Recently I received a text from my best friend, an exhausted but glowing first time mother of a sweet baby boy. I could tell by her message that she was feeling down. Her baby hadn’t been sleeping well, she was feeling anxious about sleep training and guilty that she wasn’t eating more organic foods to share with him through breastfeeding.
I wanted to scoop her into my arms and give her a giant, mom-sized hug. Because Oh. My. Gosh. I completely know how “mom-guilt” can absolutely suck the joy right out of your day. I feel it when I think about how much I hated breastfeeding. I feel it when I think about how many episodes of Paw Patrol I let my 3 year old watch today. I feel it when I feed my kids processed food. I feel it when I can’t afford to send my kids to the fancy preschool with animals and yoga. I feel it when I lose my temper or cry in front of them.
Yes, the mommy wars exist. But they only exist to stoke the fire of the mom-guilt I already have growing inside me. It’s this feeling of constantly being underwater, that I can never do enough for my kids. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, if this is just part of motherhood, or if it’s reserved for mothers with a particular type of anxiety.
Either way, I have a message:
You. Can’t. Do. It. All. You just can’t. No one does everything well. You can try and try and try to keep up with all the things the books/blogs/researchers/friends/enemies say to do. But still. It will never, ever be enough. And though that can feel defeating, and scary and depressing…it’s also a little liberating. It’s okay to just be you. And just as you weren’t a perfect person, you are not a perfect mother.
There are SO MANY “I wishes” when you are a mom. So many ways to see that others are doing a better job than you – that mom that breastfeeds easily or that mom that always remembers every important occasion or that mom that never lets her kids watch TV or eat food dyes. If someone asked me to list 5 things I wish I could do better as a parent, I could rattle them off like a list of my favorite foods. But ask me what I’m GOOD at, what my strength is and… I’m stumped.
Here’s the thing: I may not do a million things as well as other moms (and in fact, I don’t…) but I can do SOMETHING well. And so can you! Think about it. Maybe you are a great teacher, and your strength is teaching your kids new words or concepts. Maybe you are a great performer, and you make your kids laugh like crazy. Maybe you are a health guru, teaching healthy eating or exercise. Maybe you are more patient, more kind, more compassionate, more intelligent, more athletic or more organized than others you know.
My mom strength is patience. I literally love listening to my three year old ask me questions and I love answering them, even when he’s asked and I’ve answered a hundred times before. I can wait out a tantrum in public without breaking a sweat. I can repeat myself a hundred times before losing my temper. It is (the only) mom skill I get comments about from friends and strangers. I am PATIENT and it is something I proud of, even when I fall short of the other traits I wish I had.
My friends, you do something well. Figure out whatever “it” is, and embrace it. Be proud. Be thankful for whatever gift you have been given. It will never feel like it’s enough, but at least it’s something. I’m sick of feeling mom-guilt. I’m sick of lacking confidence in myself as a parent. So now, I keep the knowledge of my special superpower tucked away in my mind like a security blanket, save to take out on the bad days to remind myself I may suck at ABCDEFG but I am a friggin’ rock star at H.
So, if you have a frazzled, exhausted, stressed new mom friend, please remind them that they are enough. Please help them see the things they are doing well. And if you are that friend, the one feeling the heaviness of “mommy guilt”…remind yourself that you are enough, too. Let’s trust in our abilities to be amazing parents even if we sometimes wish we were “more”.