Nine Years in and a lifetime to go…
I think my biggest battle as a mother is trying to live up to the picture perfect definition of what society deems a “good mom”. Its most Mother’s natural tendency to put everything they have into their kids: time, money, and every drop of energy, and rightfully so. We bring into the world these amazing creatures, and we are responsible for building them into “contributing members of society”! From the moment they start growing inside of us, we are responsible for feeding, nurturing, protecting, providing, educating, and molding them.
if you’re anything like me, you’ll quite often find yourself on google as if your child is a broken electronic and you’re trying to find a video with step by step instructions on DIY Quick Fixes!
Too often, my childless friends say to me, “I don’t know how you do it”. Hell, I find myself saying that very same statement to my friends with multiples! There’s definitely a learning curve when you become a parent, but it’s like learning how to do any other thing that you find yourself truly passionate about, even when you’re sucking at life you just keep pushing forward trying to get it right. You may stumble and fall a few times; you’ll probably find yourself frustrated, crying, and trying to figure WTF you’ve got yourself into; and if you’re anything like me, you’ll quite often find yourself on google as if your child is a broken electronic and you’re trying to find a video with step by step instructions on DIY Quick Fixes!
For years I found myself doing this and wondering if I was a good mother, if I was doing enough.
Over the last nine years, I have fallen into the comparison trap over and over. The comparison trap is what everyone does when we constantly compare ourselves to other people around us. Social media makes this easy to do since we have a window into everyone’s “constructed” lives through Instagram pictures, Snapchat videos, Facebook Live, and all of the other outlets that allows us to show people what we want them to see, while keeping all of our daily struggles in the dark. For years I found myself doing this and wondering if I was a good mother, if I was doing enough.
I am a 31-year-old, divorced mother of an opinionated 9-year-old, giving co-parenting my best shot! I had my daughter when I was 21, during my last year of working on my Bachelor’s Degree. In 2009, I got married to her father when she was two, and divorced by time she was three. After getting divorced, Charm and I moved out of our house and headed to Lafayette, LA, where I enrolled in the University of Lafayette to work on my Master’s Degree. This was the first time I was on my own with her, in a town where I didn’t know anyone, trying my absolute best to make ends meet because I didn’t have a full-time job since I was taking graduate classes all day every day. During graduate school, I was praising the sweet Baby Jesus if we were able to keep the lights on and food on the table (that’s a post for another day).
This is when I started falling in the comparison trap, worried about what everyone else would think about me as a divorced mom who went from living the family life in our beautiful, newly bought home, to now living the struggle life with my daughter in an apartment. This went on for years. In fact, it’s been the last couple years that I have really been able to catch myself teetering on the edge and cutting off the comparisons before they started. My Facebook friend’s marriages “appeared” to be great. My friends were all buying homes and traveling whenever they felt like it. My peers were throwing their kids big birthday parties. Christmas pictures at my friend’s homes appeared to be way more joyful with presents galore. I was constantly looking at what everyone else was doing, and worried about whether or not I was doing enough. You know who never once had a doubt about whether or not I was doing enough? Charm! My daughter was as happy as can be, and even when I was feeling like I was insufficient, she was just hanging out with me loving life!
When I have had it on my mind that I wasn’t doing enough, or that I was somehow short-changing my daughter’s life, she has always been right there appreciative of what she has in the moment. Like most kids, Charm would ask for toys in the store. If I couldn’t get it for her right then, she has always been the kid to say, “ok Mommy, maybe next time”. About two years ago, while driving to school, Charm asked why we didn’t live in a house anymore and if we could buy a house with a yard. Immediately my mom guilt set in and started feeling like I was ruining her life! I told her it would take some time, explained to her all that would have to be done to buy a house, and told her if she was patient I would work on it for her. Over the next year, on more than one occasion Charm offered to sacrifice me spending any money on her, if it contributed to helping me buy a house. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many 8-year-olds that are prepared to take one for the team and offer to go without birthday and Christmas gifts, even though she didn’t have to.
I realized that these are the things that truly mattered. Not how much money I was spending, where we were living, and material possessions
It was during this time that I realized my child is happy wherever she is at with me. Charm and I started running together, she doesn’t like running, she likes it because she knows I love it and she likes spending time with me. I asked her if she would like to start going on adventures with me. For one, the word adventure was enough to seal the deal, but the mere idea of exploring the world with Mommy was everything to her. So we started adventuring; we were hiking, camping, running, and building a bucket list. Other than a couple packed lunches and some gas money, we barely spend money to adventure together. I realized that these are the things that truly mattered. Not how much money I was spending, where we were living, and material possessions; but the opportunities to spend quality time with my daughter, listening to her jokes and stories, talking to her like she is a human and bringing her into the loop on things like “no we can’t buy a house today and here’s the real reasons why”.
As a mother, I am striving to stop comparing myself to what everyone else seems to have going on. We forget to take care of ourselves when we are constantly trying to keep up life at other people’s pace. Especially as parent’s when we are trying to work hard and provide everything we’ve convinced ourselves that our kids need. Even though we are now required to live our lives to raise another human being, we can’t forget to make sure we continue to provide the things we need for our own survival! One of my biggest downfalls is getting so wrapped up in what I think she needs and wants that I forget to take care of myself. Do you know how often that I do not eat dinner after a day of juggling Charm, work, and school? I can cook a full meal then find myself so exhausted that my appetite is gone. A friend once asked me what good I would be to Charm if I was so run down I couldn’t take care of her. On Mother’s Day I would like you to take away a few lessons from my experiences:
- Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap. You are uniquely you, and half of what we convince ourselves our kids need, they don’t!
- Love and quality time go a long way.
- There’s a great deal of negativity in the world. Be there to help filter it.
- Never feel bad about needing assistance. Whether its “food stamps”, child care, or asking someone to babysit for a couple hours of downtime.
- There is not one right way to parent. Create your own way.
- Take care of yourself. You are no good to your kid(s) if you are too run down and exhausted to be fully there in each moment.
- Fall asleep with dishes in the sink. Sometimes a few dirty dishes can wait to the next day, I promise all will be well in the world.
- Unfolded laundry? At least it’s clean laundry.
- Skip bedtime on weekends, hit the couch, and binge a show together.
- Find an adventure to share with your child(ren). There are so many opportunities out there that cost little to no money. Try stepping out of your comfort zone!
- Find a babysitter and have some adult time!!!
Thank you for reading. Happy Mother’s Day. Subscribe & Share.