What struck me most about our conversation was that she was trying to convince both of us that she is “still a good Mom” even though she’s not perfect.
Still a good Mom.
It’s not like this is the first time I’ve heard it, and frankly I’ve muttered those words of apology myself, but it reminded me of that period in my own life. The isolation of young motherhood can be so overwhelming and exhausting. No matter the proximity to family and friends, when it comes down to it you and your husband are the ones responsible for the upbringing of other humans. Your spend your first year alternating nursing and changing diapers, healing your own body from nearly a year of growing humans and expelling them, praying for sleep, ever-watchful of any irregularities or illness. The second year you spend teaching your child to walk and talk, the beginnings of self-efficacy, and you read Dr. Seuss 4,000 times. You learn to cook with a child crying wrapped around your leg. You wake up with a feeling that something is wrong to find that one of your kids is running a high fever in the middle of the night. And the laundry. Oh the cursed laundry!
Motherhood is beautiful. It’s simultaneously life-changing, exciting, hilarious, soul-crushing, inspirational, and awesome. You look down at those chubby hands in yours, and you realize that you hold their future, innocence, security, passion, and ability to empathize and love others. You create light in this dark world. You bring in more good.
It is also so SO hard.
Being patient for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for a lifetime is not easy. And it doesn’t happen. Making delicious, healthy meals that are a huge hit with everyone in the family is a pipe dream. There are no vacation days for moms, and family vacations are even more work than when you are home. And having suffered through horrid migraines with kids crying or fighting makes you long for the occasional sick day.
Sometimes you skip along and things are easy and life is all blue skies and green grass. And sometimes you just trudge through.
It’s okay to trudge.
I called my Mom one afternoon of a particularly hard day. I told her I couldn’t believe what a failure I was. I had lost my patience with my three year old, my one year old wouldn’t nap, and everyone was crying (including me). I couldn’t see how so many moms could be making cheese bunnies and teaching their children rocket science in a quiet calm, and certainly immaculate, home. I couldn’t make it happen. I was drowning in my own expectations.
My Mom said, “Regan. These years are hard. They are so HARD! Some days you skip and others you trudge. That is motherhood. It’s reality for everyone and it’s okay.”
Oh! What a revelation. It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t a failure, I was human.
I still am.
There are days I am killing it as a Mom. My kids are empathetic with other kids, their manners shine like a new Porsche, they eat veggies with abandon, they run to me with hugs and encourage each other. Other days are like living in a screaming insane asylum. Those are the days where you feel accomplished that everyone lived to tell the tale.
That day when I called my Mom and vented my frustrations that I wasn’t perfect, she dropped another bomb on me. She told me that if I kept holding myself to a level of perfection, so would my kids. That if I kept hiding my emotions, they would think that there was something wrong with them for being sad or for crying. That it was my job to teach them how to deal with their own difficulties and their own emotions by being a steadfast role model for them. So now I allow my kids to see me cry. If my son says he hates me, or he hits me and hurts me, I allow him to see the tears. I show him that his actions have immediate consequences.
Moms should write manuals. It’s true. Pass them down with the Christening gowns.
My coping mechanism of choice is laughing with/at my kids. They say such hilarious things. I’m constantly posting their lunacy on Facebook to the joy of all my friends. They are a hoot. If I wasn’t paying attention I would miss it. Even when you are trudging through, the time goes so fast it is frightening.
Through the past seven and a half years of being a mother, I have really grown. I am so strong now! I can even see it in myself. Part of that comes from the crazy life we have: the moves, the deployments, the separation from family. Part of it is the result of life. But the best parts of me I owe to my children. They taught me to be selfless, patient (mostly), vigilant, grateful, and to take life as it comes without expecting more. They also taught me to put my head down and make it through the rough spots. No matter how hard life can get, they will hold your cheeks and tell you they love you, they will grab your hands in their sticky hands and hold on tight, they will FINALLY use their best manners on a play date and make you so very proud. They will read to their little brother and hug him tight.
The more I learn about being a mother, the more I see what lies ahead and it seems hard too. My sweet cousin just sent her daughter off to college. I can’t even imagine! I think the bottom line is that parenting is a daily investment in your children. Some investments pay off immediately and others take years to mature. We put ourselves aside and invest everything into our kids. We adore them, encourage them, ground them, and provide the foundation for the rest of their lives. Those early days are rewarding, but they sure zap your strength. You trudge through the hard days and fill your memory with the best moments. Write down the hilarious quips they come up with that bring tears to your eyes. Read to them and share classics that moved you as a kid. Build forts, host imaginary tea parties, or just hold your babies and love them.