Okay mamas remember this Time’s cover about breastfeeding and being “mom enough”. Well, it makes me wonder when exactly it was that us mom’s allowed society to creep into our homes (mainly our computers) and distill on us this idea that perfectionism is what makes us a good mom and excellence is what makes a good child. I mean seriously what the F*%@!
From the moment our child is born the battle to be “mom enough” begins. You are judged on whether you breast or bottle feed and for how long. Whether you decide to go back to work or stay home. Once they hit elementary years it gets worse. Now we are only “mom enough” if we can juggle the daily struggles of getting kids to and from school and practice while making sure homework and projects are done. Teaching them manners and showing them unconditional love. Plus, making sure that every bite in their mouth in non-gmo +organic + contains no refined sugar. We have to plan Pinterest-worthy birthday parties and back to school teacher gifts. And, God forbid we buy store bought baked goods for the bake sale. I mean really… this is CRAZINESS!!!
Now I am not here to bash all those things I listed above because I get it. We want to give our kids the best. And, we enjoy pinning our favorite things. Heck, some of that stuff is fun (I love Pinterest). But, what concerns me is the pattern I saw myself fall into that is extremely dangerous. And, that is placing my own self worth into these defining metrics. And, even worse placing these same idealistic standards on my children.
I’m NOT Mom Enough… and I’m totally okay with that!
I got a serious wake up call this summer. An event that turned our entire life upside down and inside out. One that made me realize 1) I cannot do this whole parenting thing alone, 2) That I needed to re-evaluate how I was parenting and 3) That my kids problems are sometimes (at least partly) my own fault. Now you would think after raising 5 kids for the past 13 1/2 years would have gotten me to these realizations a little faster but let’s be honest. This parenting stuff is H.A.R.D.!!!
We Really Do Need a Village
Asking for help is never easy. And, for some reason when it comes to raising our kids it is hard to admit that we are screwing it up. We think it will make us look like a bad parent if we unfold our secrets and let others in on what is happening. We prefer to handle these matters in private keeping neighborhood & school gossip to a minimum. But, here is the thing. As parents we are all going to deal with things that are incredibly difficult at times. We are raising humans. They have their own minds and as much as we think we have control over them at some point we have to succumb to the reality that really we can only support them, love them and help guide them in to coming to fruition of their own.
As parents we have to realize that by design we are imperfect. That we are NOT enough for our children. That sometimes our kids need to lean on others for support and guess what? There is no shame in that!
I learned this the hard way when I found myself completely run down at the beginning of summer. We had been dealing with behavior issues and disrespect from one of our children consistently for years and it had created a negative energy in our home. It had been spiraling out of control but only in private. In public we looked picture perfect!
That is until our child decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore. Thank GOD everything turned out okay. We were able to stall and calm down a moment that could have tragically changed our life story forever. But, this pivotal moment changed every belief I had in parenting. It was raw and scary and completely out of my control.
It was in this moment and the days that followed that I quickly came to the realization that our secret was out. No longer could we hide behind a mask of perfection. We needed help and we needed it NOW.
We sought doctors, counselors and therapists. We leaned on our family, friends & church.
At first I felt like the world’s most epic failure. Here I was a mom to 5 kids with years of experience under my belt and I FAILED!
But, you know what? My failure and this epically horrific moment became a blessing in disguise. Admitting I needed help led to a huge influx of willing hands from family and friends. For the first time in years I felt like I could breathe again. And, with the added support I was able to find myself, re-connect with my husband and establish new (healthier) family dynamics which in turn benefitted all of my children.
What Society Tells Us about Parenting isn’t Always Right
How do we define success when it comes to our children? Can it be measured by their grades, athletic ability or obedience? Isn’t that what comes to mind when you think of what defines a “good child” or a “successful parent”?
Well, I call bulls*@#! After this summer I realized that it was these exact ideals that were putting unnecessary pressure on my child. And, I had willingly conceded to allowing that. Instead of being conscious of my actions I allowed society’s ideals to creep into my family and define my children’s worth in benchmarks that did not really match up to my own heart’s desire.
You see… I have traveled the world the past 6 years and what I have found is that regardless of if I’m in Addis Ababa, Dubai, Ubud or Los Angeles, as parents we all want the same things for our children- and that is for them to be happy, healthy & successful. That’s it! Where it gets screwy is when society teaches us that we measure these ideals through mainstream metrics like college, grades and field goals. Don’t we also want to define happiness and success by being a good person, having a wonderful family, great health and deep friendships?
How are we showing our kids that these are the things that really matter when we only celebrate good grades and home-runs? What I realized as a parent was that my family needed a new set of metrics. I needed my kids to understand that their self-worth was not hinging upon the next A they brought home or the next touchdown they made. That things like being kind, open minded, culturally sensitive, passionate, brave and dedicated to the things THEY love were just as worthy of our praise.
We Need to Look Inward When Our Kids Act Out
When our kids lash out at us because they are dealing with some big emotions we have to realize that it is not a personal attack on us. More often than not the child is overwhelmed and dealing with some emotions that are bigger than they know how to handle. As parents we need to see this as a cry for help. A moment for us to reflect on the dynamic of our home.
Are we creating a peaceful environment in our home, one where our child can relax? Are we spitting out too many demands and expectations? Are we focusing only on the future versus being in the moment with our child? Are we offering unbiased support without interjecting our own opinions?
You see too often we are part of the problem. We yell at our kids when they are not ready on time and we are rushing out the door, when really the problem could be solved by an earlier bedtime and better morning routine. We get frustrated when our kid brings home a bad grade verses reminding them of everything they are successful at. Helping them remember what a small piece of the puzzle this one test really is. And, then helping them set up a better studying routine in the future.
Truth is these moments where our child is broken down are the times they need us to show them unconditional love and support. This is the time where we can remind them of the bigger picture. Remind them that this is just a small piece in the great puzzle of life. These are the actions that will help them deal with their problems without breaking their spirit.
I hope you will learn from my errors. That you will find no shame in admitting that you are not always “mom enough” and that you will seek help the next time you feel overwhelmed.
I hope that you will sit down and consciously think about how you are defining success for your children. And, that you find the courage to start celebrating kindness, bravery and failure alongside successes.
And, I the next time your child is upset that you first look inward before dishing out a punishment or a consequence. And, that instead you offer unconditional love and support.
And, by ALL MEANS please remember that all of us moms have our moments. That no matter how beautiful a Facebook page makes life appear or how picture perfect a family looks on Instagram their life is HARD too. Support each other, reach out for help and know we are all on this crazy parenting ride together! Much love!!!