Happy Mother’s Day. I love you both.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good mother.
Before I had my first baby, I thought that being a mom meant that I had to be a different person. Turns out all I had to do was strive to be a good person.
I thought that I needed to be the mom that had freshly baked cookies for the kids when they got off the bus.
The room mom.
I had to love every second of being on the floor and playing cars for the ten-thousandth time on any given day. Or hearing the same song. over. and. over. and. over.
I would never get frustrated or lose my shit. My house would be clean at all times and I would love doing homework with my kids.
I would have healthy, nutritious, well-balanced meals on the table every night.
They would not have a need that would not be met. I’d be there for every scraped knee, recital, broken heart, and bad dream.
I would love every second of being a mom. I would never get tired, resentful, or bored out of my mind. I would never want to run away, get divorced, or think about what life might be like if I had made different choices. I would never wonder if my kids were out to get me.
I am not her. There are days when I bug out, yell, and serve ice cream for dinner. I want to lock myself in my room and not come out. My house is a disaster and I really don’t want to go to PTA. There are days when I swear that it will be a triumph if we end the day without one of us crying in the corner.
I’m a good mother, but the things that I thought that would make me a good mom aren’t actually the things that make me one.
Even if I had those gifts or skills, I don’t think that I would be the mother that I wanted to be.
I love my children more than anything in the world. Truly, I do. They are my greatest gifts. But being a mother is hard. Like, so unbelievably hard.
When my husband and I made the decision to have me stay home and raise our children, I felt that I had to “earn my keep.” Keeping the kids alive wasn’t enough, I had to be the best mom that I could be and that meant that I had to do everything and be everything for them.
10 years into this motherhood gig, I’ve learned that the best mother that I can be is one that loves and respects herself. Is kind and compassionate. Intentional and purposeful. Forgiving and respectful of her boundaries. (And the boundaries of her family.)
That means that I have needs too. It’s okay to say no and not be everything to everyone. I don’t have to be maid, chauffeur, cook, project manager, schlepper of all things all the time. I don’t need to go every event and please everyone. If I do everything for them, how will they eventually know to do it on their own? If I am everything for them, what tools will they have when I am not there?
I can’t live my life being a personal crisis management team (although I would be a mean Olivia Pope), and hope that they can solve problems later in life.
I can’t make every lunch and cook every meal and send them to college never having made a sandwich before and expect them to feed themselves.
I can’t forget my manners or etiquette and expect them to know how to say thank you or make others comfortable in their presence.
I love working and traveling and being creative and going on adventures and doing things without my kids. (Or any kids for that matter.)
What would I be teaching them if I didn’t live a life that made me happy? What would that mean for me? What kind of people would they become if I raised them to be so dependent on me (and their dad) for everything? And what kind of person would I become if I expected my happiness to come from them?
These days, I am constantly reminded that they are not going to be with me forever. Sooner than I am comfortable with, they are going to leave our home, be their own people, and live the lives that they want.
How do I get them ready for that today?
By modeling and showing them how to be the person that I want them to become.
For me, that is the hardest part of motherhood. It is so much easier to not do the right thing, say yes when it is easier than saying no, to not be honest, to not respect yourself, to not live our dreams, have goals, or to devalue what you do.
Simply being a better version of myself is the only thing that I can think of to help them grow into the kind of adults that their father and I want them to be.
I remind myself of this all the time. How can I be a better person today so that I will be a better mother tomorrow?
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, and friend. You are truly a gift.