You’ve heard them before. Those judgemental mom-comments that get under your skin.
At soccer practice this past week, I heard a mom grumble snarkily under her breath that another mom spent all her time at practice just “playing on her phone” instead of watching her kid (this is at PRACTICE, mind you. Not a game). Meanwhile, that same mom’s kid was running all over, being obnoxious, distracting the other players from actually practicing.
Maybe we’re all a little guilty of feeling like we’re doing a better job than other moms. Maybe that’s because it’s a SUPER hard job.
But might it also be possible to consider that we’re all doing the best we can?
That mom playing on her phone while her daughter was at soccer practice also had a baby in tow. Maybe soccer practice was the first chance that mom’s had to breathe all day. Maybe she spends all day long with the kids, and would like a little adult interaction, even via facebook articles or pinterest pins. Maybe she’d like a half hour where she didn’t constantly have to be in her kid’s face.
That same judgemental mom probably looks at me, sitting on the sidelines at practice, listening to my headphones and drawing in my sketchbook, and most likely thinks about what an inattentive, horrible mom I am….not knowing how much time I actually SPEND with my daughter. Doesn’t consider the fact that I work from home and check every email on my phone, in case a late job request comes in. Doesn’t realize my husband’s deployed, and that staring at our daughter during practice actually DISTRACTS her from paying attention. (I know my kid, and I know that she doesn’t always NEED me up in her face.)
And that same judgemental mom, whose own kid was running around being wild, annoying, and obnoxious…it’s possible that maybe even SHE is doing the best she can, too.
I know I’m guilty of it. We all are. You put SO MUCH work into being a good parent that you get so frustrated when other parents seem to be doing a crappy job. I find myself thinking, “maybe your kid wouldn’t be so crazy if you’d actually give him discipline when he acted up instead of ignoring his bad behavior.” I think, “instead of saying “behave, behave, behave,” why don’t you actually DO something when your kid misbehaves?”
I realize it’s futile. There are a million ways to be a good parent, and a million ways to be a bad one.
So when I hear that snarky voice start to chatter in my head, I really try hard to change the conversation and understand that there may be another side of the story that I might not know. It’s really hard sometimes, but it does help a little.
And since when does being a good mom mean giving up everything you want to do? Looking at your phone for five minutes? Selfish. Going to the gym? Selfish. Going to see a grownup movie? Selfish. Putting on makeup or doing your hair? Selfish. We feel so guilty for doing anything for ourselves that we put ourselves last in everything, if we even get ourselves in there at all. It’s sort of expected. You’re supposed to drop everything and become this superhero of a creature called MOM.
Because of that pressure, I found myself taking care of everyone…except myself. Ask most moms, and they’ll tell you they do the same. My husband needed help studying for a test? I help. Baby is sick? I’m up all night. Kid has this activity or that dress-up day at school? I got it covered. Dogs need to go to the vet? Got it. Bill needs to get paid? I’m on it.
Not to mention I’m a work-at-home mom. I have a full-time job as a graphic artist. I’m so grateful for my job, and it has the same responsibilities that any job would.
I always say that every day is a challenge to keep the plates spinning…Letting ANY of the plates drop is NOT an option for me. I want to give a hundred percent to my job, my child’s well-being, my marriage, my husband’s well-being, my hobbies, my art, my pets, my bills, my house, my daughter’s activities.
How on earth is that humanly possible? I don’t know, but I nearly kill myself trying, and feel like a failure if any one of those plates starts to wobble. The LAST thing on earth I’ve got time for is myself, so I get the least attention. I get leftovers in all aspects of my life, if I even give myself anything at all.
So where does that leave me? 42 years old, overweight, used up, worn out, completely stretched to the limit, exhausted and stressed out. I have a preexisting back condition, which doesn’t help in the stress department, and it was making life absolutely miserable. Years of trying various injections and infusions had left me with an exhausted immune system and I was so tired of it. I thought if I could try to find a way to exercise, I could help strengthen my back WITHOUT medicine. I had faith in this, because my younger sister–who has the SAME back condition as me (ankylosing spondylitis / spondyloarthritis)–has avoided medications and has been doing nothing but exercising this past year, and has told me how much it’s helped.
I have learned, as a mom, how to make room for my artwork. Now it is time to make room for my health.
So now it is a priority. I don’t just WANT to exercise. I HAVE TO. I need to, to function for my daughter, for my family. I’ve heard the old airplane adage about putting on your airmask before your child’s, but it didn’t really click until now. I HAVE to take care of me. It’s no longer an afterthought, it’s a necessity. I am just as important as the bills. I’m just as important as the dogs.
Sound so stupidly simple, doesn’t it?
So I saw my rheumatologist again, who finally balanced me out on a pain medication that didn’t dope me all up, but at least dulled the constant pain so I could work out.
And then I joined a gym that has an adult-attended child care room (don’t EVEN get me started on how sorely lacking the Army is when it comes to child care and gym facilities, where my only options were a single room with some dusty old baby toys and a rusty old treadmill..UGH).
And thanks to the magic of being an only child, Myla LOVES to go to the child care room at the gym! Any chance to play with other kids is great by her, and she LOVES it. (I even offered to take her to the aquarium last weekend, and she said, “can we go to the gym instead?”)
So I go to the gym at lunchtime (while she’s at school) and I take a class (step aerobics, zumba, spin). I pick her up from school, and we go again, and I either do two miles on the treadmill and use the machines, or take another class. I’m getting about two hours a day at the gym! I haven’t done that since my Army days!
And let me tell you something: it feels SO GOOD. I’m taking care of me. I’m so much happier. I’m stronger. I feel better, I feel more positive, which is ONLY going to benefit our daughter, and our family. And from this side of it, I can look at that snarky mom who may be judging me and mentally say to her, “go ahead and TRY to say it to my face,” because I don’t care what she thinks. I know I am doing the best I can, and I’m doing a pretty darn good job.
And so are you, or you wouldn’t care.
I remember asking my mom when I was pregnant, “What if I’m not a good mom?” She told me that the fact that I was worried about it meant that I was going to be just fine. I remember hearing something similar on Freakonomics, where they did studies on whether or not reading a ton of parenting books actually made you a better parent, and the answer was this: the info in the books didn’t actually make you any better, but the fact that you were the type of parent that was trying to IMPROVE yourself by reading books made you a good parent.
So ignore those judgemental people. They obviously aren’t empathetic to your struggles, so their opinion doesn’t matter AT ALL. Do what you need to do to keep your boat afloat, to keep your train going, to keep your plates spinning. Don’t worry about what those people say; they have NO IDEA where you’re coming from. MAKE TIME FOR YOU. You are just as important as the laundry, and I guarantee the laundry will be there tomorrow.
Spend time with your kids, your family, your pets…but don’t forget to focus on yourself a little. Make room in your life to take care of YOU.. I promise you, it’s OKAY.
Actually, it’s more than okay…it’s NECESSARY.
Thank you for your wise words! I absolutely needed to hear that today!
Good for you! Being a mum’s important, of course it is, but looking after yourself so you can do the job of being a mum is even more so. Sending hugs. x
Great post! And well done on taking the step of practicing robust self-care. I feel like life as a parent is a constant battle between knowing I need to take some time for myself in order to be the best parent and person I can be and feeling intense guilt that I took some time for myself instead of doing something more “productive”. I wear myself out doing a hundred largely invisible jobs each day so I tell myself that it is OK to say stuff it to one or two of those invisible jobs each week if it is the only way I can make some time for myself. Even then, I have to justify it to myself constantly by reminding myself that you cannot pour from an empty cup. I also have this thing I tell myself which is that I spend all my time juggling different balls. It is bloody exhausting and flipping challenging and it is absolutely inevitable that some of those balls are going to drop. So I have to focus on not letting the fragile glass balls fall – things like actually keeping my children alive and nurtured – and not worry if a few rubber balls fall- like dusting – because they just bounce anyway. Make sense?
I agree with the balls–I like that, because laundry and dishes can DEFINITELY bounce back! Always love your comments, thank you!
Keep up the self care. You’re right, it’s necessary. As a parenting granny I’m really struggling with raising a rambunctious 9-year-old at my somewhat advanced age. Does Myla like to swim? Over summer break you ought to book yourself a spa day or a massage/mani/pedi in Austin and drop her off here. We have a lovely condo pool. Or we can do art, but you do that so well. (We met at an event at Jerry’s Artarama a while ago. My granddaughter is Chloe.) Send me a private message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
YES! Thank you! I was inspired to get myself exercising again recently, and your post made me smile–to know that another mom came to the same conclusion and is being proactive about self-care. This is how the revolution starts–one mom at a time taking care of herself so that she can be the best possible human being for everyone, including herself. And it does feel good, doesn’t it? I was reading about the three physiological fundamentals–eat enough, move enough, sleep enough, and have been trying to be more mindful and balanced about all three. I have been going to bed earlier this week, making sure to fit in some kind of movement every day, and taking time to nourish myself instead of waiting until I’m hangry to grab a bite. It makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for this wise and insightful post. Good for you, mama.
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Go on girl! I started exercising regularly 5 years ago. I also struggled with back pain though not to your extent. I must say that I was at the point of going to the chiropractor every month. She told me to STRENGTHEN my back and core and I would not hurt so much. And, she was right! I now exercise 5 times a week. Other women think I am crazy or too dedicated and I tell them it is what keeps my sanity. If they have a big meeting they say, “I CAN’T work out today.” I say “BECAUSE I have a big meeting today I MUST workout today.” It keeps negative self talk out of my head and keeps pain from taking over. So stick with it! You can do it! 20 minutes of exercise equals the same endorphins you can get from prescription drugs. And it’s free!
As a father who also has graphic artist daughter with a spinal condition (scoliosis) and two small children, I was greatly impressed by your post, and your courage. Keep it up!
Great post and you definitely need to take care of yourself! I have been putting myself higher on the priority list in the last few years and it’s been amazing! The housework suffers (a lot) but I am much happier 🙂 I wish you well in your self-care regime!
For some time now I’ve enjoyed your art and words. Yes, always take care of yourself first so you’ll be around to love and care for the others in your life. You are an inspiration to others.
Sometimes even older generation is nagging too. I have presented my views on it my blog from my generation to yours…..well done
I started following your blog because I love your art. Honestly, I seldom read the text, I’m here for the art. I’m glad I read this one. You are spot on and I hope you continue scheduling time for your health and well being.
Our kids mimic us in both overt and inconspicuous ways. You’ve sent a message that you matter, health matters, and that you can be consistent with something that may not come easy to you. Obviously creating beautiful things comes easy to you. Spending part of your time focusing on healing your body is inspirational. Thank you for the post.
Amazing post…I am single mom and the only person I really talk to outside my daughter are my Coworkers and only 2 have kids…they don’t get it. However your much nicer than me..I would have flipped the bird to them
I don’t have children but your post is brilliant. Definitely take care of you and never look back. You have my support on this issue (and if I was a mum I’d probably worry about the same things)