I’m not the mom I thought I would be.

I always thought I’d be the mom who showed her girls they could have it all. I never thought I’d be the woman who left her job at the PR agency to help run the PTA. I never thought I’d be OK with my husband being the primary breadwinner. I never thought I’d be the mom who ran the household because her husband was conquering the business world, offering to help the women who work full-time.

I thought our family would always have dinner together and spend quality time on Sundays and tell each other everything. I never thought I would be a soccer mom driving my kids all over the countryside, eating meals out of plastic containers. I never thought I would be the parent who volunteered to chaperone 100 eighth graders on an orchestra field trip for a weekend. I never thought my kid would shut down and freeze me out so coldly that I cried myself to sleep one night.

I thought that parenting would come easily to me, that wanting to have a good relationship with my children meant I would have one. I never thought I’d be the mom who needed to talk to a therapist because I faced depression. I never thought I would be the mom who fought with her kid so much that she was ashamed. I never thought I would be the mom who worried about things like test scores, and what teams my kids made, and where they might attend college—even though they were only in sixth grade.

I wanted an open relationship with my daughters, but I thought that meant they would always come to me with questions. I never thought I would be the mom who would tell her tween daughters what “69” was (in detail) because boys were chanting about it in gym class. I never thought I’d be the mom who would sit with her kids and watch Eminem’s “8 Mile”. I never thought I would be the mom who shared with her daughters that there were times I drank too much and drove my car home, or that I tried things that put me in danger, or that there were men in my life who tried to force themselves on me.

I thought I’d be the mom with all the answers. I never thought I’d have to explain to my kids what to do in an active shooting situation, or how to cover their drinks at a party, or the warning signs that a friend could be considering suicide. I didn’t know that a 4×6 phone would dominate their time and impact their moods and have the greatest influence on their behavior. I never thought they would come to me with issues I couldn’t even fathom at their age.

I am both a traditional homemaker and a radical feminist. I am both a model of long-term achievement coupled with a million daily failures. I am exactly who I want to be and yet still wonder what I want to do when I grow up. I have everything I ever dreamed about yet never knew I wanted.

I’m not the mom I thought I would be, the one I envisioned in my head so many years ago when I dreamt of having children. The picture-perfect images are gone, the preconceived notions have flown out the window. I realized that parenting is a long game, like chess, yet so many of us are playing checkers.

I parent so differently than my own mother, yet yearn for an equally close relationship with my daughters. I want my kids to reach for the stars but am OK with them seeking out an ordinary life. I am a traditional mother who parents non-traditionally.

I’m not the mom I thought I would be.

I’m so much better.

Originally published on Playdates on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.