It’s Mother’s Day.
If you’re on the Internet at all today, you’ll find all kinds of reactions to this one day in May. I know I’ll see friends who post the flowers or breakfasts or jewelry they’ve received from their families. I know I’ll see friends post about how hard Mother’s Day is for those who are not mothers, who have lost their mothers or who have tricky relationships with them. I will see people posting kind words to all the mothers they know, generally or specifically.
Mother’s Day is no one-size-fits-all holiday.
It does get us thinking about mothers and motherhood, though.
I’ve been a mother for nine years, which in some fields would make me an expert or professional. People earn advanced degrees in less time than I’ve been a mother. Some presidents serve two terms in that time. After nine years of motherhood, I thought maybe I’d feel more sure or certain. Like I’ve totally got this.
Isn’t that what we all want people to think about us moms– that we’re the CEO of this house, the ringleader of this circus, the driver of this crazy train?
Sometimes people will read something I’ve written about my children, or comment on a picture I’ve posted, and they’ll tell me I’m a great mom or that I’m doing a great job. Those compliments bounce right off me because I tell myself if they only knew the truth, they’d know I’m really just an okay, average mom.
The truth is I don’t want to be “great” at motherhood, mostly because I don’t know what that means. A hundred moms would have at least 50 different definitions of what it means to be a great mom and all of them would hold some truth. When people say I’m a great mom (which doesn’t happen a lot, just to let you know; I don’t want you thinking this happens daily or weekly), I don’t know what they are seeing to make them say that. My husband says maybe they are seeing something in me that I can’t see in myself and they are trying to affirm that. Maybe he’s right.
I worry, though, that they are seeing their definition of greatness and applying it to me. Like if I post a picture of the one time in the last three months we bake together (and zero pictures of the flour mess all over the counter and no sound bites of all the times I yelled in frustration), someone will think I’m a great mom because I bake with them. No single picture posted on Instagram or Facebook can fully illustrate the experience of motherhood.
And maybe nobody really thinks that. But I know how I sometimes feel when I see pictures or status updates from other moms doing something I don’t. I feel like that other mom is doing something right and I’m not.
Most of us moms need all the encouragement we can get. I haven’t met a mom who, if she is honest with herself, doesn’t feel like she’s getting it all wrong at some point. I’m not saying we shouldn’t honor or encourage moms. I just think we have to use our words carefully.
When I’m honest with myself, I realize that motherhood has been both the best and the worst thing to happen to me. (Put that on a greeting card and try to sell it.) I love my kids and I try to hold on to a sense of wonder that these two humans hold part of me and part of their dad and all kinds of genetic code passed down through generations. They add to our lives in ways I can’t count.
But being a mother has exposed some of the worst parts of me. I’m more selfish than I ever would have imagined. For me, motherhood is a constant battle between what I want to do and what I have to do. Still, there were months where those duties saved me. I got out of bed and started the day because a small child needed me. I left the house and arranged play dates because I could not offer all the socialization my kids needed. Being a mom has forced me to speak up and make decisions on someone else’s behalf. But that brings with it all kinds of doubt about whether I’ve made the right decisions.
If I wasn’t a mom, all that internal junk would still be a part of me, but maybe I could hide it better. I believe motherhood has the potential to bring out the best and the worst in a person. And mostly that’s okay.
If you tell me I’m a great mom, I can think of at least one example of someone who is a better mom than me. And that mom could probably think of another example who is better than her.
It also makes me question greatness. Is a mom on welfare not great? Because I’ve been her. Is a mom who volunteers in the classroom every week great? Because I can’t handle that many children at one time. What about the Pinterest mom? Sometimes I envy her but not the mess of the craft projects. To be great, do I need to do it all and do it all perfectly?
I’m okay with being an okay mom. Maybe I’ll have moments of greatness, but that’s not my aim. I want to do what I can and accept what I can’t. I don’t want my kids to be perfect because that’s an impossible standard. I don’t want to be known for all the things I gave up and sacrificed for them because presumably I’ll still be around when they leave for good. Being a mom is only one role I have in this life and being “great” at motherhood would require being mediocre at something else. In the early years, my ideas of what a mom should me cost me my own health. And almost my marriage.
Ann Voskamp says what is on my heart so much better so I’ll leave you with a link to her blog post and a wish for any moms reading this to be the best version of you, you can be. Not the best at everything or the best at what other people think you should be but the best YOU. That has led me to more “great” mom moments than anything else.