Today I felt like a bad mom.
I know I’m not, and I reminded myself of that. Several times.
I still felt like a bad mom.
Most days I know that the mom I want to be, that I dream of being in my head, the one who looks so good on paper, the one who puts on real clothes every morning, and even wears make up, the one who keeps up with the laundry and the dishes and also bakes and prepares nutritious meals, the one who always speaks patiently with her children and does a million crafts and projects and other educational activities all day, all without getting frustrated or flustered, all without reaching total exhaustion, the one who never resorts to sticking her kids in front of the tv just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet, the one who smiles all day because she is so darn good at being mom… she is a fake.
She can’t exist in real life.
But sometimes I am fooled into thinking that she does exist.
She is the mom I see at Target with the four well-behaved children in matching outfits. There’s no way that her children would ever scream no in her face and then go do the exact opposite of what she just asked.
She is the mom I see at church with her children sitting in the row next to her calmly and quietly coloring and not making a scene. Her child would never walk into a crowded service from their classroom and scream at the top of their lungs, “Mommy! I have to go pee!!!” (Yes. That really happened.)
She is the mom I see on Facebook or Instagram who always wears the cutest clothes and who has the most perfect, beautiful children who all play instruments and never eat processed foods. Her kitchen could never have a giant stack of day old dishes waiting to be washed.
I see these moms and I assume that while I feel as if I’m unraveling at the ends, they are all part of some secret perfect mom society with an awesome secret handshake and I will never be allowed in the door.
Then I force myself back to reality and remind myself that what I see of other moms in public, or on social networks, is usually the best of the best. Let’s face it, we all want to be as cool and calm and collected as possible in front of other people, we usually share our proudest moments not our most humiliating moments on facebook and instagram, and who wants to tweet about their huge parenting fails anyway? And it’s not a bad thing. I don’t think people are being superficial, or trying to hide anything, it is completely natural to share the good moments with people, but today as I thought on that I realized that just like a little girl looking in a magazine and comparing herself to the photoshopped image of a super model and finding herself coming up short, if I don’t remember to keep my interactions with other moms in perspective, I can easily find myself comparing and coming up short.
So I decided to let all of that go. I have amazing mama friends in my life. Some I see regularly, some I see not often enough and some dear wonderful friends of mine I have never even met in person, thanks to the wonder of the internet, and social networks. I am so thankful for these women and for the love and encouragement they bring into my life. And I know that they are all as real as they come. With strengths and weaknesses and if I spend any time comparing myself to them then I am spending less time just loving them and building friendships with them and that is what I truly desire!
Then I took a long hard look at myself and decided to treat myself with grace and dignity. Being a mom is hard work. I used to be in charge of 50 people on a daily basis and thinking back to those days is like going on vacation. Moms do not get enough credit. And I realized something. SOMETIMES I do things that I regret or am frustrated at myself for or wish I could take back, but there are also things that I ALWAYS do and those are the things that really matter in the end.
For instance, the following only happened once but it wasn’t my proudest moment …
One time, husband and I were leading a missions trip team in London, England. It was Christmas Eve and we had been busy with ministry all day. We got back to the church we were sleeping at and I discovered that baby Ezra was poopy. I was also out of diapers. Also, every single business establishment in London seems to shut down on Christmas Eve. So after searching for anything to substitute as a diaper and coming up short, I ended up scraping the poo out of the diaper, lining the inside with toilet paper, and putting the dirty diaper back onto my child. After buying fresh diapers the following morning I found a stray diaper in my suitcase that I had missed the evening before. Not my brightest parenting moment.
Sometimes after a long day at home with the boys, I am exhausted and so easily frustrated, and I use an ugly voice when talking to my boys. On more than one occasion, Ezra has looked at me with the saddest eyes and said, “Don’t yell at me mommy.” And my heart breaks.
Sometimes my kids spend the entire day in their pajamas.
Sometimes I let my kids watch way too many shows in a day because I don’t have the energy to come up with something else to do.
Sometimes, when Ezra takes a nap, he isn’t tired at bed time and instead of forcing him to go to sleep we watch movies together until midnight.
Sometimes, my kids snack all day because they refuse to eat anything of nutritional value and I don’t know how to make them.
These things, and many other things that I’m not overly proud of, happen SOMETIMES.
I thought about these things today. I thought about how I didn’t really like these things about myself. Then I thought about how stupid it was for me to feel like a bad mom because of the things that I do sometimes, when there are a lot of things that I ALWAYS do no matter how tired I am or how long of a day it has been.
I always make time for kissing and cuddles.
I always respond to my kids when they talk to me, I don’t ever ignore them or make them feel like what they have to say is unimportant.
I always look my kids in the eye.
I always tell my boys how wonderful and smart and creative they are.
I always say I love you.
I always say I’m sorry when I’ve raised my voice or spoken in an unkind way.
I always put their needs above my own.
I always pray for them at bedtime (and a million other times throughout the day).
I always do the very best that I can to be the best mom possible. Not the perfect mom. Just the very best one that I can possibly be for them, and when I disappoint myself I get up and keep going because what my kids need is not a mom who mopes around feeling like a bad mom. They need a mom who did everything she possibly could and who also gave herself a break and showed herself some grace when she needed it.
Today I learned that I need to learn from (sometimes laugh at) and let go of the things that happen SOMETIMES and focus on the things that ALWAYS happen. As long as those things keep happening, then I think we’ll be alright.
And I’ll have a lot more peace.
I can still be a mom who loves her kids, who loves to bake, who can spend hours crocheting, who come up with silly projects and fun games and loves to go on adventures, but I can also remind myself that no one is able to do those things, and keep a meticulous house and have perfectly groomed children, all day every day and not reach exhaustion and need some time for herself.
I am human.
I am a mom.
And I love my job.
Some days my kids won’t wear pants, they’ll eat cookies for breakfast and they might watch one too many episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba…
But they will ALWAYS be deeply and fiercely loved.
And in the end… nothing else matters.
Now it’s your turn, my readers! If you are willing to share a SOMETIMES story, maybe a silly little mom blooper that you can laugh at now, and an ALWAYS story, a ritual or a tradition that your family shares that showcases your love, I would absolutely love to hear them! You can share on here, or if you are on FB or Instagram, feel free to share there! I think it is so healthy for us as moms to share in each others triumphs and to also laugh with each other at the things that often don’t go according to plan along this parenting journey.
Then we can all come up with a secret handshake for the Real Life Mom Society and anyone who wants to come is welcome. Sweat pants or yoga pants and hair in a pony tail will be our uniform and chocolate cake will be served at every meeting.
Lots of love to all of you mamas out there tonight.
You are truly incredible.