18+ years of parenting has taught me one thing.
I know nothing.
It seems like everyone has an opinion of what parenthood should look like and how to do it well. I learned long ago to stop comparing myself to other parent’s. It will just drive me crazy. I was sitting at a board meeting last night looking at this petite adorable mom with her little Coldwater Creek outfit and her perfectly highlighted, thick and bouncy hair, manicured nails and toes and I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I showered. Two days? Yesterday? I could probably look under my arms and judge number of days by my hair growth, but I thought that might be frowned upon. I do try to care what people think. Which then made me self-conscious, did I put on deodorant this morning? Perfect mom then asked how my day was going. My reply? “Oh, it’s great. I added 5 new people to my list of people I’d like to punch in the face. How about you?” She laughed nervously, eyes darting around the room, looking for someone, anyone else to engage in conversation. I laughed and said “don’t worry, you’re not on the list.” (yet). She laughed politely and wandered off. I really shouldn’t be allowed out of the house. I know this.
There are days I go to bed thinking “Wow, I really sucked at the whole parenting thing today.” Next morning, I get up determined to do better. Better by what standards? Mine or someone else’s? No matter where you look, you can find someone who will try to convince you they have the secret, all of the answers. They are making millions of dollars on books, magazines and television programs making parent’s feel inadequate, judged and overwhelmed by the feelings that they just don’t measure up. No matter how hard they try, or what they do, they always in some way fall short of the parenthood mark. But hey, if you read my book or article or blog, you can learn how to not completely suck. There is hope for you yet my little parenting fail poster children! Read me and I’ll set you straight, you can turn this train-wreck around, it’s not over yet!
“OMG…you didn’t breastfeed?!?!?!”
“OMG…you STILL breastfeed????”
“You home school….?”
“You work….OUTSIDE the home?”
“So what is it you actually do all day Ms. SAHM/D?”
“You really shouldn’t let your kid eat that.”
I could spend all day listing all the judgy judgy things one mom/dad will say to another.
I came into motherhood a person, a woman with failures, triumphs, insecurities and successes. All of those things don’t simply disappear because I became a mom. I still have hopes, dreams and desires. I screw up. I fail. Shouldn’t figuring out how to be the best me be the best thing I can do for my child? I can’t parent each of my own children the exact same way, what makes me think I could tell anyone else how to parent their child?
There are really crappy parent’s out there, people who should never have had children, but chances are if you are reading this blog, you are doing the very best you can do every single day. I want to tell people who inflict their opinions upon me that I’m a far worse critic to my own parenting skills than they could ever be but thank you very much, now move along before you actually get punched in the face.
I think I have no clue how to do this parenting thing. I’m winging it. Day by freaking day. I can be a shoulder to cry on. I can give pep talks. I can be an ear to listen. I can tell you what did or did not work for me. What I cannot do is tell you what will work for you and what the correct answer is for you and your family. What I won’t do is judge you and find you lacking. I’m not talking about the parenting exceptions. I’m talking about the vast majority of good people who are doing the best they can every day to raise responsible and loving children. It is such an overwhelming task, often rewarding, always daunting.
I tell my kids all the time, I’m going to screw up. I will make mistakes. I don’t always make the right decisions or do and say the right things. I sometimes push when I should let go, or let go when I should instruct and push harder. I catch myself getting wrapped up in their dramas or trying too much to shelter them from mistakes. Mistakes they need to make to learn and to grow. I find myself being too critical or emotionally unavailable. Maybe I was too harsh or yelled too much. I think my daughter was communicating things she wasn’t actually saying, was I listening? Did she feel heard? Do I spend enough time with them, do they know how much they are loved, not just in word but in deed. The mommy guilt can be paralyzing. I could stay in the land of what ifs for days if let myself. I worry so much about so many things, most of which are outside my control, it’s amazing I can even get out of bed in the morning.
There will always be a mom who is doing it better and looking awesome while doing it. That mom will never be me. I’ve learned the words “I was wrong and I am sorry” are the most powerful gifts I can give my children. I’ve let go of this idea I have to be perfect or have all the answers all of the time. The phrase “I don’t know” is not a parenting fail but a strength. I will screw up, and I need to learn to ask for forgiveness and learn to forgive myself. My husband is my partner, not my enemy. We are in this together. We won’t always be on the same page, or even in the same book, but we both share an amazing love for the children we brought into this world. That love binds us, connects us and anchors us even when we disagree.
I will still poke fun at the ludicrous and the ridiculous. I can’t take myself seriously, and I like the way I look at the world. I more often than not feel like a 14-year-old girl trapped in a 40-year-old body. Humor is both my weapon and my defense. Why not laugh at myself? There is certainly enough material there!
If you are beating yourself up today or feel you aren’t quite living up to the parenting standards either you set for yourself or others have set for you, give yourself a break today. Allow yourself to be imperfect and embrace it. Figure out what works for you and your family and do it to the best of your ability. Don’t listen to naysayers or negativity. If it works, do it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it! If you do need help, don’t be afraid to ask. It doesn’t make you a failure, it just makes you human. We can’t do it all. It’s impossible.
I am madly and completely in love with my children, everything else is just gravy.
Also, I would still have Adam Levine’s babies. But he better hurry.
Day 3 – check!