While waiting to pick up our WIC checks yesterday, a Mom of 4 came in to the waiting room. She was stylishly dressed with a cute, new haircut, and her children, in the few minutes I watched them, seemed well-behaved. As they waited, she pinned back her 3-year-old daughter’s hair and bounced the baby on her lap.
Even after she told the girl at the counter that she never leaves her house, I envied her. She seemed so put-together. And there I was, kidless yet exhausted and wondering what I would seem like if I was there with my two by myself. I could only imagine.
A week earlier, another mom both inspired and guilted me. She was a mom of 6 — 4 biological, 2 adopted. And she was calm. She helped each child in turn with the craft project. She established boundaries for how many sweets they could eat. She smiled a lot. She, too, was dressed well — not overly fashionably but attractively.
I stared. A lot. And compared my lot to hers. I had just spent the better part of the hour chasing my 20-month-old around the library trying to ensure he didn’t pull every book off the shelf or dig in to the cookies before it was time, and I nearly caused a scene pulling the 3-year-old out of story time to take her to the potty.
Looks of pity. That’s what I sense when I take my kids places, and I feel it’s a reflection on me. They fight. They bite sometimes. They run crazy. They don’t always listen. And I feel like I’ve somehow messed up.
How do other moms do it? I wonder. And how do they do it with MORE?
They must be created differently, I conclude. God has given them an extra dose of momness and I don’t have it. They thrive in motherhood; I’ll be lucky to survive.
These are the things I tell myself, and for some reason, they don’t encourage me.
I recently listened to a sermon series by James MacDonald on insecurity. (Stop me if I’ve shared this before.) He quoted Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” which studies success. Gladwell discovered that it takes a person 10,000 hours at whatever it is they want to be successful at to achieve success. Talent or predisposition to something does not guarantee success.
Applied to motherhood, I realized that I have a long way to go. Merely having had children for 10,000 (or more! I didn’t do the math.) hours does not mean I will be a good mother. I must give them active time. I must practice good mothering. Consistently. Over time. And maybe, just maybe, I will be the kind of mother people stare at, not because they can’t believe how awful her kids are but because they don’t understand how she can still be smiling.
Even if that happens, I won’t pretend that I have it all together or always have had. I’m a mess, frankly, and I’m not sure that’s going to change anytime soon.
But at least I can be assured that God didn’t make a mistake in making me a mother. I just need more practice.