Today I sucked. If my children uttered those words I would immediately chastise them. NO negative talk! NO self put downs! And for crying out loud don’t use the word “sucked”. “Today I stunk” is much more acceptable and probably more accurate especially if these words were coming from one of my pubescent kids. See how the word pubescent ends with “scent” - it’s not referencing the aroma of a field of wildflowers….just so you know.
But that statement, those words, aren’t springing forth from the mouth of a hormone ridden girl overwhelmed with the seemingly endless battle that is Middle School. Those words are coming from my mouth. Maybe I was just crabby, maybe I forgot about dinner, maybe a deadline was missed at work, maybe someone’s uniform is lost and a bill is late. Whatever the cause those words “Today I sucked” are coming out of the mouth of a 35 year old confident woman and seasoned mom to eight who has read every self help and personal development book under the sun. Podcasts, blogs, articles, parenting books and magazines out the wazoo...audio books I used to listen to while my babies and toddlers crawled (and clawed) at my feet. I’ve spent the majority of my life- even before I hit adulthood, trying to better myself. Searching for the magic method to rid myself of anxiety or that one trick I needed to know and implement to better organize my home- thinking a deep organizing of my thoughts and emotions would instantaneously follow. I have indeed learned. I’ve learned a lot. And I’m a better person for it. But nowhere, nooone, nothing brought me to a place where I could finally say “Yasssss! I’ve done it! I am just killing this Mom thang! Success!” What affected me the most out of my quests- more than alllllll the helpful tips, strategies for discipline and tricks for positive thinking combined was the resulting intense and sometimes debilitating guilt that no matter how hard I tried and how much time and energy I devoted to being the very best Mom, Wife, and Human….I missed the mark. Everytime.
Because I am not. I am not the best Mom, Wife or Human. I am not any of those things and neither are you-none of us are. NONE. There is not one woman out there checking every single box of that mythical perfect Mom list. We are ALL falling short. You go find the Mom-est Mom on Instagram and I will tell you without a doubt she might be killing that ten second photo opp with her perfectly groomed children in coordinating outfits but there are a bajillion moments where she is an aggravated she-devil banshee. Even if she holds it in and doesn’t unleash on her darling children- and much praise mama if you are batting a 1000 in the game of mom angst- she is still struggling! I guarantee it. There are scads of articles, books, social media posts and the like written about this. We should all know by now that perfection doesn’t exist in mothering or humaning- that’s a word I promise. So why, why, WHY are we all so quick to look up to others and then look downcast and forlorn towards ourselves and our inability to attain the coveted Best Mom status? Why was I chronically overcome with “Mom Guilt” even though I knew the perfect Mom was a myth?
I think it is because it’s in our human nature to notice things that we do not have or in this case things that we are not. Coveting is legit. It doesn’t matter if you are a three year old looking longingly at another kid with a giant lollipop and wanting one for yourself or if you are a full grown woman seeing another woman with the cutest outfits or incredible talent in the kitchen that you do not have. But for everything that you see and admire in other people- and likely commiserate over your lack of….there are things in you that are admirable and desired by others.
I am not the best Mom. I am not. I am not planning meals to perfection. My laundry is not done. I lost my temper with my kids and I missed one of their appointments. I spent too much time on my phone and not enough time tackling my to do list. I am not a fit body mom. I am not a 100% from scratch cooking mom. I am not a peace, love, snuggles and positive vibes only mom. And that is okay. Because for everything I am not there are things that I am. I am a vacation planner mom. I am a special lunchbox note mom. I’m a- sure have a sleepover Mom! I am an always there mom. I’m an inspirational talk kinda mom and also a shush go away I’m Netflix binging mom. Balance ladies, say it with me! Embracing these truths has been the biggest help for me in overcoming my “Mom Guilt”. Acknowledging the reality of different strokes for different folks and applying it to my motherhood journey did more for me than all the parenting books I ever read. I was always, always, grasping at someone else’s idea of perfection versus striving towards growing fully into who I can be as a woman and a mom.
So now that I’ve learned to (mostly) step into my own personal momness...do I tell that inner voice that said “Today I sucked” to take a hike? Well, not exactly. That voice, that some would say is overly critical, bringing me down or beating me up, is the same inner voice that tells me to persist, do better and be better. That voice pushes me to try harder, to be the best me that I can be. Like a well intentioned nosy Aunt she has her heart in the right place but she just needs to practice her manners and soften her approach.
No one, including yourself, should make you feel that you aren’t enough or in this example sucky to the core. You should only be comparing yourself to….yourself. Being better than you were yesterday by your own standards, priorities and measurements. And even with that said the idea behind that inner critic is that TODAY I sucked. That doesn’t mean tomorrow will be the same. And you know that really it doesn’t even mean all dang day you were just sucking it up left and right. That inner critical Aunt- she gets dramatic, you know? Look past the drama. But don’t push away and bury those critical voices completely. Use them to self recognize where you are. Constructive criticism is something we talk about frequently in school as young adults reviewing each other’s projects or book reports. But can we honestly say that as adults we still welcome the gains that come from some constructive criticism? I find that I often see both extremes. A mama that just kills herself over not being perfect versus a mama that is maybe buying into the good enough idealogy and not striving towards betterment for herself. We deserve more. Balance, again, is what we need. Accepting that you are not perfect and are not ever going to attain the level of perfection purely reserved for staged and photoshopped posts online….but also recognizing that you have in you the ability to grow and change and become fully all of who you can be.
Don’t beat yourself up, Mama. But also don’t sell yourself short. Today was not my best day- and I told myself that. And it’s okay, because I know I can do better and this is all part of the process. I get another try tomorrow and those kids better save me some hot water because I’m going to start with making time to take a long shower because today, well...I kinda stunk.
Cara is a mom, stepmom, and foster mom to many~chronicling her MOMumental strivings and shortcomings on her blog www.MakeitMOMumental.com . Her favorite place to hang is Instagram but you can find her on any platform @ CaraKilton.