My best friend's mom has a saying: "We are nothing if we are not kind." There are a hundred reasons my best friend's mom is basically my Patronus (not least of which because she drinks martinis in a kiddie pool on her back deck in the summer), but this phrase really clinched it. Kindness can take many forms, but at its core is a sense of compassion, thoughtfulness, and grace. I try to practice these principals with everyone, including myself. That's why I cut myself slack on my most difficult mom days. Because this is hard. Because I deserve kindness. Because life is too short to wallow in negativity. Because if the comments section of any article on parenting is any indication, there are enough people who are going out of their way to be unkind.
It's easy to get caught up in your preconceived notions of how things are supposed to go. It's easier still to compare yourself to other parents who, inexplicably, always seem to have themselves and their children put together. However, when it comes to parenting, the years are short but the days are long So long. Like, how-the-hell-is-it-only-9-in-the-morning-I-feel-like-I've-been-awake-for-15-hours long. Somewhere in those long hours, over the course of days, weeks, and months, things are going to get difficult. And when things get difficult, you need to take a breath, be kind to yourself, and do what you must to get through it without guilt.
For example, the following are just some of the ways I manage to muddle through a tough day, all of which can be filed under "sorry not sorry."
I Let My Kids Watch TV
Yes, in a perfect world our children don't get screen time until they're 18 and after that only in 30 minute increments to take a short break from writing their dissertation (abstaining from television has enabled them to pursue a PhD as a teenager, naturally).
However, last I checked Trump is president and the polar ice caps are melting, so this is definitely not a perfect world. As such, there are days when my kids being raised, in part, by the adorable Irish animals of Puffin Rock. I'd prefer a nanny to help me, but Netflix is much cheaper.
I Make Peace With The Fact That My Bathroom Hasn't Been Cleaned In Forever
I'm pretty sure there's something alive in my toilet. Not just, like, bacteria, but sentient. I'm pretty sure it's considered a dependent for tax purposes and I'm legally responsible for it at this point. I think I'll name it Lucien.
I Drink Wine
My children are well acquainted with "the wine store." So acquainted, in fact, that my 2 year old has thrown tantrums because we didn't go in after our weekly trip to the grocery store and it threw off her routine. FYI, nothing will encourage you to take a good look at your life and choices quite like your toddler sobbing "I want to go to the wiiiiiiiiiiine stoooooooore!" But I can confidently say that after considering the issue deeply, I reached the conclusion that, on a subconscious level, my daughter wants to go to the wine store because she knows relaxing with a glass of Pinot Noir on a particularly rough day is essential self care, and a mom who takes care of herself results in happy children.
At least that's what I tell myself. Whatever. Leave me alone with my vino because today was hard.
I Live That #TopKnotLife
Some would deride this style as a chignon of shame, but I consider it a poof of pride. What?! You think I'm wearing my hair this way because I haven't washed my greasy, greasy hair for three days? Shows what you know. I'm rocking a top knot because I'm a sassy and whimsical free spirit (and also because I haven't washed my greasy, greasy hair for three days). But whatever, I'm choosing grace over guilt, people.
I Ignore The Dishes In The Sink
Just look at them, all cuddled up in an adorable pile. "Thank you for letting us splash and play together in this fun pool! Wheee! We never get to do anything like this in the cabinet! We've never felt so alive! Thank you for our freedom! Cant we stay here forever?"
Yes you can, little dishes. Yes you can.
I Demand Foot Rubs
My partner knows what it means when I wordlessly plop my feet on his lap at the end of the day. I've got that man trained like one of B.F. Skinner's pigeons, so he goes to town on my tense little toes until I'm melted into the couch like the chocolate chips that are actually melted into the couch because my kids wouldn't eat at the goddamn table like I told them to.
However, I'm not even thinking about that right now because I'm so relaxed.
I Make Time To Go To The Spa*
*AKA take a damn shower, because a hot shower is a lot like a spa after a tough day of mothering children. Also, it's been, like, three days and you're starting to stank, girl.
I Ignore Every Side-Eye And Think Piece About Moms Who Use Their Phones At The Playground, And Use My Phone At The Playground
I'm still watching them, of course. However, in this glorious place they can largely entertain themselves by playing with the droves of children present.
"Oh, but you're missing such an important part of their childhood!" wail the concern trolls, clutching their pearls like I've never seen my child at a playground before. People: it's, like, an hour of their lives. I've been "enjoying their childhood" all damn day. I brought them here because the "enjoyment" was becoming overwhelming. I refuse to beat myself up for needing a break every now and then.
I Order Pizza For Dinner. Again.
I try to meal plan for the week and do a pretty good job (if I do say so myself) of sticking to a healthy, homecooked menu. But every so often, my husband will get a text in the afternoon that simply says "Chinese or pizza?" Because, for whatever reason, food just isn't happening in my kitchen until someone brings it in from somewhere else.
Maybe it's because another set of tasks kept me from cooking. Maybe I was late at work. Maybe my kids just wouldn't stop screaming. Whatever the reason, I have come to accept the important role impromptu pizza plays in my life and am grateful for it.
If I Have To Lie To My Kids, I Lie
Look, it's not my proudest moment. It's not like I lie about anything important, but if I have to tell them "I'll think about" letting them have ice cream for lunch in order to get them in the car so we're not late for a doctor's appointment, I'm not above that.
I Forego Chores In The Name Of Reading...
Because maintaining your brain is just as important as maintaining your home. It can be hard to get reading time in as a parent, so sometimes I just need to skip some aspect of adulting to fit it in and I'm not going to feel bad about it, especially on a rough day. So by all means, take the time to read.
...Or Screw Around On The Internet
Because finding out "Which Game Of Thrones Character You Should Date?" and keeping up on celebrity gossip is also important.
I Let My Kids Wear Costumes Out Of The House
Honestly, even on a good day I let this happen. Secretly I also want to wear a Rapunzel dress with a Batman cape to the grocery store. Also it's adorable as hell. These kids have their whole lives to dress appropriately, so I say let them have a few beautiful years of being Batpunzel.
I Accept That The Polish On My Toenails Will Be There Until The Day I Die
I'm pretty sure this particular color has been chilling out on my big toe since 2012. Maybe I can update by the time my daughter graduates high school.
I Perform A One-Woman Version Of 'Hamilton' In My Car
There's no stress relief quite as potent as shouting the lyrics to "Guns and Ships" rapidfire in your suburban New Jersey neighborhood on your way to pick up your kindergartener. In those moments, I'm not Jamie the Stressed Out Mom: I am the Marquis de Lafayette, sallying forth to save my American brethren and send the treacherous redcoats back to England (which often feels like it would be easier and less heroic than dealing with another goddamn meltdown over whose turn it is to use the tricycle).
I Abstain From Pants With Zippers
Because what am I? A masochist? Just look at a zipper. It looks like a medieval torture device. No thanks. If it don't stretch it ain't fetch.
I Adopt A 5 Year Old's Bedtime
There is zero shame in going to bed at 8 p.m. A few weeks ago, after a particularly difficult day, I went to bed immediately after my children, who went on to sleep until an unprecedented hour. I got 12 hours of sleep. People, when I tell you I am only now coming down off that high, you may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. It was glorious. So not only is going to bed early something I cut myself slack for, it's a great way to ensure better days moving forward.
I've encountered few stressful situations in which slinking off to a private place to jill-off has not improved my mood in short order.
I Make An Extra Starbucks Run
Some days the 8:30 a.m. coffee run just isn't going to sustain you all by itself. You're going to need to refuel around noon, and then maybe again at 3 p.m. and potentially sometime in the evening. Yes it's overpriced and yes, depending on what you get it's not always the healthiest decision from a physical standpoint. But you know what? Green tea lattes are good for my soul.
I Ignore All Incoming Texts
Yeah, sorry Group Text With 10 Friends And Family Members Who Apparently Have Nothing Else Going On Right Now. I will quickly skim all 700 missed messages later tonight and respond with, "Just getting to this now, but LOL! I love you all."
Sh*t's getting real over here, and I know you all love me enough to forgive this absence.
I Remind Myself That Even Mary Poppins Sometimes Said "Yes" After She'd Already Said "No"
Judgy McJudgerson's act like any time one acquiesces to their child's requests or demands it's the sign of an inveterate pushover who is failing herself and her offspring. "You've got to be firm and stand your ground," they'll tsk. Well, you know what? You know who else went back on a "No" from time to time? Mary F*cking Poppins, and she was practically perfect in every way.
"Mary, can we go in Bert's chalk drawing on the sidewalk."
"Now can we have a tea party on the ceiling."
"LOL! We're impish English children and we're going to do it anyway."
Mary knows that it's sometimes just not worth the argument.
I Let Myself Watch TV
Because after a tough day, nothing will make me feel OK about my life quite like pounding through several episodes of Game of Thrones. I might have lost it on my kindergartener and made my toddler cry and they both went to bed saying they hate me, but at least I don't live in Westeros.
I Plan A Night Out
Because sometimes the best solution to your problems is to run from them. Well, at least for a little while, which can give you much needed perspective and relaxation.
I Focus On The Big Picture
A difficult day is just that: a day. We have tens of thousands of days to live and one is small potatoes in comparison. Beating yourself up over one day is tempting but usually unnecessary.
Remember I'm Human
This parenting business is tough, and there are times when it's frequently tough. So be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. In my experience, that's the only way to get through it.