I’m kind of hard on myself as a mom. In fact, most days if I were to grade myself on some sort of official motherhood report card, I think I’d give myself a “Needs Improvement,” which isn’t all bad. Nobody’s perfect, and the idea of working on being a better mom is great—important even—but I’m realizing more and more that when I see myself as a mom, I tend to focus on the bad. The things that need improving. All the little mistakes add up, and overall, I end up feeling like a bad mom.
Nobody tells me this. It’s all me.
In fact, the other day I half sarcastically stated I must be a bad mom and my 8-year-old son quickly interjected with, “Don’t say that! That’s not true and you shouldn’t say such mean things.” It was sweet really—my son sticking up for me against my own self-deprecating humor. For a moment, I laughed it off and said, “Don’t worry buddy. I was only joking.” But the truth is part of me believed it.
Part of me believed I must be a bad mom.
And it was sad really because I’d never want my son to speak of himself or see himself in this way. Yet there I was.
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Lately, I’ve shed lots of tears pouring my heart out to friends, family, and my therapist. I tell them about how hard parenting is. About how badly I want my kids to feel heard, seen, and loved. I cry as I share my biggest fear, that I’m messing it all up. That I’m not doing enough. Not balancing my attention well or being present. That I’m too firm one day and too soft the next. Through tears, I tell them how much I love my kids, but I’m terrified that I may not be doing a good enough job showing it.
Each time, I sit there ugly crying and wiping my tears with cheap toilet paper. My head swimming with fear and shame.
What if I’m doing it all wrong?
But I’m reassured with kind and comforting words . . . You are a good mom. Your kids know you love them. It’s so obvious. Clear as day. They couldn’t miss it. You are doing a good job, and they are lucky to have you.
Now, I’m not sharing all of these nice words to toot my own horn. I’m not even entirely sure I believe them. I hope it’s all true, I desperately want to believe it, but I’m not quite convinced yet.
I share this because this is what we do as moms. We focus on where we fall short. We replay the time when we lost our temper or said something cold and insensitive. We hold ourselves responsible for circumstances that are sometimes completely out of our control. Just life getting heavy and messy, but we put all of it on us. It’s our fault. We’ve messed it up. We’ve ruined things.
We’re simply just bad moms.
We miss the beauty. We miss our tender parts and our joy. We miss the laughter that we sow into our kids’ lives. The words we say that build them up and strengthen their character. We forget to extend ourselves the patience and grace we teach our kids to extend to others.
We teach our kids to love themselves. To own up to their mistakes, but not be defined by them, yet so often we don’t do the same. We rate ourselves as “needs improvement” instead of seeing our hard work and love-motivated efforts and giving ourselves a “most improved.” Because, dang it, we are works in progress, but we are working hard and that counts!
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We are giving our all to this messy, beautiful life called motherhood, and because we are learning along the way, we don’t always do it right. But our kids see us and know what it means to love, be selfless, and never give up. They see imperfection and growth simultaneously. And though we may not get it right all the time, we are always trying to do better.
We are not bad moms.
We are works in progress. Most improved. We are good moms, and I need to recognize and believe that and so do you.