This morning, as I was leaving for work, I gave my son a hug and said, “I love you”. He said, “See ya later, Hot Lady”. This is one of his newest names for me – the others range from the most popular “Big Mama” to a simple “Mom”. I laughed and as I drove to work I thought a lot about my job as a mother – all the things I thought it would be and all the things that it is. While I was pregnant with my first bundle of joy, I had all these plans for my maternity leave. I was going to get organized, cook dinner every night, take long walks with the stroller, keep my house really clean – you know, because I wasn’t working – how hard can this be? Oh, how wrong I was!!! I found that I was lucky to shower and put on clean clothes every day. Since that time, I entered the real world and learned a few things about mothering. There are good days and bad days. There are days I so feel strong and courageous that I could parent ten more children. Then there are days when I’ve said, “stop licking the walls… floor…bathtub…” so many times that I’m convinced I’m gonna lose my mind. But, in the midst of it all – I am Mom.
One of the things I was so surprised about when I became a mother was “Mom Guilt”. It’s like the moment the baby is placed in your arms you feel guilty about something. When I go to work, I feel like I should be at home. When I’m at home, I feel like I should fill their day with unforgettable moments that will last a lifetime. Are they watching too much TV? – are the meals healthy? – are the meals boring? – are they playing enough? – are they learning enough? – am I too hard on them? – are they manipulating me? – should I work? – should I stay at home? – and the list could go on and on and on. And, if they get sick I second guess every decision that I made that lead to this dreadful moment when we’re all covered in vomit. Too much sugar? We shouldn’t have gone to that gross playground? Did I wipe the shopping cart down at Wal-Mart? Mom guilt – its the worst.
But this week, I had a moment when my husband was walking in Chick-fil-A to grab some dinner. He said, “what should I get them? I gave him the order and then I said, “ask for Chick-fil-A sauce, not honey mustard. They like honey mustard, but not the Chick-fil-A honey mustard – here, they like Chick-fil-A sauce”. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much to you, but it kinda hit me hard. This week I have experienced an extreme amount of mommy guilt over my work schedule and a little struggle my son had at school. I was a little down on my mothering skills and rethinking many of my recent decisions. But, when I rattled off sauce preference it hit me – I am Mom.
I have a friend that’s not close to his mother for a variety of reasons. He once said something to me that illustrates motherhood perfectly. He said, in frustration – “she doesn’t know me – she couldn’t make me a sandwich because she has no idea what I like – she doesn’t know me.” Is that what children want? Well, I think that’s what we all want – to be known. Fully known.
That really changes my perspective on motherhood – maybe the most important thing is the relationship we are building with our children. Maybe its how well we come to really know them that matters in the end. So when the mom guilt builds up, as it did this week, these are the things I will choose to remember – a list of my mommy superpowers, if you will….
- I know that when my son says he wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that he really only wants peanut butter – he doesn’t care for jelly.
- I know the difference between a sleepy cry, a hurt cry, a scared cry, a mad cry and a fake cry – I can also hear the hurt/scared cry a mile away and I can turn into an Olympic sprinter when I hear it.
- I know that my daughter will drink anything out of a cup with a lid and straw – anything.
- I know when they are sick – even before a fever, vomiting, etc. starts. – I look into their eyes and I know.
- I know when they’re lying.
- I know that when the noise stops, something’s wrong.
- I know where they hide when we play hide-and-go-seek. I pretend I don’t know, but I know.
- I know that my daughter says she likes rice but really doesn’t; and that my son eats spaghetti with butter but never sauce.
- I know that my daughter needs two books and about 10 minutes of rocking before bed – no more and definitely no less.
- I know my son can’t read about alligators, snakes, bears, or anything scary, even in his Jack Hanna book, before bed.
- I know that my daughter prefers pants without buttons and my son would rather wear a tuxedo than jeans.
I know them – I know their preferences, their fears, their little hopes and dreams. I know they will never acknowledge all the little ways that I’ve cared for them. They have no idea who cuts their grapes in half, how clean clothes appear in their closet, or how the dog stays alive. But, that also means that they don’t realize all the ways that I mess up either. So, at the end of the day, maybe I should measure my success on how well I really know my children rather than how well they perform. Because, to be fully known is to be fully loved.
So when the mom guilt hits hard, think about your children and all the ways that you know them. You too know their preferences, their fears, their hopes and dreams. You are mom and these are your mommy superpowers. You may not be perfect, but if you can make them a sandwich you’re probably doing okay.