(And other ridiculous conclusions we make in the trenches.)
I’m about to get real and vulnerable with y’all. So let’s purge some heavy truths shall we? Crack open the muddled illusions that we’re all “fine” and “okay”. Cause I gotta tell ya, some days, I’m not so fine. Some days, I’m completely unravelling and it’s messy and volatile and I feel like I have no outlet for it. Of course, I don’t wanna keep it bottled up but it doesn’t seem like the type of thing you just blurt out in a causal exchange with the cashier at the grocery store, when they ask “how are you?”.
I prefer for people (including myself) to believe that I’ve got it all together. It seems easier this way, although, I’m not fooling anyone, least of all myself. I eventually crumble under the weight of this self-imposed torture and it almost always is at the most inconvenient of times.
I mean, what’s wrong with admitting that you’re not okay, when you’re not okay? Why is this so damn difficult?
Even on my good days, I can’t completely shake this feeling that I could fall apart at any moment; especially if someone happens to poke a sore spot; an area of my life where I feel like I’m failing. Case in point, my son’s sleeping schedule right now. Somehow, his not sleeping through the night is a big ol’ F on my parenting report card.
It doesn’t help that there’s this gooey glob of emotion and insecurity just sitting right there, at the surface, waiting to unleash its fury at the first innocuous event that punctures the thinning layer of armour.
Do other moms feel this raw? I often wonder this. Am I the only one? I mean, of course I’m not, but why does it feel this way? It’s not shocking to me that no-one wants to talk about the raw, ugly bits of motherhood. It’s uncomfortable and potentially opens you up to all sorts of critique and ridicule.
For sure, I’m most embarrassed about my anger. I fly off the handle at the most benign of situations, that typically involve my husband, poor chap. He gets the brunt of it. Sometimes it feels like a giant fire hose I can’t switch off.
My level of struggle can easily be measured by the number of times I utter the statement “I can’t do this anymore!” in a given week. On a good week, I might not say it at all or maybe only once. On a bad week, it’s in the double digits.
Fortunately, I always manage to continue on. I don’t actually run away, despite my many threats. Somehow, I can even muster the energy and patience to calmly push forward even when I’m feeling tired, insecure or angry. It’s kind of an amazing feat and I always, in the calm of the storm acknowledge that it’s 100% worth it.
There’s no predictability, formula or solutions with parenting. It’s cold hard “trial and error” (where there is more error than not) and an enormous amount of “trusting your gut”. I guess that explains the intense emotions, huh?!
I do feel that I need to pause and add this important caveat amidst this “let’s get real” rant and that is, being a mom is the single best gig I have ever had. It has made me profoundly happy. One of my points of pride is this ferocious assertiveness and protectiveness I’ve developed since becoming a mother. I could probably take down a grizzly bear with my bare hands if it looked at my child the wrong way. No joke. It’s fierce.
Also, being a mom is super rad (yep, rad! I’m a child of the 80’s, can you tell?). It is so neat to watch this little being learn everything about the world from ground zero. There are so many exciting adventures and amazing discoveries to be had (for both him and me). Also, kids are hilarious. I definitely laugh daily, even on the really hard days. Toddlers bring a constant stream of goofiness into your life. On a superficial note, I also appreciate that I can wear leggings and not wash my hair for a week and my friends and family still love me. Some of them (God love ’em), even tell me I look great.
As rad as being a parent is, it’s also hard. Like really hard. A lot of times, I convince myself that it’s hard because I’m not cut out for it or I’m doing it wrong. Occasionally, I wonder “is there a secret to this whole mom thing that I don’t get?” Of course, there isn’t, but I still search longingly for it in my Google searches.
I do think there’s one really important trick to surviving motherhood that I’m still far from embracing entirely and that is, getting okay with failure. I hear so many moms, myself included, categorize themselves as “bad mothers” when they make mistakes. We worry so much about being judged for our humanness, all because we’re held to such impossible standards. A woman I met just yesterday, very nonchalantly called herself a “bad mom” as she told a story of forgetting to pack her kids’ bathing suits for their lake weekend.
I know I’ve uttered these words often enough about myself, but hearing them as a third party witness, really accentuates the ridiculousness of it. You are definitely not a “bad mom” because you forgot your children’s’ bathing suits, and I did reassure her of this. She just smiled and shrugged. I probably would have responded with the same dismissiveness.
Shouldn’t the notion of a “bad” parent be reserved for scenarios of abuse and neglect only?!?
I would venture to guess that this is not the majority of parents. Most us love our children and do our best. I wholeheartedly believe we need to remove “bad mom” from our vocabularies completely!
I also think this is something specific to motherhood. You don’t hear dads going around calling themselves “bad dads” or for that matter, I can’t think of a scenario where I’ve heard anyone say that in a causal conversation. Moms get all the criticism and pressure of perfection and it’s not okay! This stuff is deep-rooted in our society and no one is going to single-handedly eliminate it but we could all do a better job of acknowledging it’s toxicity and calling it out when we see it happening.
So here’s what I’m going to do and maybe you want to do one or all of these things as well.
- Take time to write down the things that make me a good mom. Read them aloud.
- Tell other women what makes them good moms, even if their skills and approach differ from mine. There are more ways than one to be “good”.
- Try to be conscious of making the “bad mom” statement, whether it be about myself or another mom. It’s not true so don’t give it any power.
I really hope this resonates with you in one way or another. Maybe, it’s very much a part of your current reality. Perhaps, it’s something you’ve observed often in your life. Or you may just appreciate the frankness of my rant.
I suspect you probably know someone else who could also relate to this so encourage you to forward it on in solidarity. Share it on Facebook or in an email by copying and pasting the link.
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Be good to yourselves and others.