Before I had children, I had this idealized vision of what parenthood would be like and how I would be as a mom. I read tons of parenting books and did a lot of research on sleep training, breast vs. bottle feeding, instilling manners, you name it. In my vision, I was the most patient, creative, spontaneous, fun, and wise mom ever. I’d prepare myself to the point that I’d know just what to expect and decisions would flow easily. Makes sense, right? Here are a few things I’ve yet to figure out:
- What’s the right balance between allowing time for her to practice tying her own laces and helping her so we can make it out the door…at some point today
- When is the moment to give up the gross out reflex and let him fumble through wiping himself lest he still require our help at age 10
- How long we should carry a spare outfit along unused before deciding we’ve outgrown the need, only to find we should have brought a change of clothes just one more time
- How to make it stop already (fill in “it” with your choice of ing: the singing, the whining, the bickering, the begging, the spitting, the yelling, the screaming, the mouthing-off, the eye-rolling, the licking, the flicking, the humming, the tapping, the fidgeting, the climbing…)
- What it would be like to feel consistently centered (or even sane)
- How it’s possible to love someone so much and simultaneously want to hide from them in my closet for 5 minutes of peace and quiet
- How I could have so grossly underestimated the time and energy it would take to get out of the house with littles in tow
- Why I occasionally insist on arguing with a 3 year old on the merit of peas
- How one little person can evoke such overwhelming pride at times and at others make me want to bang my head against the dash
- How it’s possible to love them any more than we do only to find that each day it’s more than the last
Clearly, there’s a LOT I don’t know about parenting my children and this list will never feel complete. But here’s something I do know: none of us have it all figured out. I do the best I know with what I know at the time, one day at a time. And more and more I try to do it with humor.
There is no mastery.
I know I’m not alone with the sentiment that parenting is the single best thing I’ve ever decided to do. I also know I’m not alone with the notion that it can at times be completely overwhelming and confusing. In reading all those books and articles and seeing images in the media over the years, I created an impossible standard for myself. In fact, I’ve realized that when we compare ourselves to other seemingly more “together” parents, we will simply never measure up. The act of comparing and looking outside ourselves for how we should be as parents, inherently creates an internal deficit. I could easily spend the next 10-15 years racing to catch up to the impossible standard and all the while living with inner turmoil, second-guessing each little decision, and missing all the magic.
About a year ago, I made a commitment to self-care so that I will keep noticing the magic, and to quiet the whirlwind of my busy mind so that I may enjoy it even more. I am still interested in reading and opening my mind to new options to explore, but much more importantly my focus is on simply doing my best. As much as I remember to, I enjoy my role as a mom every day more than the last with these practices:
- Being in the present moment
- Asking more questions
- Saying “yes” and saving “no” for when I have to
- Laughing at myself
- Admitting my mistakes to the children
- Forgiveness and self-compassion for those times I don’t get it right
- Celebrating the times that I do
- Being mindful of all that I’m grateful for
- Taking “me” breaks
- Asking my teammate for back-up
- Going outdoors
I can sometimes operate in a mindset of limited resources – I lack time, I lack energy, and there’s not enough of “me” to go around. When I feel myself slipping into this old pattern, it is helpful to remember the one unlimited resource I have – love.
So for all the fellow mamas (and daddies) out there reading this, stop the madness of comparing yourself to others or to that impossible standard you’ve created. We see only a fraction of another’s reality, and after all, we are free to create our own. As much as we can, let’s try to practice bringing our awareness to where we’re coming from with our thoughts and actions. When we do this, and practice grounding ourselves with love and compassion, this parenting thing is much more fun. ♥