Before I became a mom, I had a lot of dreams about what motherhood would be like. I imagined myself with super cute little kids happily playing in the sandbox at the park on a sunny afternoon while I peacefully nursed my newest baby. Everything in my dreams was perfect, easy, and sweet.
Fast forward into reality (ha!), and things were not exactly as I had imagined: babies with colic, sibling rivalries, very little sleep, laundry like an endless circle of Dante’s Inferno. Abandon hope, all ye who enter the laundry room! I felt scattered, isolated, foggy-brained, unaccomplished, and even, at times, unimportant. Feelings of discouragement crept in. It wasn’t quite what I had imagined, but what do I do now?
Things changed for me when I began to ask myself: As a mom, who do I want to be? I have to admit that it felt a little scary to even ask myself this question because I felt like I could just barely meet the minimum standards with my three kids under three years old. My kids are alive, fed, and (mostly) clean today? Great! I count that as a win.
(Note that having two matching shoes did not even enter the “minimum standard.”. . . Sigh . . .)
I didn’t feel like I could even imagine or dream about who I want to be as a mom, because just doing basic things like getting in and out of car seats was so supremely stressful. But I decided to risk it anyway.
Who do I want to be? I want to be a mom who is light-hearted and fun. I want to be a mom who is a good listener and gives lots of tender hugs. I want to be a mom who plays sports with my kids, even as my aging body fails to match my competitive drive! I want to be a mom who challenges them intellectually, and gives her kids a chance to discover their own solutions to the problems in their life. I want to be a mom who instills the name of Christ in their hearts, so wherever they go, they will know the sweetness of that name.
So, what do I need to do to get there? Again, this question is also sort of scary because I feel the gap between who I am and who I want to be. But instead of feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the prospect of it all, I decided that all I have to do is take just ONE action step in the direction I want to go and surrender my expectations.
– Be more light-hearted and fun? Guard my emotions by filling my days with simple fun activities I love.
– Be a better listener? Bite my tongue until my child who tells the longest stories ever has finished, instead of interrupting and efficiently filling in the missing pieces to save time.
– Play sports with them? Just pick one day where this fits, and don’t sweat the rest.
– Instill the name of Christ? Just pick one prayerful activity and don’t be too upset if your toddler takes a bite out of your Advent wreath candle. Sigh . . . (#Catholicfamilyproblems).
And in the end, I’ve discovered that what serves me well is to find the mean between having such high expectations that are never fulfillable (which leads to my discouragement) and giving up and having none at all because it’s too hard (also discouraging). I realize that I can always ask myself who do I want to be, and take just one little step in that direction. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Because even if in a moment of dazed sleep deprivation you mistake cumin for cinnamon and ruin the lovely Sunday breakfast you had envisioned would fill the family table with love—well, there’s always a drive through window . . .
. . . and no, kids, you don’t need matching shoes for that.