I just spent twenty minutes searching Facebook to a link for a mom blogger opportunity I had seen that I forgot to mark as “saved.” I went back and forth, back and forth, and just couldn’t find it. I Googled it. Nothing. Awesome, another wasted opportunity, I thought. What if that was my big chance? All because I forgot to click “save”?
This is what I do. I push and push and push myself and then can’t forgive myself when something falls through the cracks. When I can’t be everything to everyone at every minute. When I feel like I’m not good enough at feeding LM the right foods, or teaching him enough skills, or getting him on a better sleeping schedule. When I feel like I need to pitch more stories, promote my work more, submit more, write more. When I think about how someone else is a better writer than me, a better mom than me, a better friend than me, a better wife than me.
I find the smallest thing — so what that I didn’t save a FB link? Is it the end of the world? — and turn it into something major, as if I’ve missed out on the greatest thing to come my way ever.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I’m not doing anything special, as far as I know. Maybe my husband has something planned. Maybe not. But it shouldn’t really matter, because that’s just looking for more outside validation, for someone else to tell me I’m doing a good enough job.
What I really need is to tell that to myself.
I need to forgive myself my little faux pas and flaws. I need to accept that I’m not going to be able to keep every ball in the air. Some are bound to drop.
This is OK.
I know we’ve all heard about “mom guilt” and how we have to accept that we can’t be the perfect mother. I know that rationally. But emotionally, I’m still struggling. I don’t think I quite believe that I am good enough. I focus on every mistake I make and blow off my successes. I’m doing it now, for God’s sake — I’m critiquing myself for my habit of critiquing myself!
Where does it end?
Maybe some moms have figured out how to get off the merry-go-round of guilt. Maybe they’ve managed to side-step the downward vortex of perfection seeking. But I feel like I’m being sucked in, and I’m drowning with the pressure of it all.
So, this Mother’s Day I need to stop. Just stop. At least for one day allow myself not to be perfect. And what’s more, to not even attempt to be perfect. Just have total acceptance of myself. As a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a person.
I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Who feels like it’s just all too much and I can’t keep my head above water? OK, so I know I have additional challenges: LM’s hearing loss and everything that goes along with it (don’t even get me started on fighting with the school district about preschool). Trying to have another child (still in limbo on that one). These are not things that all other moms have to deal with.
Other moms also have housecleaners and gardeners and money to redecorate and nannies to watch their kids so they can go to the gym more than once a week and lose that extra 15 pounds they’ve been carrying since they had a baby and just can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe they have huge houses and swimming pools and finished basements with movie rooms. Maybe if they do have deaf children they can afford to move to the rich town where the school for the deaf is so they can be in the right school district and not have to fight to make sure their kid gets the best education.
Wait, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?
Stop comparing yourself. Just stop. Some other moms will always have more than you — but some will also have less. Much less.
Ugh, so you’re saying I’m an awful person for wanting a bigger house because other moms are living in poverty? I’m so selfish.
Yes, you are selfish. But it’s OK to be selfish. Everyone is selfish.
No they’re not.
Well maybe not everybody, but it’s a natural reaction in life to want more, isn’t it? Some people just have this drive in them, which is good because it propels them to achieve things. But it’s also bad because it never ends. When you achieve a goal, you just set a new one. You think you can reach the top of the mountain, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
So what do I do?
I don’t know, I guess it’s about finding balance. A balance between accepting your life and striving for more. Between being happy with what you have and recognizing that it’s human nature to feel bad about what you don’t. To realize that everyone has their hardships in life, and so you just can’t compare. You are not perfect. They are not perfect.
This is what I’m trying to give myself this Mother’s Day. Permission to not be perfect, to want to be perfect, to feel bad about wanting to be perfect, to feel good about striving for perfection, to recognize it’s not necessary to strive for perfection.
I’m going to try to see myself though LM’s eyes. Through my husband’s eyes and my family’s eyes and my friend’s eyes.
I’m not a perfect mom. But I’m a good enough mom.
What gifts are you giving yourself for Mother’s Day?
After my Huffington Post piece about how I don’t plan to introduce the concept of Santa to my son, I received a lot of feedback thanking me for going against the grain of what’s “expected” for your kids at Christmas. I’ve also read a lot of other articles, and heard from other moms in my FB groups, about the pressure they feel Elf on the Shelf puts on them. Coming up with new and exciting poses for a creepy elf doll every night? No thank you!
But this got me wondering: We talk about the peer pressure that kids face, but is there a sort of peer pressure for parents as well? As if you need to follow certain trends, or just “the way things are done,” and if you don’t, you – or worse, your kid – will be ostracized?
This worries me, because in many ways I don’t feel like I’m the “typical” parent. I don’t follow all the rules, Santa being one of them. For all the positive messages I got from secret Santa-haters (people who secretly hate Santa, not people who hate participating in secret Santas), I bet there were a lot of other moms who thought I was downright weird for not including him in my child’s Christmas celebrations. Maybe this explains why the piece itself got ten thousand likes, but when I posted it on my own Facebook page it got a grand total of…three.
Because of my past experience with struggling to have a child, I still sometimes feel like I’m on the outside looking in. So things that might seem to other moms who fell into motherhood easily to be just the way things are done, don’t seem that way to me. I already feel like I’m an outsider, like I’m different, that that is all strange and new. So I just don’t “get” many parenting trends.
I blame Pinterest for a lot of it. Like Martha Stewart‘s magazine, looking at all the cute and crafty ideas for everything from birthday party decorations to desserts to Elf on the Shelf setups has the (unintended?) consequence of feeling that you need to aspire to do them; and that if you don’t, well, you’re just not as crafty or smart or involved as the moms who do. I love looking at that stuff, I admit it. But I do feel inadequate afterwards, because I know I don’t even have it in me to attempt any of it. It just exacerbates my mom guilt.
And it’s not just about making things. It’s also about what family activities you do, what traditions you have, what social expectations exist for us as parents. And a lot of that is fueled by social media. For example, I never did the monthly sticker pictures – every month in the first year of your child’s life you put a sticker on his onesie and take a picture (and, even more importantly, post it on Facebook). Although, I admit that I did do the ubiquitous smash cake for LM’s first birthday. Other items to check off your family Facebook to-do list: Taking a hayride to a pumpkin patch in the fall. Getting professional holiday photos done. Sitting on Santa’s lap. Everything is a photo opp, and though I love taking pictures, I hate that there has become a social expectation that you will have certain photos for every season, and you will dutifully post them on FB just like everyone else.
Does this mean that I’m a secret non-conformist?
I’m sure it will only get worse when my son starts school. At holiday time, maybe he’ll come home asking why we don’t have an elf, or why he doesn’t get gifts from Santa. Or he’ll ruin Santa for kids who do believe, the way I outed St. Nick to my first-grade class, and then all the other moms will hate me.
I don’t know how I will handle that when it happens. For now, I’m still working on not comparing myself to other moms or my son to other kids. I’m trying to make peace with being a mom who’s, well, maybe a little lazier than others; or maybe one who just puts more emphasis on different things. Maybe there are other kid-related activities I would rather spend my time doing instead of coming up with 30 ways to position an elf. So maybe our family will have other traditions that aren’t the norm.
The interesting thing is, I don’t know any actual moms who make me feel peer pressured (yet, anyway). But somehow the inertia of Facebook and Pinterest put forth the idea that there are all of these “things” I need to do in order to be a good mom. I’m tired of holding myself to some impossible, cookie-cutter standard that probably doesn’t really exist anyway. I just don’t have the time, or the energy, or the inclination.
Do you feel parental peer pressure? Do you think it comes from social media, or other moms, or both?