It had been one of those weeks.
I forgot to send my children’s homework back. I had shouted at my highly emotional daughter. I realised that I was stressing my already anxious 5-year old out before he went to school, and hadn’t hugged my 12 year old in a week. We had take-away three times in four days, since I couldn’t get myself together in the kitchen. And I have a special needs family that need stability and calm- I need to tell you, I have the stability and calm of tumbleweed.
When I surveyed the wreck of the week around me, and then thought about all of the other mothers who were doing a better job than me, I was crushed. I realised that my children need a better mother.
Since then I have been asking myself the question: exactly what does a better mother look like?
Is it attitude? Is it found in consistency, in the smaller details? (Like remembering to send back home readers everyday…) Is it about the knowledge that everything in my world is under control, or that no one in my house ever raises their voice? Could I be a better mother if my children ate all of their vegetables, if I got my family’s meals on time and never forgot to do the washing? What if I played with them more and dusted occasionally?
All of those things are good; and I have had seasons where I tried to do all of the above. Occasionally I succeeded, but more times I failed. The funny thing is that in those rare times I felt myself on top of everything, I rarely congratulated myself- I still saw all the ways I could do better, and felt badly about myself. And this is the moment I realised my problem. My children do need a better mother- but “better” here doesn’t refer to my performance or perfection, but wholeness. My self-esteem needs to get better, it has been unwell! I get upset when someone criticises me, I take it personally when someone gives me too much parenting advice. I look at other mothers and compare myself, looking at all of the things I do poorly. When a teacher says my children are having issues at school, I cry and want to take them out of school all together. I run away from confrontation, I care more about other people’s feelings than the truth- and I want everyone to love me! No exceptions!
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
The problem, I discovered, was me. I need to get better. My children need a mother who is emotionally healthy and whole. There are parts of me that are wounded and hurt, that have to do with identity- who I am, who I want to be. They need to be better. I need to be a mum who accepts ‘me’ as I am, faults and all- since I know logically I can’t be perfect. I need to stop beating myself up about my failures. I need to be someone who can bounce back when I feel knocked down, to have resiliency.
We all know that no one can love our kids like we can- love is the number one factor in their young lives. We show our children what unconditional love looks like- and it is time for all of us to get better about receiving that same love. Do my children want anyone else? No, they want me. No other mother can comfort them like I can, no one else gets their needs, their moods and insecurities. I am made to mother my three children.
So my goal is to get better. I want to be someone who can teach my kids to laugh at setbacks, teach them to find comfort when they are hurt in healthy ways. I need to be a mum who isn’t upset by criticism and comparison, who doesn’t go under any fear or intimidation. That’s the better mum we all want to be.
At MOPS we do everything to promote that emotionally better mum- we give support, we give coffee and a hug, and we laugh and cry together. We celebrate motherhood, and also acknowledge that at times it is a very hard road to walk. We do life together, we watch the children grow together. We are a community of mothers.
If you have struggled with the pressure to perform ‘better’ for your family, I’d like to say this to you. Our children will forgive us the meals of baked beans on toast, or sheets that don’t get changed as often as they should. They won’t remember that we got them to school too late, or that we missed their yearly check-ups.
They will remember the cuddles, the tummies that were full. The bedtime stories or the playing in the yard. The sound of your laugh, the silly faces you make, and those Mum things that we can’t help saying. This is what they will remember. Stop beating yourself up for what you are not able to do, and stop looking at other mums- they feel insecure too. You are all the ‘you’, that you need to be.
You are better than ‘better’- and as far as your children are concerned, you are the best.