I go to a Mom’s Circle at my church, not because I wanted to get together and do bible studies, but because they have free childcare. That’s it in a nutshell. Well, that’s why I went the first time anyway.

The female pastor at my church approached me the other day before Mom’s Circle and said that one of the other moms had spoken to her about what I had said last week. My first thoughts were, “oh crap, Teri, what the hell did you say?” very church-like, I know. I prepared myself for a talk about some behavior that needed to be corrected or things that you’re not supposed to say in a church group or something along those lines. I was not preparing myself to be on the defensive though, just ready to accept feedback and figure out what needed to happen next. Needless-to-say, I was shocked when she said the other mom was so grateful that I starting coming to the group, because she felt like the things I shared made her feel like life was going to be OK. That although things weren’t always easy, it would all be fine in the end.

I feel like as moms, we tend to not share the crappy details of our lives, and just give the pretty highlights and show how awesome we are. We keep sharing all of the awesome and hide all of the things we probably consider our failures. I let others know that they don’t have to worry about their successes and failures as a parent, because I already have a lockdown on the Mom of the Year Award. So since there’s no competition, feel free to parent however works for you.

Let me tell you about the time my four-year-old finger painted her bedroom with poop, or how my two-year-old liked to peel wallpaper off the walls, or how my nine-year-old got kicked off the bus for repeating sexual things he didn’t understand but overheard the older kids say on the bus, or how I didn’t pack extra clothes to take the church daycare for my three-year-old who told the workers that her underwear got rained on (for the record, it was not rain). I’ve got stories of the amazingly wonderful and the amazingly awful things my kids have done, and boy oh boy, do I have stories about my many, many, many mom-fails that are present on a daily basis.

I have learned a lot of things from my middle child. She shook up my entire world. I had parenting down pat before she was born. A simple example is what she wears. She picks out her clothing, and I am not allowed into the process. If I tried to intervene, she would have a complete meltdown on the floor, and the whole ordeal could potentially last an hour, ending when I let her make her own decisions. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is not out of the question for her to wear two to three layers of clothing, none of which remotely match. A spaghetti-strapped sequined dress with a pair of striped pants, pair of jean shorts, mismatched socks, a pirate hat, and running shoes is a pretty standard outfit.

After accepting that I don’t have to do just like everyone else does, I have decided that I like colored socks and that it’s awesome when they don’t match. With all of my power earned by my Mom of the Year Award, I give you permission to do what makes you and your family happy, regardless of what you think society expects from you. When you become comfortable just being you, life is more interesting and less stressful. So, I started going to Mom’s Group at my church to get a break from being a mom, but in the end, I felt fulfillment because I made the difference in the life of another mom.

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Teri Gray

Teri has a bachelors degree in German and Mathematics and a master's degree in Education. She spent eight years teaching at Boys Town High School for at-risk youth before moving to Germany, where her husband was stationed with the military for almost five years. She has three children 10, 5, and 3. Teri knew everything there was about parenting before she had her second child, who continues to shatter every mold ever created and test her on a daily basis. Teri hails from Omaha, Nebraska, but currently resides in the Seattle area. Her favorite forms of therapy are baking, cooking, and running. Honesty and hilarity are integral parts of her personality.