In the world of motherhood, perfectionists and sanctimommies are considered especially heinous. On the Internet the dedicated mothers who believe that okay is good enough despite what these other mothers say are members of an elite squad called the Okayest Moms. This is one of their stories.
When my first baby was born and the nurse was giving me all of the discharge information like how to put the baby in the carseat, how to bathe the baby, you know – all the “new parent stuff” they’re supposed to tell you – I was kind of like, ‘I’ve got this, lady. I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was twelve years old. I was made for this. I know what I’m doing. I’m 21 now, holding this newborn baby girl in my arms, which officially makes me a grownup.’ I was MORE THAN QUALIFIED in my mind. I mean, I was ready to love on her, kiss on her, and when she was old enough, I would slip little love notes into her lunchbox and bake her fresh cookies every day after school like Betty Crocker; all the Instagram worthy stuff (even though we didn’t have that when my kids were little).
Fast forward just a minute later and I was 22 with two kids under the age of two. My idea of perfect motherhood unraveled faster than you could say, “You pooped on the floor …AGAIN?”
I hardly measured up to my own standard of motherhood. The standard that says, “As long as I do it THIS way, my kids will get what they need and be successful humans.
But not all the parenting books tell you that your kids are going to be born with unique qualities to them that totally defy everything you think you know about parenthood; at least, not any of the books that I read.
So you can imagine my surprise when my kids started getting older and communicating their needs, wants likes, dislikes, opinions. I didn’t feel prepared to handle their uniqueness because I already had this “plan” with bullet points about what being their mom was supposed to look like:
As long as I baked cookies, spent countless hours following them around and asking them questions, left love notes in their lunch boxes and read Tolkien to them every day, they would have what they needed. As long as I didn’t yell, lose patience, oversleep or do anything that embarrassed them, they would love me and they’d have everything they needed.
The thing is, I’m not patient all the time. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I miss the mark, and I sure as heck don’t read them Tolkien like, ever. My only real Tolkien takeaway worth talking about is that Second Breakfast should totally be a thing.
As I watch my kids grow I’ve realized that there’s a difference between what *I* think my kids need and what they *actually* need.
I’m not talking about food and clothing and a warm bed to sleep in. I’m talking about the expectations that I’ve put on myself as a mother are SO, SO far from the expectations, if any, that my kids actually have of me.
Each of my kids needs something different from me, but I’ve learned that none of their needs have looked like what I used to see in parenting magazines and what my friends were doing. My kids just need my love.
Sometimes I oversleep. They’ve learned how to find the cereal. Sometimes I lose patience and yell. They learn what an apology looks like and they have so much grace. Sometimes I embarrass them….and it’s on purpose because they’re teenagers and it’s just a perk of my job now.
Any time I feel guilty about the amount of time I spend with them or I worry that I’ve ruined them for good because I’ve yelled a little too loudly (AGAIN), I remind myself that I was assigned to be their mother. No one else was given that privilege. They need ME – with all my quirks, my flaws, and my WICKED GOOD dance moves. They don’t need Betty Crocker and her freshly baked cookies. She’s not their mom and she’s not real.
I’ve learned that instead of leaning into my expectation of what I think a mom is SUPPOSED to be and what those expectations tell me my kids might need, I should lean into the people my kids actually ARE. I still think it’s important to give them tools that will set them up for success, and there will still be those, “Danny Tanner life lesson” talks I so look forward to, but my kids’ needs are specific to them and I am learning to listen to what they’re trying to tell me; trusting that what they’re telling me will call to something already deep inside me, that will give them what they need, in the way that they need it because I’m their mom and only I can give it to them.
I’m the incredibly privileged and fortunate person that gets to guide them, answer their questions and teach them about love. Love is a gift that says, “I have what you need and you have what I need. I’m going to challenge you and you are going to challenge me, and we’re going to figure this out together because we’re a gift to each other.” I don’t know about you, but that takes a whole lotta pressure off trying to have this whole motherhood thing figured out.
Motherhood hasn’t looked a thing like what I dreamed up in my head as a nurturing, Barbie-obsessed, Betty Crocker-ish 12-year-old. But on the days when I am totally in awe of how gifted they are and I feel completely inadequate to equip them in that area, and on the days when motherhood looks the exact opposite of what I dreamed up in my head, I remember that I am their mom and they need me.
If you asked 12-year-old me, I might just be an “OKAY” mom, but according to who I am, who my kids are and what they need, I am the BEST mom for the job.