More often than not, I feel like I am a good mom. This weeks post was going to be about how I can finally see that. I wrote it last week. Maybe I’ll post it next week, to perfectly illustrate the schizophrenic nature of my thoughts and emotions. Because today, I feel like the worst.
My kid has diarrhea again. This is the third time in as many months. My logic chalks it up to teething and his fingers being firmly placed in his mouth at all times recently. But my emotions- they are having a field day. They are screaming in my ear. They are telling me that I am a bad mother. That I am doing something wrong. That I am incapable of keeping my tiny human healthy. I have googled a million times for the magic bullet to make him feel better. Each time hoping the results will suddenly materialize what I am looking for. Instead, I get the same results- the B.R.A.T. diet and time. Doesn’t the internet realize that I don’t have time? I need to be more proactive. I need to be super mom. I need to save my little man from discomfort.
I need to redeem myself.
I take my job as the guardian of this tiny, frustrating, imperfectly perfect human very seriously. I research all medications. I worry about feeding him in the middle of the night, even when I know that it is exactly what he needs, and he does it so rarely. I agonize over bedtime, if he is getting enough sleep, and if I am doing everything right. I study articles about how to foster healthy emotional connections and responses. I work hard to find the balance between routine and not being too regimented. I have to fight the panic when he hasn’t eaten his veggies that day, even though he ate them without a problem the day before. I shower him with love and affection. Genuinely. And more often than not, all of those things make me feel confident that I am a good mom. I am doing my best. He is healthy and thriving. He is growing and learning. Then someone makes a comment.
A comment that may, or may not, indicate that they could do a better job. That I am not doing enough. That I am not enough.
To be frank, that is probably not ever what the comment means. But it is what I hear. I hear the judgement. I project my own self-evaluation into their words. My own fear and inadequacies. I heard one of those comments this weekend. I am not 100% sure what the intention was. This person is in my corner- I think. But I am no longer in my corner. Because that comment has been eating away at me since I heard it. And now my kid is sick. Evidence that I am not doing everything right. Evidence that my interpretation of the comment is correct- even if that was not the objective of the speaker.
Since my puffy, red faced offspring was put in my arms, I knew that I wanted nothing more in the world than to be the best mother possible for him. I wanted to do him justice. I wanted to be the example of unconditional love- but also the force that raised him into a thoughtful, respectful, generous man. As soon as he entered my world, all of my priorities shifted to center around him. Now that I am in this alone day to day- my desire to be the best mother is now on steroids. It is all on me. If he doesn’t have the right amount of discipline, love, or structure- that is my failing. I cannot share that burden with a partner. So when I get the text message from his daycare that his tummy is acting up again- guilt and panic settle into my bones. I fight back tears and the electricity of anxiety extends to my extremities. I can see the verdict between the lines. Which is absurd. If there is any one human on the planet that is in my corner- it is her. She loves me and my little man like we are part of her family. I already worry about the heartbreak we will all experience when he spreads his wings and goes to school. That knowledge, that unconditional support, can’t compete with my perception.
I have no idea if I am normal. Maybe there isn’t a mom out there that is immune to this. All I know is my experience. The days that my child is a complete ass- for lack of a better description. The days that I am emotionally exhausted and cannot wait until bedtime, so I can recuperate from the day. The days that I hold back tears until he is finally nestled into his bed. Once I know he is safely asleep, protected from my emotion, I slump to the floor and cry. Alone and afraid. Because we watched TV instead of playing a game. Because he was cranky all day, and I couldn’t stop it. Because I must be doing something wrong if he has more than one meltdown in a day. Because if I were a better mother, I would have more patience and resilience. There are nights that I sneak back into his room and watch him sleep. In those nights, I stare at him as moisture pools in the corners of my eyes and promise to do better the next day. To be better for him. Because generally, the day that proceeded, I was at my brink. I was frustrated and exhausted. I was unable to suss out what he needed. And I couldn’t wait for him to sleep. But once he had succumbed to slumber- my guilt set in. My fear that he knew I had no idea what I was doing. Worry that he didn’t know how much I wanted him or loved him.
I’m unsure how to combat my constant self evaluation. Maybe- in a twisted way- it is an asset. Maybe constantly striving to be better isn’t something I should hope to lose. As I type that, I realize that there is a difference between fearing I am a terrible mother and aspiring to be the best mother I can be.
Striving to be better doesn’t require damning oneself for who they are.
So tonight, after work, I will go to the grocery store and stock up on bananas, apples, and rice. I will do everything I can to help my little man’s tummy. Because there is no secret remedy. A mother that can miraculously heal her child is not a reality. I am not lacking in ability because I don’t measure up to a fantasy. And neither are you. Sometimes we need to be told that we are doing an amazing job. This parenthood gig didn’t come with a manual. It would be a hell of a lot less challenging if it had. But God didn’t tuck a plastic wrapped owners manual into the womb. Instead he armed us with intuition, self reflection, and compassion. We just need to remember to pass that compassion onto ourselves. We are all participating in the job of a lifetime. One that you cannot quit and you don’t get sick days. We are doing the best we can. I am doing the best I can. And our kids- they won’t remember that we couldn’t fix their upset stomach or eradicate their ear infections by shear will alone. Because God knows we all wish we could. They will remember the song we sang to calm them. They will remember when we played with them. They will remember the safety of our arms when they were sick. Today I tell you- if no one else has- you are doing an incredible job. Your heart is full and your intentions are pure. Today- I try to combat my perceived inadequacies and replace them with tenderness toward myself. I work to combat my worry. Something I will probably be doing for the rest of my life. Today I put one foot in front of the other and count down the minutes until I can see Moose and wrap my arms around him. I march on until my world is back together and I can do even the smallest of things to make him feel better.