Here’s the truth that you don’t often see from curated social media feeds or shiny happy mommy blogs* – parenting is the hardest freaking thing I’ve ever done.
Some children are little cherubs. Others… through no fault of their own, they have an innate ability to drive you to the edge. I get it. They’re frustrated, they want something but don’t have the words for it or the physical ability, or you’ve taken something out of their hands that ends in the mother of all meltdowns.
I know most moms out there repeatedly have the experience of trying their hardest, of taking extra time out of their busy day to make delicious, nutritious kid-friendly meals, only for their toddler to give you that look while taking handful after handful and throwing your efforts onto the floor you regret cleaning. What was the point?
I know the moms that are able to get their post baby bodies back immediately after have kids – with seemingly no effort – and I know people that judge women for looking different after baby, assuming that we’ve become lazy and are phoning in our health.
There are the moms who have an incredibly long day, both from being up in the middle of the night with their child, followed by day home drop off, work, your commute, the dinner that got tossed on the floor, only to have your child poop in the bathtub.
Insert face into palm here.
Me? I’m going through all of this right now, but I KNOW I’m not the only one. The thing is that social media is not reinforcing this. Social media is telling me that I should be making unique bunting for his first birthday (which we spent in the hospital) and taking adorable smash cake photos. Social media is telling me that 99% of the moms I know have angel children, through perfectly edited Instagram photos with hashtags like #mylove or #mommalovesyou.
Social media is telling me that if I don’t use organic, operate on zero screen time, only have a calming voice, keep my floor crumb free, attend each and every mommy and me class, and have my child’s routine down pat, then I’m a Bad Mom.
And you know what? Because of all of this, both from social media and from real life judgment, moms do end up feeling like crap. We do end up feeling like we suck at parenting, that we made a mistake because we’re not cut out for this, or that, worst of all, we’re failing our children.
I’m making a decision here and now. I have decided there are only two criteria to being a good mom.
Are you ready for them?
1. My child’s basic needs (food, diaper changes, warmth, shelter, physical and emotional safety, etc.) are taken care of.
2. I love my child.
Anything else – and I do mean anything – is icing on the cake.
We each get our own different children, life scenarios and circumstances to deal with. So, given that, in what world is there a one size fits all approach to parenting? In what world should we be holding ourselves up to a yardstick that doesn’t even really exist?
Show me the perfect child, the perfect mom, the perfect anything… I dare you!
We’re doing to mothers what magazines have done to women’s bodies. We’re photoshopping them or editing the content and what we say so that the end result isn’t even real.
You guys! By doing that we’re saying that imperfection isn’t okay, that you can’t have bad days, that you can’t have postpartum or struggle with teething, or cry because your child crapped all over you AGAIN after you just finished the laundry.
If we hold ourselves to the Pinterest-perfect vision of motherhood, we’re setting ourselves and our fellow mothering tribe up for failure.
And for the moms out there that feel better than other mothers… perhaps instead of feeling better than other people, feel grateful for what you have. I know so many parents who had an easier first child, then were shocked by child number two. Some parents are lucky to have two easy children. It DOES NOT always come down to the nurture part of the equation. These are little people with their unique genetic makeup and their unique feelings and struggles. Very little of that has to do with us as parents.
Are your child’s basic needs tended to and are they loved? Then you’re winning. Then this is all that will matter.
Better for your child to look back on their upbringing and remember moments of love than a clean house. Better that they remember you playing with them at the *gasp* free playground than taking them on an expensive holiday that ended in jet-lag meltdown. Better that they had a parent that was able to breathe a little easier, be a bit more relaxed with their child, because their mother wasn’t trying to live up to some crazy expectation.
So, for all you moms** that feel like you are a bad mom… if you’re doing those two things, you are a champion in my book. You are a fighter, a survivor, a loving parent, and a beautiful human being.
My one ask of you? Start to share the struggles as well as the beautiful moments with your baby. You might be shocked how many women go ‘me too’, how many reach out, how many thank you, or how many people reach out to offer help. We once had a village, so let’s use social media to build that village, and not to put up walls.
*note, some mommy blogs TOTALLY tell it like it is, and those are the moms to whom I say THANK YOU!
** To be honest, this goes for dads as well, though I do feel society puts the majority of the pressure on women.