Dear sweet mom who feels like she's failing:
If you and I were sitting in Starbucks and you had your fave drink and I had my Caramel Macchiato, I'd look at you, and I'd tell you the truth — you're not failing.
I know. I'm guessing, you'd wipe away the tears and look up and try to nod your head, but inside, inside well, you'd think that those are nice words but seriously she has no idea. You know why I know? Because I've sat in a coffee shop, across from a friend, a friend who looked me smack in the face and told me that I wasn't failing and that I was doing a great job.
I wanted to tell her about the dishes from yesterday sitting on my counter. And how the pile of storybooks wasn't read again. And that I'm a week behind in laundry. And that I got really really irritated at the mixture of 13 toys all dumped in a pile that two days ago was sorted into 13 labeled boxes. I wondered if she knew that some days, some days I get up and just go through the mom motions without even really finding much joy. It felt like drudgery.
How could she tell me I wasn't failing?
Yet, I wasn't.
Somehow in the mixed-up media world we've got these thoughts of moms being perfect. Society doesn't give us a break. I mean read this article in The New York Times about the pressure on moms to look a certain way after they give birth. And then? Then we're to be ultra creative, crafty, humorous, happy, chipper, up before dawn, to sleep after dark, with our sinks shined, and the laundry folded, and tomorrow's breakfast in the crockpot, with tomorrow's dinner — pulled from our once-a-month cooking — thawing in the fridge, while we work out for 20 minutes on odd days and 40 minutes on even days, and our hair is always done, we're makeup ready, our fridges are stocked, and the craft closet is bursting with ideas for that quick, perfect afternoon art project that we'll place on our recycled wood-and-Mod-Podged-adorned, hand-painted chalkboard.
And, in reality, it's 8 a.m. and we're just getting up. The baby was up all night, or the toddler sick, or, honestly, we were just tired. We get our coffee and flip on Facebook, and our stream is flooded with stuff people have already done (I always tell myself — different time zones), and we're racing to catch up with this never- before-except-for-the-last-hundred-years-perfect, never-feel-like-you're-failing mom ideal that is exhausting.
You know what my friend told me? She told me to slow down. Slow down? How in the world when I felt like I was failing was I to slow down? I had way way way too much to do, and I needed to read that parenting book to work on my attitude and and and ... and. And she told me enough. And that I was a good mom.
You know, you're not failing.
You need to start to see all you do accomplish in a day. All the smiles of encouragement, meals made, clothes changed, books read and more. Just like I wrote before, we make mistakes (ten things moms need to remember). We just need to learn from them. We're out of breath, racing and exhausted but truly not failing. Failing means stopping. Not getting up, not trying, not giving. That's not you.
I want you to stop telling yourself you're failing. Instead, I want you to replace it with "I can do this."
You can do this.
Those soundtrack words and feeling about failing are just feelings. Don't let them define you anymore. If you hear "I'm failing" replace it immediately with "I can do this."
If you were across the table from me, that is what I would tell you.
And, of course, I'd tell you this: Do one thing. I'm going to write and say it again and again and again. Write your list of things you want to do, need to do, and would love to do today with your family. And then, do one thing from each list. If you stumble, brush yourself off, and start again. Don't worry that the neighbor across the street seems to be doing 20 or the Pinterest pin tells you that the perfect home can be achieved in 6 Easy Steps. This is your life — and you — you are the perfect mother for those children. God knew when he blessed those kids to you.
You are a good mom. You matter. You are making a difference.
You can do this. One step, one day, at a time.
From me, one mom in the midst of motherhood, to you.
Read more from Rachel Martin on her blog, Finding Joy.
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