The bedtime routines were all complete, and my husband and I collapsed on the couch. Finally having a chance to talk uninterrupted, my husband asked me, “So, how was today?”
The immediate response sprang to my mind. Not good.
I thought about the times I lost my patience when the baby was wiggling during an exceptionally messy diaper change and when the girls were fighting for the third time before 10 a.m. Or I thought about the time after naps when I felt bored and not present. I thought about the time I yelled right before dinner started while I tried to juggle five different tasks (while feeling quite hangry myself) and it seemed like no one was listening.
But then a different, surprising thought sprang up. Today wasn’t really that bad.
Yes, there were moments of failure and mistakes. Those felt like dark storm clouds hanging over my head.
But what about everything else? What about the sweet, bright moments of sunshine?
What about the times the baby hugged me tight when I lifted him out of his crib after both of his naps, his pudgy little baby arms wrapped around my shoulders? What about the times my little girls picked me bouquets of tiny daisies as we took a walk, like they always do when we’re outside together? What about the time my oldest was belting out “Jolene” from her room while she was playing, and I stood outside the door videoing and trying to hold in my laughter? What about the times I got hugs and kisses and they held my hands? What about all the giggles? What about the time right before bed when we snuggled together and read stories?
In reality, there were maybe five really hard moments. Five. Out of the whole day. And the rest of the day was filled up with the sweet.
It’s hard for me to keep all that in perspective at the end of the day. When I’m exhausted and spent after a whole day of caring for others, and I replay my day, my mind always goes to the hard. To my failures. My mistakes stack up, and a voice in the back of my mind grows louder, saying, “You’re not very good at this.”
It feels like a punch to the heart. This is not how I want to end my days. I wish my mind didn’t work like this.
Because in reality, to label a day—with five, six, seven hard moments, but then twenty sweet ones—as bad is a lie. It wasn’t perfect, and no day will be. And to label myself a bad mom because I can’t be a perfect mom is a lie too. Even on the rare days when the bad might actually outweigh the good.
I don’t want to look back on years of parenting and have those memories clouded by all the hard. So now, when I replay my day, I try to rewire. I don’t filter all my memories through gray rainclouds, rewriting the reality of the day. I see the moments, all the moments, for what they are.
I think about as many of the individual, little sweet moments that I can and am thankful I had each one of them. Sometimes I do this while flipping through the pictures I took that day, where I’ve captured the cute, the silly, and the triumphs. I see their faces and the victories and the laughs and can’t help but be thankful.
At the end of the day, I think about the hard moments too. I don’t minimize them or downplay them. They were hard. But this time, I think about the whole picture.
Yes, there were times I lost my patience or yelled, but those were followed with me apologizing. They were followed by times we all used our words to talk about how we were feeling and what we could do differently to love each other well. I’m thankful I can model that to my children.
And each day after I replay, I remind myself that being perfect isn’t the goal. The goal is to love my kids well. Just like I tell my children, it’s OK to make mistakes. We can apologize, and we can try to fix them.
I hope they see this in my life and it can be a powerful lesson to them. I hope when they’re raising kids of their own, they won’t have to fight a battle of perfection. That they can replay their days and see the truth—see all the moments of sunshine and the few moments of storms and know they’re doing their best.
Even on my hardest day, I am not a bad mother. That’s just a lie. I want to step into the sweet. I want to remember every wonderful thing and let those memories define the day. I do not want anything to steal my joy of motherhood. Because this is a beautiful, crazy, hard, amazing, messy, wonderful journey that I am incredibly thankful to be on. I am a good mother. You are a good mother. Let’s hold on to the sweet together.