7.11.2014

i'm okay with the mom i happen to be

This blog post, this is for me. This is kind of an apology for myself.

Hey, Self. You're not so bad. Yeah, you're not perfect, but who is? You know you have the ability to change. You know on your best days, your really good days, those days are good because you're trying. Really hard. And that's what it takes. Mom-ing is hard. You're a good mom. I mean, for the most part. You're better at some things than other things. Sure, you might not be able to stand the way your four-year-old's voice sounds at 8am before you've had coffee, and sometimes you say things you regret, and sometimes you don't make your kids wear shoes outside, and you're terrible at following a routine. But you're pretty good at keeping your cool when your two-year-old is twenty minutes into throwing a temper tantrum. You rock at not freaking out about dirt all over their little bodies and paint all over the table. And your kids are totally independent because they know that's what you expect from them. So maybe you can loosen up a bit and try not to yell so much, but you're doing okay. And that's okay.

I am not the perfect mom. There are a lot of things I would like to change about the way I parent. I snap and yell a lot. It's one of the things I dislike most about myself. And I yell even more when I'm PMSing or pregnant. It's a pattern that is so easy to recognize, yet it took me nearly five years to see that some of my hardest parenting days are when my hormones are out of whack.

But I'm not here to talk about hormones, or who I am on my worst days as a mom. I want to talk about who I am on a regular day, the way I deal with my children. My ways, which may not be ideal for a blog post on parenting, but which I am tired of comparing to other moms. I'm tired of moping and shaking my head forlornly and thinking, "I just don't parent gracefully. It's not something that comes naturally to me. I always thought I was going to be this fantastic mother someday, but I'm not. I don't know why I can't be a better mom."

It's true, I don't always parent gracefully. You won't see me swoop in like Ms. Honey from Matilda and gently, softly, whimsically convince my children to get along with one another, whilst instilling some rich, life-long values into their hearts and braiding daisies in their hair. At least not every day. Maybe after I've had a good night's sleep and a glass of wine. But not usually.

I don't smile all the time. Some days I think if I hear another Hey, Mama? I am going to lose my shit. And I throw away a lot of artwork my kids make (because there is just SO damn MUCH!). They eat way more peanut butter and jelly than what is probably healthy. And yeah, about the shoe thing -- look, I'm sorry, but shoes go missing real easy around here, and it's just so much easier to tell my kids, "Just go outside, don't worry about shoes!" And there are only so many times I can "watch dis" or trace a fat little hand or "snuggle wif" someone in one day.

I've always said Miss Honey was who I looked up to the most. If you have read Matilda or even seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about. This fictitious woman is a saint. She's independent and patient and kind and loving and creative and soft and just totally perfect. If I could be like any mom, I'd want to be like Miss Honey. But I'm so not.

For instance, I use "HEY!" and "EXCUSE ME?" a lot. River will tell you. If I'm mid-sentence and he starts walking away or interrupts, I'll belt out a big, scary, "UM, EXCUSE ME." and he will jerk his attention back to me. The thing is, mostly I'm a pretty nice mom, so the UM EXCUSE ME is even scarier. It's a great technique; you should try it sometime. I think my mom has even startled at one of my UM EXCUSE ME moments.

See what I mean, though? I'm not sweet like honey, and I'm not subtle. But uh, I am getting better at this whole parenting thing. Slowly. Three kids in.

It's not because I'm blossoming beautifully in all these different areas. It's because I'm learning to accept myself and focus on my positive attributes as a mother. If we want to encourage our children to better an area of their lives, we don't do that by slamming into them all the ways they are awful people, do we? No, of course not. We praise them for their efforts. We tell them all the ways they are wonderful and great and how proud of them we are. And mommies, we need to treat ourselves with kindness, as well.

I still struggle all the time with wanting to be a soft-spoken, always-smiling, totally laid-back mommy. I have friends that fall into that category -- truthfully. I look to them and think, "Why can't I be like that?" That's always the mom I imagined I'd be, when I was a little girl. But I'm not. And for a really long time, that hurt so bad. I was ashamed that I couldn't act the part of a better mother. Sometimes, I still feel shame. But that's a waste of time.

It has taken time, but I am learning to be happy with myself, even in the most emotionally and mentally challenging area of my life -- motherhood. When I make a mistake, I choose not to make myself feel horribly about it by dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself. That's hard for me to do. I tend to love to pity myself. Heh. And since I'm learning and growing, I'm trying to stop judging myself for who I am. What I expect for my kids, I also need to offer myself: grace. It's okay that I snap and turn into a scary mom sometimes. I know that I have way more to offer in love, and my kids know I adore them. I may not ever be a totally patient, tender-hearted, honey-sweet mother. And I'm trying to be okay with that, because I've got to give up striving for perfection, or striving to be a woman I am not. I want to spend my energy to be a better version of myself, not a perfect version of someone else.

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