Like most moms, I am incredibly hard on myself. Mommy guilt is a constant battle. And mommy guilt creates mommy shaming/judging, which creates MORE mommy guilt, and it doesn’t take long before you’ve got a world (or at least a Facebook) full of moms who are mean to themselves and to each other.
Moms - I’m ready to stop. For real. Are you?
But honestly? It’s hard. I know I, for one, want to be the mom that does it all, all the time. I want to raise well-nourished, well-behaved, well-groomed kids who love Harry Potter as much as I do and wear shoes when they’re in public places. Is that really too much to ask?
But if you think about it...well, they’re kids. They’re people. They’re individuals. Some of them do not like broccoli (except this broccoli. Oh-em-gee my kids loooove this broccoli! It’s incredible). Some of them want to wear a pink skirt with a green shirt...every day. Some of them have a really hard time drinking from a cup without spilling (or purposely pouring it all over their high chair tray and then spreading it around with their hands --coughPARKERcough--).
But really, you can’t create perfect kids. Period. And frankly, perfect moms don’t exist, either.
So how to get over it? How do we accept that we have the kids we have, and that we are the moms that we are, and that that doesn’t have to mean that we inevitably end up crying in a corner at 4:00 every day (I’m working on it)?
The answer I’ve come up with, for now anyway, is simultaneously simple and complicated: positivity.
It’s so easy to focus on everything I’ve done wrong on any given day. The hours my kids have been on the iPad; the fact that I gave my 20-month-old a regular cup of milk, thinking that this time would surely be different; the clean family room that (BLINK) isn’t clean anymore; the half hour of my life that I spent falling down Facebook rabbit holes that I’ll never get back; the fact that I would honestly rather be catching up on a stupid TV show than helping my 5-year-old practice her reading. Ugh, even writing these things is bringing me down!
Why oh why is it so hard to celebrate the things that we do right? The “mommy wins,” if you will, that we have every single day? I mean, I don’t completely screw up every single day, do I? My kids end the day alive, clean...ish, safe, and (I think and hope and pray) relatively happy. So I’ve got to be doing something right...right?
So I’ve been trying to focus on the little stuff. On those tiny mommy wins that honestly and truly don’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but that actually do mean that, if nothing else, I put some thought into mothering that day. I took the liberty of making a list of common mommy wins that go uncelebrated far too often in our house; maybe they need a little recognition in yours, too.
- I fed my kids a fruit and/or a vegetable. I know - your vegan friend feeds her kids nothing BUT fruits and vegetables. They eat eggplant and avocado and cherry tomatoes and they don’t even flinch. But my kids? Ha. They don’t. Heck, I don’t! So when I actually feed fresh fruits or veggies to my kids (or myself), that’s a win for me!
- I limited my kid’s screen time. I’ll tell you what, this is not easy to do. If your kid has ever been under the spell of the Octonauts, or the Backyardigans, or (heaven forbid) Dora the Explorer, you know how difficult it is to snap them back to reality. Throw in the iPad, and it’s game over. An hour of screen time becomes four hours faster than you can say “Disney Collector.” So on those days when I’m super conscious about it and actually get my kids to step away from the screen, I WIN.
- I cleaned something. Anything. Want to know what “cleaning” in my house looks like? Get a pile of confetti and dump it on a table in a nice little pile. Point a table fan right at it and turn it on high. Do your best to keep the confetti in a nice little pile. Oh, I almost forgot - make sure you’re using plant-based confetti so your toddler can eat it without a trip to the emergency room. That’s key.
Basically, cleaning with kids is hard. If something in my house is cleaner than it was when the day started, that’s a big fat win.
- I took my kids somewhere with me. When you have kids, or even one kid, with you, a trip to Target is an ordeal. A trip to the post office is suicide. And even just thinking the word “Costco” may be enough to land you in therapy for a few years. Even “fun” outings, like the park or a lunch playdate, become challenging when little ones are in tow. Throw in some of my social anxieties, and well, venturing out with your kids becomes a pretty big deal. I’ve been getting better at this as I get used to somehow keeping my two eyes on my three kids at all times, but I still need to count it as a win!
- I took some time for myself. I know you hear it all the time: “You need to recharge.” “You need to do something for yourself.” “Put on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kid’s.” Riiiight. But let’s be real - it’s not easy to do. When every potential quiet moment is interrupted with a tattle, a whine, a scream, or the sound of breaking glass, “mom time” becomes the impossible dream. So any time I make mom time happen -- whether it takes paying for a babysitter or collapsing on my bed the second my husband gets home and letting him take care of dinner -- I should really recognize that for what it is. It’s taking care of myself, and it’s a win.
Gosh, those things seem small, right? They seem small to me. I look at that list and I think, “Well, “good” mothers do ALL these things with ALL their kids ALL the time!” And well, maybe some of them do.
But as for me, and my life, right now, I may only squeeze one or two of these wins in each day. That makes them a big deal to me. That makes them something to celebrate.
I hope I’m making sense here, guys. I hope you look at this list and maybe think about the “little” things that you do right every day. Because honestly, your wins probably look totally different than what I have listed above. But whatever they are, and how many you can say you did at the end of each day -- celebrate them. Recognize and appreciate the effort that went into every single one of them. They matter. You matter. Your effort matters. Don’t give it anything less than the standing ovation it deserves. Banish whatever mom guilt you’re feeling, and focus on what you’re doing right, even with all the odds (and, if you’re like me, the dirty dishes) stacked against you.
So tell me: what little “win” are you going to try to celebrate more often?