How many times a day do you beat yourself up about mistakes you make as a mother? What they ate, how much screen time, what they watched, how many times you raised your voice? The devil would love to convince us we are alone in our guilt…but that is a lie!
We are not alone and yet most women often feel like they are the only ones that don’t love this job every second, the only ones that feel frustration or guilt or shame about the mistakes they make, the only ones that dream about running away without telling anyone and escaping to Mexico where there are free-flowing margaritas and sun and quiet.
My days are different now with all of my kids in school but I stumbled upon this list I wrote years ago when my sister-in-law was feeling like a bad mother. Here is the way life really went when I was in the trenches:
The Rule: No TV on weekdays for the school-aged children, and no TV for the little ones until after nap time.
What Really Happens: My sad attempt at craft time ends with paint all over the floor and my clean shirt (which I was planning on wearing for two more days); the three-year-old hits the two-year-old with his paint brush; she screams and pours her paint out on the table. Meanwhile the baby pulls the plastic tablecloth (where incidentally none of the spilled paint has ended up) so hard that the water cups spill, until finally I pick up all the paint brushes and say as cheerfully as I can through gritted teeth, “Who wants to watch a Curious George?”
The Rule: No sugar during the day and in the evening only if you have finished your dinner with a cheerful attitude.
What Really Happens: We have a busy morning with two doctor visits, and remarkably everyone has held it together. Then I remember that I have to get bread and milk or there will be nothing for lunches, and I will have to go to the store at 8:30 p.m. when I am half asleep, and I’ll end up buying Ben and Jerry’s and 7 other things I do not need. So we brave the aisles and all is well for about two minutes, until the toddlers start fighting and the baby starts crying and before you know it I have closed their mouth holes with donuts and start to pretend that we are running “for fun” to the back of the store where they strategically keep the milk so that desperate mothers like me will end up buying donuts, at noon, before they feed their kids lunch.
The Rule: I will cook dinner a minimum of 6 days a week and it will be balanced and healthy, and if you don’t like it you can have a PBJ or go hungry.
What Really Happens: I forget to thaw the hamburger for the tacos, and didn’t really want that anyway, and then my husband is unexpectedly delayed at work. I consider the groans I’ll get when I put said taco meat in front of a toddler, and then I decide it would be easier to pile the kids in the car and drive through Chick-fil-A. I’ll cut up an apple or something and then it will be balanced, right? At least the baby will get a good meal… “Would you like a side of fries with that breast milk?”
The Rule: We do not raise our voices to each other; we do not yell to get our way; Mommy will yell only when you are in danger and not when she is angry.
What Really happens: Eight-year-old yells at six-year-old; six-year-old whines and cries; three-year-old pushes six-year-old, and suddenly eight-year-old is defending six-year-old by yelling at three-year-old to stop. Two-year-old wants juice. We don’t have juice, so two-year-old starts screaming and moaning, while the aforementioned three-year-old hits the aforementioned eight-year-old, and the noise and chaos wake the sleeping nine-month-old. I decide they are in danger of being strangled (by me), so I yell, “EVERYONE STOP YELLING RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” I threaten to take away TV, video games, food, water, a soft bed, and to give every toy they own to the poor. And finally, they stop. For now.
The Rule: Big kids shower a minimum of four days a week; babies get baths every other night, or nightly if particularly dirty at the end of the day.
What Really Happens: It’s the end of the day in a series of many long days when I realize the big boys haven’t showered in 3 days, so I sniff their hair and decide they can go one more day if it means they will be in bed sooner. I am nursing the baby and notice some unidentifiable crust behind his ear and realize I cannot remember the last time he had a bath, so I give him a good scrub with a wipe and promise to get him and his stinky sister in the tub tomorrow.
So the days aren’t perfect and we don’t always read enough or pray enough.
But then, there’s all the laughter and the moments when their character and kindness show through all the chaos. There are the nights when you do all sit down to dinner and they eat it, when you do all pray and they mean it, when they listen to the story and they get it. Or none of those things happen, but at the end of the day they hug you tight and tell you they love you, and you realize they don’t care if they’re dirty, or if they ate fries for dinner, and they don’t remember you losing your temper. They just love you and they are happy to be alive and ready to get up and love you all over again. They don’t keep score, they don’t hold grudges, and it never occurs to them that you might be failing at anything. So next time you feel like a failure, ask yourself who is telling you that; I promise it’s not that little guy looking up at you and calling you Mommy.