As a frenzied mother of two, I don't always feel like I'm "winning." In fact, most days I'm lucky if I manage to keep myself from yelling, can keep to a schedule, or can accomplish whatever small thing I set out to accomplish. The small things matter a lot, though, because sometimes those small things are exactly what save me from feeling like a complete failure. Over the years I've learned how important it is to take care of myself, so there are some little things I do every single day that remind me I'm a good mom (even if I don't feel like it).
For the longest time I felt insecure about every little decision I made as a mom. Honestly, at times I'm still unsure and scared when I make a choice that I know will impact my children and their day-to-day lives. With one child quickly approaching her teen years, and another just registered for kindergarten, it's easy to feel like I'm failing when there's a challenging day I struggle to "survive." I know my children are great kids, but I'm constantly dragging myself through the mud at the slightest hint of a potential mistake. I certainly wake up every day with the best of expectations and intentions, but because life doesn't really care about your plans, there's always going to be a few bumps along the way (i.e. tantrums, arguments over clothes, and arguments over, well, everything else too OMG the arguments never end).
The longer I'm in this parenting game, the more I'm learning that even on those really hard days, I'm not failing as a mother. That's a difficult realization to accept because when I hear that tantrum, or see misconduct, it feels like a personal attack on how I parent. But it's not, and I need to continue to remind myself that I'm capable of being the mom my children need. With that, here are some small things I do to remind myself, as often as possible, that I'm a damn good mom.
I Make A List
Sometimes the easiest thing I can do it make a shirt list of things I'm doing right. It helps knock out the negative feelings that might be lingering as the result of a small, or even large, mistake. Does it fix everything? No, but it does put things in a more positive perspective.
I Talk To My Kids
Between work, errands, school, chores, and meal prep, I get so busy during the days that sometimes I forget to take a break and enjoy some one-on-one time with my kids. When I get the opportunity to hear about my kids' days and how they're feeling, I remember I'm not doing such a bad job after all.
I Pack A Lunch
OK, so full disclosure: I hate packing school lunches. Time gets away from me and it's easier to send my children to school with some loose change. However, my oldest often wants me to pack her something to eat for lunch because, I think, it comforts her. When I'm feeling low, I take the time to do pack the best lunch ever and usually with a note to make her day better which, in turn, makes my day better, too.
I Talk To My Kids' Teachers
If your kids are like mine, they're well-behaved everywhere but home. This is both frustrating and exciting because it means I'm doing something right if they know how to be on their best behavior outside of the house. I can live with the fact that I have to deal with more than a few tantrums at home when I hear my son is his teacher's favorite kid in class. #Winning
I Observe My Kids With Their Friends
I love seeing my kids in a different light, like when they're with their friends, for example. When they're with their peers I get more insight into the kind of people they are when I'm not around.
To my surprise, my kids are generally great. They make good decisions and respect their peers more often than not, and that reminds me that those damn lessons I keep trying to teach them are sticking.
I Listen In On My Kids' Conversations
Have you ever overheard a toddler talk about you? Or better yet, a pre-teen? I was kind of terrified to hear my children talk about me, but to my surprise my oldest thinks I'm pretty cool, and my youngest tells his friends I'm "cute" and "beautiful." Basically, I'm not mad about it.
I Take A Minute To Get An Outsider's Perspective
Perspective really is everything. Where I see a day's worth of failures, my kids might only think about the great things that happened. Actually, they don't usually notice the things I'm dwelling on, so the moment I decide to change my point of view, I'm reminded that I'm not doing too bad at this whole parenting thing.
I Go Through Old Photos
I love looking back and remembering when my kids were small. It's a great reminder that I'm doing the mom thing all day every damn day, and doing it well. I mean, they're still alive! And they're clothed and eating! Those are all wins!
I Give Into A Small Request
My kids ask for a lot of things in a 24 hour period, and most of the time the answer has to be no for a variety of reasons. Every now and then, I give in — not just to make them happier, but to lessen the burden of being such a drag all the time. I instantly feel like a champ when I see how happy my kids are.
I Decide To Be Childlike For A Minute
I can't remember the last time I was child-like. Even as a kid I was budgeting finances and cooking meals from scratch. Sometimes, though, my kids need me to be on their level, and when I do I realize it's OK to let loose. I feel like a better mom when I allow my kids to see me a little differently every now and then and, honestly, it helps us become that much closer.
I Tuck The Kids In At Night
It doesn't matter how long or stressful my day is, when I tuck my kids in at night I'm reminded how much love they have for me — even when I feel like I've failed them.
My kids forget my perceived failures almost instantaneously, and especially by the end of the day. Just before they close their eyes they tell me how much they love me. If I'm lucky, my youngest will also give me a pat on the back when I lean down to hug him (which means we're pals), and suddenly whatever was frustrating me disappears.
I Write A Letter
My daughter has always been compassionate and thoughtful. As a result, she likes to leave little notes and drawings all over the house (especially when I'm having a rough day). If I need a reminder I'm a good mom, I'll write something for her because I know how much they mean to her.
I Enjoy A Hot Bath
Every night, no matter what's going on in life, I treat myself to a bath. Those 20 minutes are mine and mine alone. They help me clear my head and relax, so I don't spend the rest of the night focusing on whatever was stressing me out during the day. Instead, I'm only focused on myself and my family.
I Smell The Top Of My Kids' Hair
I do miss the way my babies smelled when they were actually babies. If I'm desperate for some kind of motherly validation, I take a sniff of their freshly washed hair. It's not exactly as good as that newborn baby smell, but it does take me back to the days they thought I could do no wrong.
I Take My Kid Somewhere I'd Rather Not Go
There's a lot of places I don't want to be, including but certainly not limited to: school, the grocery store, curricular events, and anywhere outside the comfort of my home.
But when I want to feel like Mother Of The Year, I take my kids on a surprise trip somewhere outside the house. It might be an awful day for me, but it's the best day ever for them.
I Bite My Tongue
As a mom, there's a lot I want to say and can't. So, most of the time, I don't. If I see a mess and don't say anything, I feel a tiny bit of instant gratification.
I Say What I'm Thankful For
Every single night, no matter what's happened, I whisper three things I'm grateful for before I close my eyes. It may not fix anything that went wrong in the last 12 hours or whatever, but it's a good way to end the day.
I Remember My Children's Words
My son's memory is really great. When I actually remember something he told me, he's impressed. In turn, I feel like I've won the damn lottery.
I Surprise My Kids With Something Small
Some days it doesn't take much to thrill my kids. On a crappy day, I might tell them we're going for ice cream and all is right in the world again.
I Ask My Kids About Their Day
Yes — believe it or not, this matters! Although I have good intentions, I might not hear what my kids tell me about their days when I'm so busy it feels like I'm drowning on dry land. When I make an effort to really listen to whatever it is they have to say, and what they've experiences, it makes all the difference in the world and can turn my day of mom insecurities around.
I Tell My Kids I Love Them
And I honestly can't tell my kids I love them enough. I want them to feel it in their bones, even when I'm cranky. And when they respond with, "I love you, too," I know I'm doing it right.
I Respect My Kids' Feelings
When I take the time to step back and respect what my children are telling me (whether it's to trust them or let them do something I'm not sure about, or if I've hurt their feelings), I feel most connected to my children and the job of being a mom. It's not all about me shouting directions at my kids all day. When I remember that they have their own feelings and opinions and it's not all about me, I feel better about myself and my journey as a parent.
I Let My Kids Be Independent
The hardest part of parenting is letting go. The times I do let my kids do something I previously felt to be "for big kids," their confidence reminds me I'm a good mom and it's not only OK to let them go, it's necessary.
I Talk About The Hard Stuff
Sex. Periods. Relationships. Consent. All these things are hard as hell to discuss, but knowing my kids will be equipped in the real world makes it worth it.
On a regular basis, I touch base with my oldest, just to be sure she's on the right track and doesn't have any questions. It's not fun, but I'm confident she'd come to me if she did have a question or concern.
I Encourage My Children's Natural Talents
I don't care what my kids want to get into — I'm here for it. Today my son asked to get into karate, so I signed him up. I might not feel good about a lot of life choices, but building my kids' confidence and self-esteem? I'm doing OK.
I Don't Throw Away Their Legos
It might not seem like a big life choice or anything, but the days I don't sweep up the stray Legos on the floor are days I should get a trophy.
I Go To A Damn School Event
School events are the worst. I don't want to talk to people or sit through other kids' events. But, for my kids, I will.
I Don't Eat The Last Brownie
It takes a lot of restraint, to be sure, but leaving the last brownie for my daughter when I know she's had a bad day, to her, is the equivalent of sending my daughter on a tropical vacation. I know this makes me a good mom because I wanted that damn brownie.
I Make Sure I'm Fully Present
I work from home and run marathons and am I'm in charge of generally everything in our lives. It's exhausting at times, and I know I'm not always fully present for my kids as the result. When I force myself to tune into my children, though, I instantly feel better because I can see the difference in their moods. They can tell when I'm checked in, not checked out, and that is everything to me.
I Look Into A Mirror & Say "I'm A Good Mom" Out Loud
It's not always easy to feel like I'm doing a good job, which is why there are days I force myself to look in the mirror and actually say the words. "You're doing a great job."
And some days, I really am.