If you are a mom, then you probably had some sort of “day” yesterday. Maybe breakfast in bed? some flowers? a nap? kids abstaining from arguing? Maybe you also needed to fit in time to celebrate your own mother and/or mother-in-law, too?
And then, after whatever specialness came your way, at some point, it was back to business…planning the week ahead, making lunches, signing permission slips, and trying to remember all that you risk forgetting because your notes are playing hide and seek.
Mother’s Day is the one day officially set aside for mom’s to feel special. But let me ask you—if you are a mom—on the whole…do you feel special? Do you feel like a good mom? How about even adequate?
Or does the typical day leave you frustrated with yourself for snapping at your kid because after reminding him somewhere shy of a gazillion times to put his clothes in the hamper without creating denim origami he seems to have inadvertently created a lovely swan with his jeans?
Yeah, I thought so.
Too often being a mom includes feeling like you are somehow failing your kids. “If I could just…” followed by some sort of “fixing” of a shortcoming we see in ourselves.
But watch this video to see how the way we view our parenting skills might be a little different than our kids’ views:
As moms, we are typically way too hard on ourselves—plus we keep putting more and higher expectations on ourselves. In the last decade or two, American society has allowed a culture of “intensive motherhood” to bubble up and become the norm. As Brigid Schulte describes in Overwhelmed—Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, even though the majority of moms today hold some sort of job outside of the home, we actually give significantly more time to our kids then back in the 50s and 60s—and we still don’t think it’s enough.
Just a brief comparison of birthday parties from my childhood versus what is commonplace today illustrates how times have changed.
My childhood birthday parties included opening gifts, a nice, simple meal…and a cake. “Happy Birthday” would be sung. Candles would be blown out. Clean up would begin. The end.
Today? Well, you can go to places that have ginormous inflatables or warehouse-filling trampolines or laser tag mazes or ridiculously expensive tea parties—and those are the simple ones. There are also endless possibilities for themed parties. A girl might have a princess day with mani-pedis for everyone, and a boy might have a cowboy party complete with pony rides set up in his own backyard. Need ideas? Just head to Pinterest and be prepared to feel like no matter what you do, it will not match up to the crafty moms. Oh, and don’t forget the party favor gifts that every kid attending will receive. Can’t be skimpy.
Since when did we raise the bar so ridiculously high for ourselves? And why?
“The cult of Intensive Motherhood runs on guilt, fear, and ambivalence,” Schulte explains. “Moms feel the need to do more and more for their kids and show just how super we are…To be seen as self-sacrificing is the ideal.” Sigh.
Somehow being a mom became getting lost in our kids—having our lives revolve around theirs—and proudly proclaiming it to the world.
But I don’t think that’s working so well.
For one, that’s a huge disservice to our kids. Giving them—even indirectly or unintentionally—the idea that the world revolves around them is just setting them up for an awfully rude awakening when they do finally launch into the world.
Two…it’s a huge injustice to us, as well. The pressure we put on ourselves to do everything right and show the world what perfect mothers we are is futile. Judging ourselves against an unattainable “ideal” means we will always lose and be “less” than what we think the rest of the world is. It’s time to reclaim ourselves.
I think the best lesson for kids is to demonstrate a healthy balance of loving them completely and unconditionally while at the same time showing them that you have a life that is not all-consumed by them—and…this one may be a toughie…that you are…not perfect.
So here’s my idea…ready? Brace yourselves….
Let’s stop it.
Pretty radical, huh? What if we stopped embracing the notion of any sort of “perfect” mother and just accepted that we will fail at some things? What if we banned any measuring up against one another and only offered support and understanding?
I love Kathy Masarie’s “parenting in a nutshell” advice in Schulte’s book: “Love your kids. Keep them safe. Accept them as they are. Then get out of their way.”
Embracing this wisdom, ask yourself again how you’re doing as a mom. Are you loving your kids? Keeping them safe? Accepting them as they are? Woohoo! Look at how amazing you are!
And…if maybe you find yourself “in their way” by intensive mothering, here’s a quick remedy: move. Step out of their way and watch them thrive. And you? Well, you thrive, too. Thrive in the knowledge that you are covering the most critical aspects of parenting: love, safety, acceptance, and empowerment.
And give yourself some grace. If you have those “nutshell” bases covered, then exhale and forgive yourself for being human and having days where your nerves are on edge, or you have the audacity to decline something for your kid because it conflicts with something for you, or you forgot to pick up milk on the way home.
They’ll love you anyway.
And you should, too.