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.
This has been one fun past week, lemme tell ya.
First off, I should explain that I have some back condition called “ankylosing spondylitis.” It’s a really fun thing, because after 12 years of medications, injections, and infusions, no one can seem to figure out how to treat it. It’ll be fine for MONTHS and months, and then BOOM–pain and spasms so bad I can’t walk.
Last weekend, with a bit of a painful limp, I was determined to take Myla out & about. We drove to the Waco Zoo, but by the time I got there, I could barely walk, and decided it’d be easier to push around in one of the courtesy wheelchairs. We looked a mess: Me, with Myla on my lap at times, rolling around to all the exhibits. I got out on the uphill slopes and slowly limped my way up, pushing Myla in the chair. When I was feeling wobbly, Myla would offer me her shoulder to hold onto for balance. “Just hold my shoulder, Mom.” Several of the exhibits were closed because it was actually COLD in Texas for once, but we made the best of it, and had a good time anyway.
EXCEPT that by the time we got home, I had spasms so bad I was in tears and could barely walk. Thank goodness my mom was 8 hours away, and was able to drive down and help take care of us (Thanks, Mom!). After many appointments, much medication and rest, I’m pretty much back to my normal level of constant discomfort.
So THIS weekend, Myla built a backpack fairy machine. Like you do. It was made out of a cardboard box, a milk jug, and lots of duct tape.
And then she came right inside, spiked a fever of 101, and wanted to go to bed.
So we’ve spent this long weekend at home, pretty much on the couch, bringing down a fever and binge-watching kid’s movies.
At some point this weekend, she drew this picture of me, with a cane and a thermometer, taking care of her, sick in bed. I sent my husband the picture (he’s deployed), and he noticed, “she sees you’re in pain, but that you’re still taking care of her.” Which was awesome, because that’s exactly the way it was. (And at least she drew me with a smile, instead of wincing in pain).
Having a sick kid does not always mean they’re just asleep on the couch–she really tried very hard to entertain herself with paper projects, mostly related to whatever movies we watched.
Despite fighting a fever and sucking on cough drops, she kept VERY busy with scissors, paper, and tape. ALL WEEKEND.
It’s actually a little hard to keep up with–she built an entire petting zoo (complete with pteranadons, ducks, and baby otters) out of paper and tape. And after we watched the newest Goosebumps movie (admittedly an odd choice for her), she started making books with latches, and the creatures that come out of them….like this floating demon-poodle:
In any case, we’re nearly back to normal! Just trying to get back on our feet…in some ways, literally. That whole thing about taking care of yourself so you can take care of others? That stuff’s true. In my attempt to care for Myla and get out to the zoo for something to do, I ignored my own pain and injured myself further, when I should’ve just taken it easy. I’m not a “take it easy” kind of person, so that’s pretty hard for me to do.
I could take a lesson from Myla, though (as I often do), by just accepting it, relaxing, and making the most of it with art projects. On the couch binge-watching movies if I have to. It’s often hard for me to tell when “pushing it” will help or hurt (especially with the “push through the pain” army mentality I’ve got ingrained in me). In any case, we’re finally on the mend now! So we’re going to take it a little easy this week…which is going to be better for us in the long run, I’m sure.
So from us to you, take care of yourselves!
Everything I learned about being a mom I learned from the awesome moms and women around me.
My grandmother LIVED to be a mother, and raised eight children. Her face still glows around kids, and her eyes twinkle when she talks about them.
My own mom followed me along the same creative journeys when I was a kid, watching my little brain work, always doing crafty projects with me, and teaching me the first very basic steps of how to draw. She was there for all the firsts, all the cuts & scrapes, all the tears, all the smiles. Even still, she’s the first one I call when I’ve got a mom issue.
(The photo above is of my mom serving up slices of my little sister’s birthday cake. I still remember VERY clearly standing next to my mom in the kitchen–which probably wasn’t annoying and distracting AT ALL–as she decorated the details in that cake, which we seem to have lovingly demolished in a very short amount of time…)
My younger sister had her kids before I ever even considered one, and has always been an example for me of what an amazing mom is. Working and struggling to make a good life for her girls as best as she can, it hasn’t always been easy. She’s the most amazing at working wonders with what she’s got. And she’s someone I call when I need perspective on what’s normal mom stuff and what I’m blowing out of proportion after spending too much time Googling.
I am lucky enough to have a mother-in-law that is an amazing mom, and is always great at giving advice. She’s like a great friend…who also knows funny stories about my husband from when he was a kid.
I have a sister-in-law who is the mom of a now one-year-old, who has toughed out this first year like a champ, and is well on her way to raising a super smart (and goofy) little girl.
My best friend Christine is an amazing mama with the same sort of “devil-may-care with messes” attitude as me, and I get to tell her all the fun stuff I’ve already gone through…and help her sort through all the stuff she’s Googled.
I have mama friends that I can talk to and share with, bounce ideas off of, gauge if something is “normal” or not, and be inspired by. I have friends that are dog-moms and friends that are not YET moms, and friends that are just amazing, wonderful women. I gauge my mom-abilities against them all to be sure I’m always doing what I think is right.
I have friends who have NO IDEA how awesome and amazing they are.
And the main thing about all of them is their ability to love, despite–and sometimes even BECAUSE of–all of our flaws.
When I was pregnant and worried that I might not be a good mom, my mom said, “If you’re the kind of mother that’s worried if you’ll be a good mother, it means you’re going to be just fine.”
So to all you moms out there, and all you wonderful, inspiring women, I’d just like you to know that whether you know it or not, even if you’re just a passing face in someone’s day, people see you. And you are loved.
Happy mom’s day to all of you!