“I can’t do this.”
“I’m not cut out for this.”
“Yes, I do think moms who stay at home by choice are lucky. I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to.”
“I’m not as good a mom as [insert name here].”
“My husband is totally a better mom than I am.”
“I CAN’T DO THIS!!”
This is my internal dialogue. It’s what I tell myself. Heck, it’s what I tell other people. But I got called on it today.
It’s not the first time. People have been telling me, all along, that I’m a good mom. That, “you are, too, good at this. Shut up.” That he loves me and I love him and I care for him and meet his needs and feed him broccoli and all this is what being a mom is about.
But my head tells me I’m not. I’m just not. The experience of being a mom is not what I thought it would be, and I don’t act the way I thought I would, and therefore I’m not good at it.
It’s all hooey, of course.
I’m going to say that again, because I need to start to believe it: It’s all hooey, of course.
Last week I wrote about the last Sunday. My husband has changed his working day to Saturdays (ah, the freedom of freelance) because we think that might work better for me. So last weekend was the first Saturday I was on solo-mom duty. It went all right. Better. Except I think I managed to distort my expectations such that I thought it would be perfect. Perfect! Or at least totally fine. I even put the beginnings of a post in draft on Friday night (oh, the arrogance). A post that was going to be all about how well I managed and how from here on things were going to be different. (Perfect!) But they weren’t, and I’m still thinking about it, so I didn’t finish that post.
But in reality it was actually totally fine. The short version is that Connor was out of sorts in the morning so he and dad didn’t go to gymnastics. I slept in and when I got up they were hangin’ on the couch. Rich left for work, Connor and I hung out and played some more and pretty soon he was standing before me saying, “Mama, I’m ready to go in my bed.”
All righty, then!
Up we went. Milk, stories, all tucked in. And then meltdown.
“I don’t want to sleep! I’M DONE!” (Have I mentioned this is my favourite phrase? Really, it makes my heart sing with
anger and frustration joy.)
I tried a few things and then gave up, because that’s not a battle I choose to fight. We hung out downstairs some more and I managed to get him to eat something finally, but it quickly became clear he wasn’t feeling well. At a certain point I decided he really needed to try a nap. Went back upstairs, told him he could sleep in my bed. MELTDOWN.
[We interrupt this post to acknowledge that this isn't the short version after all. Sorry about that.]
Anyway… He cried and cried. And cried. I picked him up and held on to him and told him I would sit with him and read a book, hoping that would calm him down. He cried some more. “I don’t want to sleep!”
Finally said he just wanted a cuddle. Two minutes of that and he wanted to lie down. Two more minutes and he was asleep.(“Ha! I knew you were tired…”)
He only slept for 40 minutes and woke up right as I was (finally) stepping out of the shower. And he cried and cried in the way little boys do when they aren’t feeling well and they just want their mama. So we went downstairs and sat on the couch and he fell asleep again. On me. This hot, sweaty little boy slept on me for half an hour and it was lovely. It’s times like that where I really feel like a mom. That is something I can do for him. In those moments, I can make him feel better and I catch a glimpse of the part of me that is the mom I always pictured myself being.
However, this meant our plans for the afternoon got thrown out the window. Dog didn’t get walked, husband had to bring home groceries. But we managed. And I didn’t lose it.
When I told my counsellor about this today she said, “What is it about that where you didn’t do well?”
“I had moments where I hated it and thought, ‘I can’t do this!’” I said.
“But what about that couldn’t you do? What could you possibly have done differently?”
All right, I see where she’s going with this.
My experience of being a mom is not having everything planned and having all those plans go perfectly. (No one’s is, though I’m just going to put it out there: some people’s experiences are a lot closer to this than mine.)
My experience of being a mom is as someone who tends to be a bit on the sensitive side. I have less patience than my husband. So he copes with these things better than I do.
Upon having this pointed out to me part of me thinks, “Please, no.” Tell me this isn’t my reality now. I’m waiting for it to get to be what I expected. I’m waiting for it to feel easy. But it’s not going to. Right? It’s not, is it? This is what being a mom is, isn’t it? At least for me.
Maybe “good” is relative.
Maybe the definition of a “good” mom doesn’t come in black and white.