15 Things To Say To The Mom Who Feels Like She's Not Enough
I'm an emotional person. I'm not saying that in a misogynistic way, I'm just naturally very sensitive and I've made peace with this reality. Lots of things can make me genuinely sad, including videos of sad animals, antidepressant medication commercials, and that scene in Moana when Moana gives the ocean back the Heart of Te Fiti. But little can make me sadder than hearing a good mother think, for no good reason, that she's failing. So there are some things I'd like to say to the mom who feels she's not enough because, mama, I see you. I am you.
Please trust me when I say that you that you are enough. You're not failing. Like, there are animals that eat their young, but not you! So, hey, you've got that going for you at the very, very least. Is that a low bar? Yes, but you've cleared it without even trying! Mazel tov.
You're certainly clearing more hurdles that you don't even see every damn day, too. It's easy to focus on the ones you missed and of course we miss hurdles. Anyone would if they're jumping them, or attempting to jump them, all day long. Olympic athletes miss literal hurdles and they're still the best in the world. No one sees an Olympic athlete miss the occasional hurdle and kick them out of the sport. They realize that, yes, that happens, that's part of the process, and you simply learn from it and move on.
So treat yourself kindly, and let me assure you of the following:
"We All Struggle"
A struggle is not indicative of the fact that you're somehow not enough. It's indicative of the fact that motherhood is hard as hell and you're responding to it the way we all do. It's like pooping: it's not necessarily pleasant or something you're comfortable sharing with others, but we all do it.
"It's OK To Ask For Help"
So, so, so OK. Everyone needs help. The fact that we help each other is what makes humans such a successful species. Asking for help doesn't mean you're not enough, it means you're evolved.
"Instagram Isn't Real"
All social media is us at our most edited. Please, please, please do not think you're not enough because your life doesn't resemble the lives of your friends (and various influencers you follow) on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Their lives don't, either.
"Your Children Will Not Suffer For Lack Of Crafts"
I have a friend who sends her daughters to school every day with beautiful lunchboxes. They're seriously Instagram-worthy, both visually and nutritionally. They're gorgeous and crafty and healthy and adorable. And in my insecure moments I look at them and think, "Oh jeez. What I pack so does not compare."
And then I remembered the following: "This is something my friend enjoys doing, but I do not enjoy doing it. This is not a contest. This is her thing. I have my thing. The fact that my kids didn't have cucumber sandwiches in the shape of butterflies is not going to be what keeps them from being president one day."
"Everyone Screws Up"
Having a less than perfect parenting moment is not the measure of who you are as a parent. We're more than our worst mistake and we can get over them. I regularly apologize to my kids for the ways in which I've admittedly fallen short (lost my cool, was unnecessarily sharp, etc). It's OK because, let me let you in on a little secret...
... you're human.
"Food Is Not Indicative Of One's Morality"
"OMG, my kids ate nothing but Goldfish crackers and Hawaiian Punch today. I'm such a bad mom!"
No. You're not. Your kids ate and you did your job. Like, yeah, some foods are more nutritionally substantive than others, but you know what kids tend to think of nutritionally substantive foods? Not much. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. You can lead a toddler to a veggie platter but you can't keep them from making vomiting noises and crying.
Your child (or you) eating "good foods" is not virtuous and "bad foods" are not shameful. Food is food. It's for eating. Eating is for survival. Are you surviving? The food is doing what it's supposed to do.
"It's OK To Take Time Just For You"
It's not selfish or wimpy to indulge in something that's just for you. If anything, it's necessary. Everyone needs a recharge from time to time — from an afternoon out to a weekend with your friends to three damn minutes in the bathroom because I don't want to poop with an audience, leave me alone — this is absolutely nothing to feel guilty about or like you're somehow not fulfilling your parenting obligations. You do a lot for everyone else, so they can let you have this without getting all whiny.
"Spending A Bunch Of Money Is Not A Requirement For A Happy Childhood"
I know it can feel tremendously crappy to realize you are financially incapable of giving your children everything you want to, including but certainly not limited to: picture perfect clothes, that remote control car they want, the hot new holiday gift everyone is talking about, fancy summer camp, hell any summer camp. But while it's nice to be able to afford nice things, it's really OK if you can't and there's no need to compare yourself to those who can. Your financial circumstances are what they are, so take pride in what you can make happen.
"People Who Judge Are Telling You More About Themselves Than They're Saying About You"
So, so, so much more.
"Literally No One Cares About Your Messy House"
There's a pretty good chance it's not even that messy. I feel like I'm guilty of this, too, especially when someone comes over and every little speck of clutter or dust becomes glaring and I feel a deep, burning shame even though literally no one else sees it. Also, even if it is messy, unless you're at "we haven't seen the cat in a few months" levels of filth, you're fine. Everyone gets it, and if they don't feel free to ignore them.
"Everyone's Balance Looks Different"
Just as every physical body has a different center of gravity that needs to be accommodated in order to achieve actual balance, so too does every individual person in order to achieve life balance. I don't know what that looks like for any of you, but over the years I've found that sweet spot between parenting, work, marriage, "me time," and a social life.
Don't feel ashamed if your balance looks different from someone else's. It's not a sign of weakness or being a bad parent or needing to do things differently, it's just a sign that you're not a programmable robot.
"No One Masters Parenting"
Seriously, no one. None of the parenting experts. Not moms who have 19 kids. Not moms who focus all their energy on one. Everyone is going to face some challenge, at some point, where they're like, "I've got nothin'." They may (and probably will) wind up figuring something out or at least getting through it, but your kids will challenge you for the rest of your life.
"Never Mistake Bad Luck For Bad Parenting"
You can be doing everything right and your kid can still act like a wild animal. It happens, and it's not on you. And woe unto the fool who mistakes your bad luck for bad parenting or, conversely, their good luck for good parenting... because fortunes change, my friends.
Stick to what you know works for you. Even if it's not yielding optimal results right now, it's still working. That's because you're providing one of the most important things a parent can give: consistency. Kids love the stuff, even when they're acting like a howler monkey that's been stung by a wasp in the middle of this Target because you told them you wouldn't buy them a toy because you have the same exact toy at home.
"If You're Worrying About It That's A Pretty Good Sign You're Doing Fine"
Worrying about your parenting indicates a level of introspection and willingness to reflect on your (perceived) flaws, both of which are markers of some varsity-level parenting. You've recognized that you're not perfect (though perhaps you still need to learn that no one is) and you are contemplating ways to improve. That's awesome. So relax, because all this is a sign that you've reached a level where you're already doing pretty well.
"What Your Children Want & Need Most Is You"
Just you. As you are. That's enough.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.