Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Mother You Are

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.


Suzanne Lucas said...

Whoever said you were a bad mother, obviously never met me. If she did, she would compare you to me and see that you are light years ahead of me in mothering skills!

I declare your friend an idiot and completely unobservant.

MyDonkeySix said...

Ha! Amen, Suzie!
We fall into so many traps when we compare ourselves with others. And it is so important to see the good things we do because the world focuses on all the things we do wrong. Who can live under that pressure?! I love your description of the beach ball. So like dealing with depression. I get it.

Kathy M said...

Somehow I don't think your "friend" was a very good friend. What friend would say something like that, especially to one of the best mothers on the planet? Kudos for realizing that there are different mothering styles and personalities, just like there are different people. I'm with you on the no-bed-time-routine thing. By bedtime, I'm ready for them to GO TO BED. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT ANY MORE MOM TIME! You probably inherited that from me. My guilt trip was PTA. I abhor all PTA work. I finally felt guilty enough to be a PTA officer one year, thinking I'd get a "testimony" of its value. No luck. I hated it more at the end of that year than the beginning. Different strokes for different folks.

Heather said...

Hi Bonnie! I'm Heather and I was hoping you could answer my quick question about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

Laurelee said...

Bonnie, I feel your pain! And amen to what you said about bedtime. My kids get a kiss and on a good night, one song. My least favorite game is Battleship. If my kids and I got thru the day, I consider it successful. The words from your "friend" seem to be a reflection on how he/she feels about themselves, because clearly you are one of the best moms I know. I am always impressed by how you handle your children.

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