I wake up ornery, every little thing bugs me; Cora demands to pick her own shirt out…”No, I do it myself.” She spills her yogurt and wants to clean it up with a cloth towel instead of a paper one and then goes on to repeat words at a high rate, clamoring for my immediate attention, “Mommy, look. Mommy, look. Mommy, LOOK.” We’ve been up for 20 minutes and I’m seriously about to explode. I can’t think straight. I feel so negative towards my daughter. I feel like a beast.
What is the deal here? This is not me, it’s not me at all. I mean it’s not the me I picture myself to be, who I have been in the past or who I am striving to be. But it was me in the moment.
I have felt so lost for a while now. I am not even sure when it started. I could have been when we changed wards and I got 2 new callings, when I started my journey as part-time working mom or when Cora started having a stronger personality with opinions, specific desires and likes and dislikes. I still can’t pin point it. The point is I feel as though I’m swimming in a sea of responsibilities and challenges. I’m tired and confused and am desperately looking for stillness in order to rejuvenate my soul and organize my life, just to get a handle on things. But every direction I look there is no relief- whether its dishes or a tantrum, there is just another wave coming. I mean, keeping my head above water feels exhausting in itself, let alone being strong enough to swim through waves. Even thinking about changing things to improve my life has been overwhelming so I just keep doggy paddling…
I have had multiple breakdowns in the last few months- like bad ones. The kind where it’s really a tragic sight- total sobbing, snot sniffing, blubbering, silent crying- the works. I’ve said things like, “I don’t know how I am supposed to do it all,” or “I don’t know how to be a mom.”
Amazing women in my life have given me genuine and heartfelt advice like,
“Just do your best and the Lord will make up the difference.”
“If you try to be the best mom you can be, then you are the best mom they can have.”
“If you are really curious about how you are doing as a mother, ask the Lord. He is the only one that really knows.”
“Take some things off of your plate and don’t try to do so much.”
As much as I wanted their words to fix me, they didn’t. I heard the goodness and truth that exists in their advice but for some reason it could not resonate with me. I couldn’t embrace the concept.
Going into motherhood, as many of you did, I came with really big ideas on how to be the perfect parent. I mean who better to know than a kid that has observed a parenting style for 23 years? I mean that completely qualifies me, right? (so wrong.) I wanted to improve upon what my parents did for me. I wanted to take their goodness and fix their mistakes and subconsciously (I’m realizing now) I wanted to be THE PERFECT MOM; never giving my kids a REASON to not like me, disrespect me, or be annoyed with me. I would be their ultimate idol and they would LOVE having me as their mom. I can hear some experienced mothers chuckling in my head, but this was a serious desire of mine, implanted deeply in my heart.
I really thought it was possible and so for two years now I have been on this journey of trying to be perfect. Up until 6 months ago, it wasn’t beyond my limits. I did what a “perfect” mom in my mind would do: I gave birth naturally, co-slept, breastfed for 21 months, practiced attachment parenting, was super patient with my very high-demand baby, played with her all the time, didn’t work or go to school, went on little adventures, took lots of pictures, made healthy food, and so on. Although life still had its challenges I was feeling like a rockin the mom deal. I started to wonder what overwhelmed moms were talking about. To me, motherhood was totally doable. Hard sometimes, but doable.
Well enter in the above mentioned major transitions and my life feels like a literal roller-coaster. I don’t know what is right or what is wrong when it comes to how to parent. I feel guilty for not spending as much time with Cora but at the same time love having a professional outlet for myself to thrive in. I especially hate days when I’ve felt super annoyed with her and then I see others having so much fun with her when we visit- makes me feel awful. I feel motivated to play with her one day and then totally bored out of my mind the next. I feel on top of housework in the morning and then unmotivated to clean up by the end of the day. I read my scriptures for a few days and then don’t until I get inspired to at church the next week. I am so patient with Cora’s tantrums one day and then am a ticking crying time-bomb the next.
I not only have felt totally all over the place but it has felt SO PAINFUL as I’ve been in this situation because it is the exact opposite of what I set out to be. I set out to be perfect mom remember?? Not only did I want to be “perfect” just to avoid my kids not liking me, but because I was trying to make up for the things that my parents didn’t do for me. Sometimes in my childhood, I felt pain because of what they did or didn’t do. They were really great parents, but as a kid with my lack of knowledge, I chose to feel a certain way about their actions. So when I catch myself doing or not doing those same things as my parents, I get a double dose of pain – imperfection guilt and reliving some deep hurt I felt as a kid. These two emotions combined have made me feel like an ultimate failure. I am what I was avoiding. My quest in motherhood seemed to be a loss.
Enter in – total confusion. My heart is still trying to be perfect but my mind, body and emotions only have so much to give! I feel like I am doing what is right, but it doesn’t coincide with my vision of a perfect mother. I give and I give but still it never is enough. It is never enough… for ME.
It is ME that is in the way of my mothering.
I realize that I have been mothering out of fear. I have been trying so hard to be on top of everything because I am so scared that my children will have any negative thoughts toward me. I have had such high expectations of myself that really aren’t achievable.
Although it is good to strive to be better, I need to dissemble my pattern of thinking at its root by accepting that I will never be the perfect mother. Kids are brutal, let’s be honest. They’ll probably never think I am the perfect mother, no matter how much I sacrifice for them. In fact my kids could very well hate the way I parent, look down on me for my weaknesses, compare me to their friends’ moms, never want to spend time with me and never see the many things that I do for them. I might feel like nothing I do matters.
As I talked to my husband for a few hours about this subject on Saturday afternoon, I could feel the burden start to lift off of my shoulders. It’s definitely not gone, because this pattern of thinking has been there for a while, but I have hope for my future as a mother.
I feel liberated. Instead of being ruled by my fears and governed by what my kids might think of me, I am now on my way to living my life to the best of my ability while still accepting that I have major flaws and weaknesses, and THAT IS OK. I can be a mom with weaknesses and STILL be a good mom! Who knew??
We need to break the mold of feeling guilty as mothers and learn to accept that we are only human. We are humans that can grow, change, and improve most definitely but that is over time. I am not going to figure out how to balance my husband, kids, extended family, the house, work, my hobbies, church, etc. overnight. It is going to be a process and it’s ok if I mess up during that process. And it’s most definitely ok that my kids see me mess up.
We live in a world that demands perfection. From supermodels to pinterest, we are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us that we need to go above and beyond to be good mothers, that the way we look, the crafts we create and the parties we plan define us, and that unless we meet a physical standard that only exists through photoshop, we are not beautiful enough. In this crazy world we live in, one of the best things we can do for our children is to show them that it is ok to be who they are- strengths, weaknesses, talents, and quirks. It is ok to be human! And what greater gift than to show them how to accept their shortcomings and learn and grow from them.
Every day I will strive to be the best mom I can be. Some days that will mean providing patient responses to my little red-head and taking her on a fun adventure. Other days, it will mean making sure she is dressed (in her pajamas still. That’s dressed right?), and trying to muster a smile to make up for the annoyed tone I spoke to her in.
Now that I have started to dissolve the self-judgement I was inflicting on myself, I feel like I can now be open to the advice that others have given me. I am starting to release my fears of inadequacy. I am ready to accept that I am enough. I am able to embrace the idea that the best mother for Cora is the best me I can be in the moment, and that will always change. I am ready to converse with the Lord and let him guide me and mold me. I am ready to accept and love myself with my faults. I don’t need to be the perfect mother.
The more and more I parent, the more experiences I have that have put me in an exact parallel with my mother. I realize on a deeper level what it takes to deal with the same challenges she has faced in motherhood and my mind has been opened and my heart deeply touched. Instead of regretfully thinking, “I am turning out just like my mother,” I am beginning to gratefully realize, “I am turning out just like my mother,”-Beautifully strong, diligent, but most importantly, human.
I realize that I do know how to be a mom, I just have to be me.