Have you ever had a mom low point that was so rough that it knocked you right back on your butt and made you feel like you were doing absolutely everything wrong? Being a mom is hard. I mean question yourself, cry after they go to bed, guilt-ridden, love them so fiercely that sometimes it feels like you might die…hard. Sometimes it’s so hard that I just want to throw my hands up and walk away and other times, I want to crumple up on the floor and assume the fetal position but other times, like tonight, when I feel like a complete failure, my instinct is to fight as hard as I can for what is certainly the most precious and important thing in my life, my girls.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t post too often during the holidays. I was in a proverbial Nutcracker dug hole. You see, I had this dream of what my daughters’ childhood would look like and it was the complete opposite of mine. I wanted them to have extravagant parties (because I had none). I wanted them to be well rounded and that meant culture so there needed to play an instrument, play a sport and learn a language and on top of all of that, I expected good no GREAT grades. Okay, I had some of that but I had a lot of hard times and dysfunction and I never wanted any of that for them. Bottom line, I wanted to protect them from any hardship but I’ve realized hardships come in many different forms.
My rule was if they wanted to try it, I was going to support it but still, I had expectations of my daughters but I was mindful not to put labels on them or to compare them to others or to be too hard on them. When I was a small child, I was labeled “gifted” (I hate that stupid term. It’s meaningless.) because of my IQ but all that did was pigeonhole me onto the college prep FastTrack, from about 7-years-old on, I had no choice in the matter. My life was laid out for me.
Even when all my grades were A’s, the unavoidable, “why aren’t they A+s?” always followed. I never felt good enough and there was no time or budget for me to do frivolous things like extracurriculars unless they were school provided. In fact, when all of my friends were taking things like typing and art in high school, I was taking what today would be considered AP everything, plus on the newspaper, the yearbook and taking 2 foreign languages. I graduated with a gold seal on my diploma but I hated school because it was just layered upon layer of expectations for me. It wasn’t about experiences; it was about winning. What the prize was, I never figured out. It must have been that f*cking meaningless gold seal. In return, I have never felt adequate enough. Ever. That is the last thing I want for my children.
I’ve been keeping my mom shit together pretty good over the years, sure it’s held together by duct tape and bubble gum like I’m the effing mom MacGyver but I thought I was doing a good job. Sure, I have an occasional mom low point but mostly, I thought my mom skills were on point. I tell my kids not to measure themselves against others, and yet, I almost constantly measure my failures against my friend’s perceived triumphs. I tell my girls they are perfect but all I do is see my own flaws. I am parenting the do as I say not as I do way and it’s not what I wanted. Not at all.
Anyways, the girls are, by all accounts, thriving. They play the violin, dance in the city’s ballet youth company, they tap and do jazz, there is gymnastics and cheer and oh, yes, choir plus the grades are always all “A”s but there are no recesses, no playdates, no rest and no down time. Every minute is filled with STUFF and for what? In 12 years, who is going to care if they did all of this? They’re missing experiences and for the first time ever, the report card didn’t show all “A”s. I’m failing my children again. Alert: Mom low point!
I know that is not the end of the world but the thing is it wasn’t because my kids aren’t smart enough, it’s because they simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to their homework because they were so overbooked. They had to miss school for performances and then they got sick because they were so run down. Now, I’m sitting here feeling like the world’s shittiest mom because I let this happen to them. I allowed this perfect storm of disappointment to come into their lives when I’m the one who should have protected them from it.
Friends and family (including the Big Guy) have been telling me for years to cut it back to save myself a headache but I would not relent because it felt selfish. Now, I see that I need to cut things back because it’s too much for them and that’s all it’s ever really been about. So today, I’m getting rid of things in our lives. I’m cutting the fat so that we can enjoy these few years they have left at home. I don’t care if they are not doing all the things.
Parenting today is nothing like when my parents raised me. We did less and they were accountable for less. My God, I grew up in the time of no seatbelts and riding in the back of pick-up trucks. I played outside until the streetlights came on and I walked all over town with my friends, with no cell phone or chip. The goal was graduating high school without going to jail or ending up pregnant or a serial killer. By the standards, my parents did a bang up job. But things are different now, parenting is not about getting by. It’s a measure of your worth as a human being, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent because if it’s not about the kids…what’s it all been for? That’s not just my own opinion, it’s societies. If you’re a stay-at-home parent and your child is not perfect, you suck. Well, I SUCK.
Some days I feel like I am failing so hard at being a mom but then other days, I feel like I am absolutely killing it. You know those days when everything goes smoothly and no one is throwing a tantrum, stomping or arguing? The days when you are so happy to be their mom that you feel like your heart just might burst wide open. All the terrible mom low points are worth those days. The days when you are driving in the car singing at the top of your lungs and laughing and loving each other so hard that you feel invincible. Those days rock my world. For me, happiness is this.
My goal is to be more present, more engaged and focus on moments with my children not all the things or all the benchmarks of what is expected of a “good mom”. I am a good mom. I love my girls. We just got so caught up in doing what was expected of us that we forgot to do what feels best for our family; what actually is best for our family.
Deborah: I think we all have those moments. I think we likely all struggle also with how much is too much programming and activity for our kids. I suspect we all wring our hands about how we are parenting often. If we didn’t think about it at all then we would be crappy parents. It sounds like you are doing your best and giving them everything you can. I understand the activity bit for sure because right now one of mine is booked solid and it is harsh and draining for us as parents. In fact we sort of sprint from vacation to vacation due to their schedules. But ,my older child is now a teen and I feel like the days get shorter and the time we have together is also shorter so it is crucial that I stop and have her also stop and take stock and remember that time spent together being present and loving each other’s company is the best time and the most important goal. Good luck!
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