When Ryan and I were thinking of starting our family, we were determined to be the “perfect parents”. It was so hard to watch other parents struggle with their children, knowing that if they just knew what we knew, their kids wouldn’t behave like such terrors.
At the church we attended at the time, there was a family that let their daughter run up and down the pews during the entire service. They would even allow her to walk around on the stand.
Only when she started tugging on the clothes of the person speaking did the parents finally go up to get her. One Sunday, I got so fed up, I gently scooped her in my arms as she passed by my seat and took her out in the hall. If anyone asked, my cover story was that I assumed the mom needed a break so I was watching her child so she could enjoy the service.
But who was I kidding? Annoyed at the brazen irresponsibility of the parents, I was trying to do the rest of the congregation a favor. And my body language showed it.
The continued incompetency of parents astounded us everywhere we went. If parents would just take their kids to the car every time they threw a fit at the store, they’d eventually learn to behave. If you treat your kids with respect, they’ll treat you with respect. Give them a candy bar when they tell the truth, and they’ll always tell the truth. Kids yell and hit because their parents yell and hit. It’s simple logic, people.
Our children would sit quietly in church and listen attentively. They would be honest, kind and respectful. They would never hit. We wouldn’t allow them in the store unless they were well behaved. We would make sure of it.
Fast forward 5 years and I was a mom of 3 kids: Diana (4), Steve (2) and Peter (2 months). We were standing in the grocery line.
Steve was crying because he dropped his special bear somewhere else in the store and yelling at and hitting me to go get it.
Diana was whining for a treat over and over and Peter was screaming because he was desperately hungry. I was exhausted from feeding him during the night. We had just enough formula to make it until the morning (because my milk didn’t last past a month) and I couldn’t buy more before then because we were waiting for our next paycheck to be able to pay for it. I couldn’t leave the grocery store because he was hungry and the only thing that would calm him down was to wait in that darn line, with screaming kids behind a man who decided that that day was a great day to pay with a check.
Yes, I was that mom. In that moment, I was the exact replica of all the parents I had harshly judged for so many years.
And that was the day (on top of so many others) that I gave up being a perfect mom. That was the day that I decided to give myself, and everyone around me, a break.
Now, I just focus on dealing with the hand I was dealt, no matter how unfair or impossible it may be.
And that is exactly what makes me the best mom for my kids- by showing up every morning in the mess. I deal with my own trauma, baggage, insecurities, marriage issues and budget constraints while also trying desperately hard to keep these (now) four humans alive and not screw them up (but just in case, we do have a trust fund set aside for therapy in the future).
I stopped labeling myself as a good or bad mom. In every situation of parenting, I am simply doing the best with what I have: the energy I have, the knowledge I have, the patience I have and the support I have.
Yes, educate yourself, go to therapy, self-reflect but at the end of the day, you can only be a little bit better than you were the day before. You simply cannot start from anywhere else than where you are- Today.
And I’m still telling myself this as my 5-year-old loudly broadcasts to the entire house, “Yo the wuhst stinky butt Mommy in the hoe wide uh-ff!” (because he can’t say “world”).