The funny thing about being a mom is that nobody seems to think they're good at it. I can rattle off a list of all of my mom fails: I'm gone too often. I'm horrible at scheduling professional family pictures. My closets constantly taunt me to organize them. My children's baby books are sadly incomplete. My holiday theme decorating skills are lacking.
I beat myself up over these issues and countless others every day. Every night before I go to bed I'll tick through my mental list of tasks I need to accomplish—items I'm behind on. I'll vow to cross things off the list the next day. I'll research that photographer, I tell myself. I'll take my daughter in for her flu shot. I'll schedule a visit with her old preschool teacher she desperately longs for.
If somebody asked me what makes me a good mom I would probably stare at them blankly, crippled by silence and unable to produce a valid response. I'm superior at beating myself up for my parenting shortfalls. I'm the queen of putting myself down for not measuring up to my own expectations of myself. That's not anything to be proud of. My children notice this. I don't want them to grow up and do the same thing.
The truth is, I'm a good mom. I'm just too busy being my own worst critic to notice. I love my children. I know them inside and out. I try to meet them where they're at—every day. I know my daughter has deep, intense, inexplicable connections with the people that touch her life. I'm aware that missing these people can reduce her to tears in a second, leaving her paralyzed and unable to recover from the yearning. I know how to work with her to overcome this debilitating heartache. I'm her mom. When I'm not judging myself harshly, I can look up and realize that I'm good at being her mom.
My son is almost 2 years old. He didn't sleep for longer than four hours in a row during his first year of life. Then one night, he slept for 12 straight hours and never turned back. I know if he wakes in the middle of the night, something is wrong. I know he'll need his back to be rubbed and to bury his face back into his pillow. I know he'll want me to sing to him and hold his hand. I will. I'm his mom. If I gave myself a break, I'd notice I'm good at being his mom.
Tonight, when I go to bed, I'm going to start a new list, not my stubborn to do list that never seems to budge. It will be the list of things I would say to myself if I wasn't my own worst enemy. Tonight, I will doze off thinking about my daughter, who told me she doesn't like sports, yet fearlessly charged at a soccer ball, kicking it down field and avoiding a goal being scored on her as the team's new keeper. I will blaze into my memory the picture of my son, who held my face and with adoration in his sparkling blue eyes, smiled and said, "My Momeee." I will focus on the wins of the day.
I will take a moment to celebrate all the effort that I put into these two littlest littles. I will allow myself to feel proud of that and allow myself to feel like what I'm doing is enough every day. Tonight, I will think about the blessed childhood memories we are creating with them. Instead of beating myself up for not being prepared for the latest deadline, I will tell myself to relax and give myself a break. I will focus on the good that I'm doing, instead of the things I'm not getting to.
Our nanny recently sent me a text explaining how she had a hard day with our daughter. She apologized, commenting on how guilty she felt and how she wished she'd handled it differently. I responded to her and said, "Forgive yourself." Tonight, and every night going forward, I'm going to take my own advice.