A few days ago I overheard myself consoling another mom, telling her what was true, despite her warped perception. I say I overheard it because as the words were coming out of my mouth I realized that what I was saying I happily applied to all moms, except myself.
“No, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom,” I told her. “That just means that you’re a mom. There is no such thing as a ‘good mom’ and a ‘bad mom’. We are all just a bunch of women doing what we can with these little monsters while trying to survive. We love them, and we try, but we are going to mess up. Forgive yourself, move on and know that for your kids, just being their mom is enough.”
Just being their mom is enough.
These are words that I agree with intellectually, that I feel passionately when I look at other mothers and their children, but they are so challenging for me to actually embrace in my own motherhood.
It is a real and daily struggle for me to accept that I–in all of my failures and shortcomings and mistakes–that I, just as I am, am enough. And, that for my kids, just being their mom is enough.
I want the absolute best for my children–don’t we all? My husband and I decided that it’d be best for me to quit my job and stay home with the kids full time–that this would offer the best care for them. So, I’m here with them every day and I really want to be the best mom possible. I want our lives together to be exceptional. I want others to look in at my life and remark, “man, she’s a good mom”
Even though, as I told my friend, there is no such thing as a ‘good mom’ or otherwise.
Except when I look in the mirror.
In reality I live most of my life as a mom sliding between the 2 poles Good Mom/Bad Mom.
If I can just prove that I am a good mom, and stop doing all of those things that make me a bad mom, I can possibly prove (to who?) that I am worth the love of these remarkable children. That I am more than just a mom.
But no matter how hard I try to be a good mom, I just keep failing.
I don’t feed my kids organic, some meals don’t even have a vegetable, my toddler has fallen down the steps, sometimes I bribe with candy, we have never made it to daily mass, I’m on my phone too much, I get bored pushing them on the swings, I loose my temper, my daughter is still not potty trained, I haven’t taught them Spanish or to play an instrument, and some nice afternoons I turn on a movie instead of going out to the sandbox because I just can’t stand to deal with the sand again.
When these things happen, which they do every day, I’m a failure in that moment. I feel like I am far from enough for my children.
The same is true, sadly, with my ‘good mom’ moments. The kids behaved, they all eat the food I made, we play outside without fighting. But these moments don’t, on their own, leave me with a lasting feeling of 100% fulfillment, 100% enough-ment.
And yet those words I said to my friend ring in my ears.
Just being their mom is enough.
What I love about this little phrase, just being their mom is enough, is that it seems to flow in 2 directions. First, it flows from me to my children: What I am, flaws and all, is enough for my children. It’s okay that I only have what I am to offer. That is enough.
The act of mothering is the act of giving my entire self to my children–a self that is deeply flawed. I make mistakes. My instincts are sometimes totally wrong. But, to live in a way that really believes that I am enough as a mother is to forgive myself, it is to accept imperfection in myself and my kids and it is to celebrate this meandering journey we all are on.
But this little phrase also runs in the other direction–from my kids back to me. Just being a mother to my kids is enough for me. It is! I don’t need to prove to the world that I am some sort of supermom. I don’t need to prove to myself that I am really more than just a mom. I don’t need to prove anything.
Whether they ever potty train or pose for my pictures or learn some table manners, my kids are little miracles, and they are mine, and that is enough.
When I step off of the perceptually sliding scale of ‘good mom/bad mom’ I can see how silly it all is. I am not defined by my mistakes and failings as a mother. I am not defined by my victories either–and neither are my kids. I love them deeply, I want the best for them, I work hard to protect and guide them.
And that is enough.
If you are a mom struggling with the same things I struggle with, please believe that you are enough, just as you are. And that being a mother for your kids, just as you are already doing it, is enough.
Really, you are enough.
Blessing and peace,