best at lately. As for the banana tantrum kid….he just complains about everything regardless of whether it is burnt or not, but when he isn’t four anymore, and moves onto elementary school, I’ll dress up in a costume and make him smile too. Until then, we are going to battle it out about things like bananas and what color cup he gets his third serving of apple juice in. When he drives me nuts, I smother him with kisses until he laughs because I know that, "This too shall pass" means all of it……
Anyway, this week, I learned that moving towards our children with love and laughter whenever/however we can is what they really need and the stuff that makes the memories they keep.
No…I am not saying you need to go find yourself a donut costume to show your kid love - just find a way to do it whenever/however you can.
And don’t harp so much on your failures. They, I have learned, are inevitable. Since there’s no clear way to define success in motherhood, it’s more productive to focus on what went well in the chaos.
I suppose the long and short of it all is that on any given day, I’m both good and bad….I'm not sure what ratio that needs to be for me to be earn the label “good” but maybe all that matters is I am real. I am a real live mom doing the best I can just like you.
So here’s an early Happy Mother's Day to all of the real moms out there just surviving the trenches with me. I wasn’t the only mom in costume this week - there were several of us -
and even more behind the scenes making Children's Book Week happen. In all honesty, I look at the moms who surround me in my community and I am constantly inspired, always honored to be among them.
Needless to say, there are many of us striving to be good moms, but maybe all that matters is that we are REAL moms:
Emotional, strong, tired, resilient, worried, hopeful, loving, imperfect, overwhelmed, amazing, doubtful......
But life changing in the moments we show up with LOVE.
May your hearts be filled with love this Mother's Day and always.