I have been a mom for 12 years. During those 12 years there has never once been a time that I have had a 2-year-old and not had either a newborn or another baby on the way. Never once during those 12 years have I had the luxury of spending one-on-one time with a 2-year-old and not had another child needing me for one reason or another *RIGHT NOW*.
I’ve never been able to walk hand-in-hand and listen to the random, rambling thoughts of a sweet little voice explaining the amazing wonders of things new to them and not had something more pressing to do… until today.
Today was the first of many days ahead that I get to enjoy my youngest child, just the two of us.
The key word is this: ENJOY.
Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my older children. A lot. But I’ve not had the privilege of focusing my attention on just one of them since my oldest was just 18 months old.
Let me explain a little. For the last 12 years I have tried to rush that easy, unplanned pace that each of my kids somehow possess, finding it annoying and inconvenient. For 12 years I have struggled with the juggling of my duties as a wife and a mother and a friend and a daughter and been overwhelmed, thinking I needed to look and act a certain way so I wouldn’t be or be perceived as a “bad mom”.
I want to be a good mom. What mom doesn’t?
To achieve my goal of “good mom” I’ve read all the books on the subject. Being a rule-follower, I did exactly what they said to do in order to ensure a regular nap schedule and overall sleep routine, thus ensuring my children to become happy, obedient and well-mannered. Because sleep is all it takes to achieve that. I did my darndest to make sure my young ones fit my mold of what good children should look and act like.
But there was a problem. My kids weren’t on board with that. They didn’t come out wanting to do everything I wanted them to do when I wanted them to do it; they wanted to do things their way and at their own pace. This stressed me out, often making me angry over little things because if my kids didn’t fit into my idea of what they should be like… well that would mean I was a bad mother by default. It didn’t really, but I felt like it did and that terrified me.
I didn’t want to be “bad” at anything. I craved being an excellent mom. I not only wanted people to think I had it all together, but I wanted to actually have it all together! (This is a perfectionist’s downfall, this pride thing. It’s terrible and I’m trying to break myself of it).
But here’s the thing: striving for perfection on the outside leaves one feeling so imperfect and unworthy on the inside. And those things, those precious little blessings that God placed in my life to fill my soul with joy… I overlooked them. Instead of playing trains for five minutes with my boys or enjoying the sweet sounds of my girls making up songs while they brushed Strawberry Shortcake’s hair, I removed myself. I chose to disengage and focus on things that were unimportant… like staring at the Facebook news feed for the umpteenth time in an hour. Or baking cookies for the person that might come by later… just in case.
I’m not saying it’s bad to make time for yourself or to be prepared for guests. Not at all. What I’m saying that I consciously chose to disengage from where I was at that moment, many moments, so that I could do what I had to do to appear to live up to a standard that I had set in my mind of what a good mom should be.
Do you ever do that? Do you find yourself longing to fit this ideal or meet the expectation of “exceptional mothering” and get so wrapped up in meeting those expectations that you fail to see what really matters?
I’m not about to tell you that from this day forward I am going to sit with my kids every day and play dolls, color, play dress up and lip sync to “Let it Go” all day long while baking cookies and having my house spotless by 5pm, thus guilt tripping you and making you feel like the worst mom ever. I’m not. Those expectations are unrealistic and make me tense just thinking about them.
What I am saying however, is that I am going to choose to slow down and take notice. I’m choosing to stop rushing to be somewhere else and being a brat to my kids, barking orders at them and telling them to “hurry up!!!” because I have to be somewhere. I’m choosing to slow down and see what it is that has caught their attention, causing their delay. I’m choosing to get down to their level and look at life through their eyes. Choosing to close my laptop when they need me and not say, “Just a sec'” and stay on for another 10 minutes. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this).
The thing is, in my striving to be a perfect mom, I missed the point. Being a mom isn’t about me. It’s about them. Without them, I am not a mom. I’m just another person. Being their mom gives me a purpose and it is not to make me look awesome. My purpose is to train each child of mine up in the way they should go. I can’t train them if I’m not engaging with them, especially on their level.
So now I don’t care if I don’t have cookies ready when the random guest drops by. I don’t care if my laundry is on the living room floor waiting to be folded for the entire day. I care about my kids. I tell them all the time, but I want them to know it in their hearts because I show them with my actions.
I’m still a semi-perfectionist, but I’m learning that my striving for perfection cannot, no, must not rob me or my family of joy.
I’ve got to go right now. There are some kids in my house who want to play with me. I’m going to go enjoy them.