I've been thinking a lot lately about "shoulds" when it comes to motherhood and why mothers always feel like they need to be better, no matter how amazing they are. This is something I've been struggling with and working through. I also have recently read two books that made me think even deeper about this issue: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. If you go to my book review blog then you can see my review of one of them and the second review is soon to come. Both of these books have mothers who consistently feel inept and as though their children deserve more from them, even when they're trying their absolute best and doing all they can. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Three thoughts have helped me work through solving this problem within myself:
1. You are enough! There isn't a day I can remember living when everything went according to plan and I've always been hard on myself to varying degrees when it comes to what I did or didn't do. I've often found myself saying things like, "I would be a better wife/mother/etc. if I had just done X or done X this way." Now, at the end of the day, no matter how much I have or have not accomplished and no matter how I did the things I did do, I accept the day for what it was and say to myself that I was enough - I am enough. Even if it wasn't really a good day, there are always better and worse days ahead and that's okay - it all evens out in the end. Also, I think it's true that we learn something new everyday and I often have to learn things the hard way, but that doesn't mean I'm not a good enough wife/mother/etc.
2. Don't should on yourself! I stole this wording from a friend of mine, because it made me laugh. I often pile "should" statements onto myself. "I should do X because that's what good mothers (other mothers) do." It took me a long time to realize how damaging these statements were because I didn't really think about the second half of the statement. I would just go around thinking about all of the tasks I should be doing, but neglected to think about why I thought I should be doing them in the first place. Most of the time these shoulds aren't things that are necessary for myself or my family, they're just extra things I'm putting on my shoulders and expecting myself to do when they don't actually need to be done at all.
3. It's okay to be the world's okayest mom! (click the link to see some awesome mugs if you need a daily reminder of this) This point is from my therapist who, after listening to me whine over and over again about how much I want to be the best mom I can possibly be, said, "Sometimes okay is enough." All our kids really need and want from us is to make sure their basic needs are met and that we're there for them. They won't implode if we spend all day in the house and let them watch more TV than usual because we're sick or depressed and can't imagine doing anything else. They don't need to be involved in extra activities everyday to be happy, or go to an elite preschool that so-and-so says is the first necessary step for your child to get into the best universities. All kids really need is love and support, just like the rest of us and if that means that I'm striving to be world's okayest mom instead of the worlds best mom (because focusing on more makes me and my kids more stressed) then that's what I need to do.
Moms everywhere take on unnecessary stress when often those stresses, meant to help us become better or our best, actually lead us to lose sight of what really matters. What really matters, in my opinion, are the little things. Appreciating the time together that is fleeting because children grow so quickly, being simply grateful that we have what we have when we have it. This appreciation and gratitude takes effort too, but I think it's much more worth while and rewarding than all of the extras. As long as your children are loved and know it, they're happy and you're doing everything you should be doing - I promise!
So, tonight when you're trying to go to sleep after constantly chasing, policing, cleaning, bribing, playing, feeding, and doing everything else that comes with being a mom, I hope you look back at the day and say to yourself, "I am enough, in fact I am the world's okayest mom!" Say it loud, say it proud Momma!