I was raised by someone I firmly believe is one of the best mothers on the planet. She's kind, patient, and has always shown me unconditional love, even through my rebellious teen years. Growing up, she constantly looked for ways to praise me, build me up, and never missed an opportunity to encourage me to follow my heart. I never worried that she failed her kids by being a bad mom. In fact, she's the reason why I wanted to be a mother, and now that I have three children of my own, I strive everyday to be as great of a mother to my children and she was to me. It's not always easy, but it's my goal. And though I know some women revel in being a "bad mom," I don't ever want to do anything to earn that title — from myself or anyone else. If I'm honest, living up to her amazing example has been terrifying. I don't want to fail my kids. Even more, I don't want to be a bad mom.
When I first became a mother, I think I set unrealistic expectations when it came to parenting. I focused so much on trying to be the mother I thought I was going to be in my head that I actually forgot that reality is a bit different. I thought that if I raised my voice and or didn't constantly hang on every word my child said, I was somehow failing not just him, but both of us. In those early days, I put so much pressure on myself to try and be this ideal parent, someone who knew what my baby needed before he even needed it, that every time I did make a mistake I felt like I was a horrible, no good, terrible kind of parent. To be honest, I was just terrified I'd fail at the most important job in the world.
In those early days, I spent countless nights crying to my husband, telling him that I never felt like I was doing enough as a mom. If I raised my voice, I felt awful. If I snapped at my kids for accidents, I went to bed in a state of guilt and shame. It was so exhausting feeling like a constant failure, even though deep down I knew I was a good mom. I knew that perfect parents didn't exist, but I couldn't figure out why was I being so hard on myself.
Society certainly didn't help either. I felt there was always this crazy amount of pressure put on me and other women I knew who were raising kids of their own to cultivate grateful, responsible, and perfectly well-behaved children. Before I had kids, I remember seeing a screaming child in the grocery store and thinking I'd never let my child behave that way. Now that I'm a mom, if I see a child having a tantrum in public, I just raise my hand and flash the Hunger Games symbol to show my solidarity. Parenting is hard, a lot harder than I expected, and perfection is simply not possible.
I'm not quite sure why I'm so overly concerned about being a bad mom. There have never been any rude comments made about my mothering skills and aside from society's overall judgment of mothers, I've thankfully had no real reason to be so worried. I attribute most of my paranoid feelings to my insecure nature. I'm naturally a very sensitive and anxious person and I always over-analyze every little thing. But I also know that I'm just really, really terrified of screwing up.
But when I first became a mom, I was constantly researching the perfect schedule, the best nutritional needs, and all the best ways to help my children feel secure. I read books about independence, raising grateful children, and anything I could get my hands on about parenting. I put myself last and constantly focused on the small mistakes I made instead of the big successes. Everyday I fed, bathed, hugged, praised, encouraged, and loved on my kids. But all I seemed to focus on was that one time I yelled after a tantrum. Instead of remembering the many times I'd wiped the tears away before the messes and handled things with patience and love, I only saw the time I got angry about the literal and figurative spilled milk.
Honestly, I'm not quite sure why I'm so overly concerned about being a bad mom. There have never been any rude comments made about my mothering skills and aside from society's overall judgment of mothers, I've thankfully had no real reason to be so worried. I attribute most of my paranoid feelings to my insecure nature. I'm naturally a very sensitive and anxious person and I always over-analyze every little thing. But I also know that I'm just really, really terrified of screwing up. Motherhood has brought me so much joy, obviously, but it also brought on lots of fears. There is so much at stake when it comes to raising a kid. Am I so wrong to be worried I'll mess it up? Molding vulnerable, innocent children into successful adults — there's a lot on the line. And after my first son was born, I felt so much pressure to raise children the "right" way that I forgot to leave room for reality. I desperately wanted to live up to the example set before me. One day, I want my children to say that I was a good mom to them. But what if they don't?
My husband and I show love to our children in many ways. In our home, love comes in words, encouragement, and praise, it comes in the form of affection and cuddles, and in actions, like putting our children's needs ahead of our own. Being a mother has taught me so much about love, but it's also taught me about grace. Now, I give myself a break when I don't feel like I'm doing enough. I give myself a break when I feel like I'm doing too much. I forgive myself for messing up. And I am inspired, daily, to keep fighting to be the kind of mom to my kids that my own mom was to me.
Instead of harping on all the things I didn't do right, I focus my energy on the many things I did get right. I think about the board games we played and I remember the cuddles, the bedtime stories, and the funny things my kids said throughout the day. I think about all the times they've told me, "I love you," and I remember how lucky I am to hear those words each day. I promise myself that I won't fail them. I've had too good of a teacher to do that. So instead, I do my best to focus on the good.