Are You Really a Bad Mother?

The ticker tape runs at the end of the day of all the wrongs I’d love to right.  The yelling, the losing patience, the frustration that I just can’t do enough, or spend 100% with any one child.  I’ve gotten better with this, but still.

Today I had a great day.  I did some volunteer work for my son’s pre-school; planted marigolds my older son bought for me at the spring plant sale; bought geraniums to plant for my husband who enjoys them; bought a new bistro table (on sale!) since the last one rotted away and which the kids loved to sit at; set up the hammock, which the kids also love; took my mom for the afternoon, which she enjoys; chauffeured to karate class; bought rolls at the supermarket for my daughters.  I did more.  I usually do a whole lot less.

Here’s the other thing I did a little of:  laughed with my kids.

I am so serious, so focused on what I have to do, so focused on the misbehaviors of the children or the things I don’t get right that I really don’t enjoy this job all that often anymore.  That’s a problem.  After all, I chose to be home with my kids.  I want to be here with them.  But home life is often frustrating and even more often thankless.  Everyday.  And that is a strain.

So I often feel like a  bad mother:  for not always wanting to be with them, for yelling, for just not getting things exactly right like a textbook mom. The fact is I’m not a textbook mom.  I’m a mom with faults. I’m a person, a fallible person.

But I am also a person who loves.  I love to read with my children, to cook for them, to set up that hammock so they can hang out on it.  Of course they fight over it, but I was so happy when my oldest came up with a solution to set a timer for each of them so that they could take turns.  Yay!

See I can appreciate things.  But the thing I appreciate least is my own effort.

I have a new neighbor family and they are incredibly generous and warm people.  They are the type of people who, when you are in their presence, make you aware of yourself and make you want to be a better person.  The husband today, whom I had just met, said to me in conversation that I am a good mother.  He shrugged off my “but I  yell a lot” comment and said he sees my devotion to my kids.  I thought out loud and to myself how often when I do wrong I immediately feel “oh I’m a bad mother”.   But am I neglecting my kids, doing drugs in or out of their presence, abandoning them, ignoring them, not seeing to their basic needs?  A resounding no to all of the above.  Even people who are doing that–they may not be fit mothers (or fathers), but they are human and have issues that need to be dealt with for their own sake and for the sake of their children.  Are they “bad”?  No.  Perhaps misguided, unaware, needing help.  They’re certainly not good for their kids.  But that’s a whole other story.

For now, I am going to focus on what it means to be a good mother.  It doesn’t mean textbook.  It doesn’t mean perfect.  It does mean accepting yourself so that you can accept others.  It does mean forgiving yourself so you can forgive others.

My small change?  Slowing down enough to notice the good things I do and to notice the good things my children do.  That is often harder than it sounds, so I’ll have to keep reminding myself.  I also have to remind myself to breathe and laugh.  Both are essential.  This job may be serious, but it also needs to be a joy.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

How about you?  How can you remind yourself of the good things you do, everyday?  Let go of the bad thoughts.  Instead, find one joy in each day and carry that with you.

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