Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Owning Your Mommy Mess-ups

This morning I sat in a room with MOPS mommies I didn't know at all when I walked into my first meeting last summer unsure what to expect. More than providing a ministry that reaches out to moms, MOPS has provided a forum for women to open their eyes to the fact that the "perfect mom" is an illusion.

This principle is applicable not just at my MOPS group, but in the community of moms at large. In getting to know the women on this island, I've received the gift of their insight on so many things. I've also been able to listen to their perceptions of me as a mom even before they knew me on a personal level. Our community is small, so many of the moms I now call friends were in the backdrop of my life at the YMCA pool, the soccer field, or the grocery store. My friend Meghan recalls thinking I was a patient mom as she watched me attempt to manage three boys in the same swim lessons class while juggling six-month-old Scout last summer. This six day period of torture was probably one of the least fun things I did last year, and I remember thinking I was an epic failure at the swim lessons gig. It's so funny to hear her perception of me when my perception of myself was so negative.

We're hardest on ourselves for so many reasons--fear of making the same mistakes our parents made, fear of alienating our children, fear of damaging their self-esteems. But here's the thing. Every mom feels this way. Every. Single. One. We all worry we're not good enough for our kids, and we all make some super duper stupid blunders as we navigate the bumpy terrain of parenthood. Would you like to hear some of my own slip-ups? They're classic and guaranteed to make you feel better about yourselves.

  • Six months ago Lawson climbed onto a shelf in a store to hide when my back was turned, and we had to endure a Code Adam while they locked everything down to find him.
  • Three out of four of my children have rolled off my bed--some more than once.
  • I once got so pissed at Camden for screaming at his brothers that I told him to shut up. 
  •  Lawson tumbled down a flight of stairs when he was eighteen months old because Jason and I didn't effectively communicate who was watching him.
  • I can't remember Hudson's first words because I was too busy trying to take care of a toddler while pregnant with my third baby in three years.
  • We once had two boys get CT scans for falls within three days of each other. (I braced myself for the DFACS visit that never came when that happened.)
  • Sometimes I have to tell Camden to stop talking so much in order to preserve my sanity.
  • I once fed the kids cookies for breakfast and Goldfish for lunch (on the same day) to avoid taking all four to the grocery store.
  • I don't know how to appropriately communicate to Lawson that he has to stop touching my boobs.
  • Hudson's incessant emotional outbursts drive me so close to the brink of lunacy that I'm practically incapable of responding positively when they occur.
Aanndddd......breathe. Ah. It feels good to get that off my chest. Believe me, the list goes on and on and on. We try our best, but no one is capable of being at their 100% best every single waking moment of the day. Mistakes are inevitable. We have to own them, sometimes laugh at them, learn from them, and share them with other moms who feel they're sucking up the one job they want to be the best at. Knowing I'm not alone is essential for me to grow from my mistakes and sometimes even to understand that what I perceive to be mistakes are just every day normal life events. Loving your kids and communicating your love as much as possible is essential, and my guess is we all give this goal our best shot 24/7 even when we feel like we fall short in other areas.

Perfect mommies? Overrated. Every kid will need some parental shortcoming to discuss with their therapists later in life. I've started admitting to my kids when I make a mistake and apologizing when I feel like an "I'm sorry" is warranted. I figure they'll either appreciate my honesty and toss out their own ideas of perfection, or they'll worry over my apparent incompetence and use my blunders as ammunition against me when they're surly, rebellious teenagers. Let's hope it's the former.

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