I met up with a fellow mom friend a few weeks ago, and she informed me that she and her children were having “a rough morning”. As I listened to her describe the stressful events leading up to our get-together—uncharacteristic whining from her daughter and a general lack of listening, for example—I realized my friend’s bad morning was the painful reality I have been living for the last couple of months.
My daughters are three- and five-years-old, and in general they are good kids. For the most part, even though every day in my parenting journey brings small challenges, I would say I usually experience more good moments than bad with my children.
Right now, though? Right now, is tough. Right now, my daughters seem to spend more time crying and whining and fighting than laughing or smiling or sharing. Right now, I feel like I spend more time yelling or scolding than hugging and praising my daughters. Right now, I wake up more mornings than I would like to admit with dread in my heart because I know the tantrums and battles will begin at any moment. Right now, I can honestly say some days, I don’t want to be around my children. It pains me to say that, but it’s the truth.
I’m a stay at home mom, and I can only change so many pairs of soiled underwear a day before I want to cry. I can only referee so many arguments about who gets to play with which toy before I lose it. I can only ask my daughters to put their toys away or to get their shoes on so many times before my patience snaps like a twig.
I know these are hard ages, and I know “this too shall pass”. But right now, I am struggling. Right now, I feel like I am failing. Right now, I am full of self-doubt and stress and guilt. Right now, even those emotionally charged memes and videos making the rounds on social media about how the days are long but the years go fast aren’t fully registering with me. I know it’s true and one day I will miss this phase of life and all the beautiful, amazing moments that come with it, but right now, I’m just trying to survive.
At the same time, I’m reaching a point where I’m beginning to embrace my emotions and the chaos, and I can acknowledge it’s alright if I’m having a hard time and not enjoying every second of every day with my daughters.
It’s time to embrace being OK with things feeling crappy sometimes, with feeling like there are currently more bad moments than good ones with my children, because I know tomorrow is a new day and things can change.
So, I’m going to work on managing my expectations. Instead of beginning each day by wishing for fewer meltdowns, I’m going to try instead to anticipate and acknowledge these behaviors are likely to occur—and that I can handle it. My girls are human beings, with legitimate emotions and wants and needs, and I’m going to try harder to remember that and to be more patient and gentle with them.
I’m going to try harder to embrace the flaws and imperfections of motherhood. I want to be kinder to myself when I don’t get it “right” (whatever that means).
I’m going to breathe and remember science tells us children typically reserve their worst behavior for their parents—specifically, their mothers—because we are the ones with whom they feel most comfortable, the ones on whom they can unleash their fears and anxieties the most readily, because they love and trust us implicitly.
While I feel I am unworthy of it, I know that, to my young daughters, I am Wonder Woman. I am a source of peace and comfort. I am their rock of familiarity and truth.
I know my girls will continue to test me and push me to my brink, but I suppose that is their job. I also know they will make my heart burst with joy when they learn a new skill or when they wrap their little arms around me and burrow their heads into my neck and whisper how much they love me.
So, while I am crying and stumbling and generally struggling during this challenging phase of motherhood, I know I owe it to my girls to keep going, even if I have to do it crawling. To have faith it will get better, even on the difficult days. To love them unconditionally and give it my all, even on the days when I feel depleted.
Because as a mother, that’s my job.