I should start at the beginning. When I was younger, I never wanted to have kids. My dream was to be a nun and live by myself in a house on the beach. And on particularly difficult days, I will confess to occasionally fantasizing about curling up with a book and a giant bowl of ice cream in that quiet beachside home.
Eventually (somewhere around high school) I left that dream by the wayside, and I decided a life of celibacy was not for me. I will blame it on my changing hormones. My desire to be a wife and a mother only grew as the years went by. I had a vision of what it meant to be a good mother. My criteria and my expectations were most likely based on my experiences with my own mother as well as a combination of every sitcom mother from Roseanne to Maggie Seaver.
Being your typical Type A personality, I had this vision in my head of perfection. And of course, I knew I was the one person who could pull it off. I would get everything right by my children.
Then reality kicked me in the head. Most of the time being a mother feels like barely keeping your head above water, your arms and legs flailing frantically in every attempt not to drown. All of my expectations of motherhood were almost immediately replaced by the day-to-day experience of real life.
- I will actively play with my children. Most of the time playing with kids is NOT fun. I don’t like it. I can only play Chutes and Ladders for so long before my eyes start to cross and I want to throw those little pieces across the room. I may have even cheated a time or two and let my daughter win just so the game would be over. Crashing cars and driving them through the house is just as mind-numbing with the added benefit of also hurting my back and knees. Most of the time if one of the kids wants to play, I will direct them to a sibling. That’s why we had more than one kid in the first place, right? So they would always have someone to play with.
- I will never yell at my kids. I almost laughed out loud as I was typing that sentence. Though there are definitely times I feel bad for having yelled at my children, there are just as many times that the yelling was needed and justified. For instance, “Don’t put that in your mouth!” “STOP!!” “Poop stays in the diaper!” “Don’t touch that!” I can think of a million situations where things absolutely need to be yelled.
- I will never feed my children fast food or give them junk food. In those crazy early years of pregnancy and babies, there were definitely times I just needed that easy mealtime fix for my kids and myself. Sometimes, and I am embarrassed to admit it, a happy meal was the answer. I will also admit that the promise of candy can get the unruliest child to behave when needed.
- I will make a home cooked meal every night. Does a frozen pizza count as home cooked? While we certainly try to eat a family dinner most nights, sometimes it’s hot dogs and mac and cheese.
- I will drop everything when my kids need me. I will preface this by saying, if it’s a true emergency, of course I will be there in an instant. That being said, my kids need to learn patience. Sometimes if I am working (or listening to my favorite song, reading a good book, watching Days, etc.) my kids need to wait for me to tie their shoes, cut an apple, or wipe their butt.
- I will never leave the house looking like that. When you need milk and eggs or you need to take one of your kids to the doctor but you haven’t slept in 30 hours, you will absolutely leave the house in your pajamas with no make-up on and your hair in a ponytail.
- I will never bribe my children to behave. Let’s face it bribery works. When you’re pulling out your hair trying to figure out a way to reason with a three-year-old, the promise of candy or a new toy definitely gets the job done.
- I will limit my children’s screen time. Some days it is just easier to get things done when the kids are occupied. Whether it’s a movie or a computer game doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am able to fold the laundry, write a blog post, or just take a nap on the couch. And during a winter in Wisconsin, iPads, TVs and computers are a lifesaver.
- I won’t sweat the small stuff. Truth be told, I sweat the small stuff A LOT! I blame it mostly on my Type A personality, but crumbs on the floor bother me. I try to see the big picture, but most of the time I actively struggle to look past the unwiped counters, the Legos on the floor, and the countless blanket forts.
So over the last 13 years I have had to completely abandon my idea of what it means to be a good mother. Perfection is unrealistic and unattainable. But knowing that I love my children beyond belief and only want what’s best for them is perfect enough for me.