I’ve spent a pretty decent portion of the time I’ve been a mother feeling like I’m a crappy mom. Not the negligent, abusive kind, but not a particularly good one, either. I think it boils down to comparison. I look at other moms who seem happier than me, or more involved with their kids than I am, or more fun or motivated or confident or whatever other qualities I decided make a mom good and I inevitably come up short. And naturally, since there is only one precise way to be a fantastic mother (*snort*), if I don’t fit that mold, I must stink. Fluff and nonsense, of course, but it’s a learning process.
I’m learning to come to terms with the sort of mom I am and the sort of mom I am not, and working to pinpoint the specific things I am good at. Instead of beating myself up and feeling guilty about not being the sort of mom I wish I was, how about focusing on the sort of mom I actually am and appreciating that instead? If I try and focus more on my good qualities, I actually feel like I’m doing a good enough job over here. (Because really, these kids are fed and loved and taken care of, and isn’t that enough? I hope so, at least.)
I am not good at playing with my children and entertaining them for hours, but I am good at allowing them to be independent and giving them the space and time to discover their own interests and imaginations. I think those are valuable skills in a world where we seem to expect to be constantly entertained. They’re both pretty good at keeping themselves occupied, and I think that’s an important thing to know how to do.
I am not good at setting up playdates and fostering friendships, but I am good at building family relationships. I’m a hardcore introvert and it’s a struggle for me to get together with people very often, but the whole reason we moved to Utah was to be near my family, and I make sure my kids see plenty of their aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins.
I am not good at raising an adventurous eater (Forrest’s pickiness is a discouraging testament to this), but I am good at giving him options. 9 times out of 10, he refuses to try the foods I offer him, but since I love to cook and try new recipes and explore different flavors, he has no shortage of opportunities to taste new things and enjoy a great variety of foods when he is ready.
I am not good at carrying out at-home educational activities, but I am good at letting my kids be kids. I am exhausted by even the thought of teaching my 3-year old to read, or doing little preschool lessons with him, but he gets plenty of time to run, to play, to be silly, to imagine. I think that’s what’s most important for him right now.
I am not good at making my children the absolute, sole focus of my entire world, but I am good at making time for myself to recharge. One thing that made me nervous about becoming a parent was the possibility of losing myself in the process. I looked at other moms who seemed so overwhelmed, so completely wrapped up in their kids’ lives, so entirely focused on their children that they sort of seemed to disappear. A few years ago, I was chatting with a mother of five, and I asked her what her hobbies were. She thought for a minute, and finally said, “I don’t remember.” I’m not saying she, or any moms like her, are doing anything wrong in putting their kids first—I’m sure they are wonderful, attentive, involved mothers—but the thought of losing myself, my time, my hobbies, scared me. I’m good at having my own life, apart from my kids—making time for my interests and talents and the things that make me feel like me.
I am not good at being patient, but I am good at making sure my children know they are loved. I get irritated and upset at Forrest often—sooooooo often—and hearing him tell me that I need to apologize for shouting at him is a consistent reminder that I need to take a deep breath and work on developing some patience. But at the end of the day, these two stinkers know that they are loved, and hopefully that is enough. Forrest always asks to snuggle while he watches TV, he hears the words “I love you” multiple times a day, and he gets tucked into bed at night with a hug and a kiss and a prayer. No matter what else I fail at, this seems like the most important success.
What are you good at?