About two years ago, a friend of mine told me I wasn't doing a good enough job as a mother.
To say I was shattered is an understatement. This is the sort of comment that you hold onto forever. No matter how much you try to bury it and forget about it, it's like holding a beach ball under the water -- it always resurfaces, sometimes with such force that it blows out of the water and leaves you flailing as you try to regain control.
When our fifth IVF cycle failed about six months ago, it multiplied. Suddenly it was like I was trying to hold a dozen beach balls under the water. Every morning I would wake up and think, "The reason it failed is because I am not a good mother." And every night I would go over the inventory of what made me a bad mother that day: I spent too much time on the computer. I yelled at my kids. I didn't read any books. I didn't help them practice their alphabet or their numbers. I only glanced at my son's homework instead of truly checking it. I refused to sit on the piano bench while he practiced.
And then I would start picking apart my mothering preferences, feeling guilty over the things I don't like to do. I hate playing Candyland, for example. I don't like cooking with my kids. I never go on preschool field trips because it makes my stomach knot to think of giving up my two precious hours of kid-free time to help herd a group of wild four-year-olds through a quiet museum. I hate bedtime routines and by the end of the day I'm so ready to check out that I often send my kids to bed with nothing more than a hug and a kiss.
But I realize, I need to stop focusing on the things I'm doing wrong and start focusing on the things I'm doing right.
Not someone else's "right." My right.
Just because there are some moms out there who love going on field trips with a class full of Mexican jumping beans does not mean I'm a bad mother because it's not on my Fun List. It's okay that I don't like playing Candyland. It's okay that I don't get any warm fuzzies from my children dumping the entire salt shaker in the cookie dough when my back is turned.
One woman's idea of what it means to be a good mother is another woman's horror story. There is no one-true-and-holy mothering style, and no perfect way to be a mother.
I'm not saying I have no room for improvement or that how I am is exactly how I should stay. But improvement doesn't always mean changing into something new; sometimes it just means becoming something better.
Being better as the mother you are.
And forgetting about the mother you're not.