I embraced transparency in 2015 and so in 2016, my goal is to move forward, pursue it harder than ever without fear of being lambasted for it. So there will be a lot of this in 2016.
Dear, sweet mama,
I see you, swinging your arms wildly to corral all your children in the van. Your daughter is walking so slowly you're sure she's doing it just to get under your skin, dragging her coat across the dirty ground, having ignored your 18 requests to put the thing on. Your frustrations are mounting and your temper is bubbling just below the surface. You can feel the pressure build and know it's only a matter of time before you blow up, probably the moment you're alone with them, because you can keep your cool in public.
The youngest screams as you try to get those straps around her chubby little arms. Your oldest two fight in the far back, as if your requests to buckle themselves up were spoken into a black hole, gone unheard. Your three-year-old is sitting quietly in his seat, waiting to be buckled up, and you cup his sweet cheeks in your hands and kiss his pouty, perfect lips, hoping he can feel how much you appreciate his momentary obedience. They take their turns, your four kids, being the obedient one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, probably because there isn't. They're kids, after all. They're subject to the same daily ups and downs as you and I, with some added immaturity thrown in, but sometimes we forget that life can get them down, too.
When finally you slip into the front seat and turn the key in the ignition to a jerky, somewhat rumbling start, someone starts screaming from the back. Between the wails, you manage to pick out a few words. Hit, mean, book, stop, hate.
Then it happens.
"JUST STOP IT! ALL OF YOU! MOMMY NEEDS EVERYONE TO JUST...STOP...TALKING!" you yell.
Two of them get silent while the baby begins to cry and your daughter in the back continues her ranting. Your face falls into your hands and you turn the radio up to drown out the chaos.
I said I'd do better today, God. Why am I always failing? I don't understand why you put these four in my care when I'm so clearly incapable of being a loving mother.
You call out to God often, in those weak moments, knowing you've failed yet again and sincerely wondering what on earth you've done with your life, thinking you would be competent to raise four human beings to adulthood. Sometimes you think he hears you and speaks back, other times you feel emptier than ever, on your own to do this impossible thing called parenthood.
I see you because I am you.
I'm that mama of four who feels beat down on a daily basis. I've lived this way in shame for 15 months, when our fourth baby was born. When people ask me, "Honestly, was there much of a change between your third and fourth?" I can't lie. Yes. There was a tremendous shift in our life between our third and fourth child. It wasn't that some magical scale had been tipped, but a perfect collision of events had occurred. I've been trying to pursue my side business harder than ever, we've set some lofty goals that require a lot of hard work, my oldest is in first grade and it's surprisingly demanding. The guilt of not being able to always be at the school gets to me. But juggling a full-time self-imposed work schedule on top of caring for four (still very young) kids on top of navigating school work and volunteering is a lot. It's a lot no matter who you are.
But so often, I find these thoughts running through my head: "Well she could do this," "Look at so-and-so's mom, seemingly juggling a million things and crafting Pinterest parties and school treats on top of it all!"
It doesn't matter what your own unique challenges are, you'll find a way to stack them against your neighbor's challenges and declare yourself an utter failure. As women (and probably to some extent, men, too), it's one thing we are universally amazing at achieving.
My challenges come in the form of four little kids, a demanding work and home life, the requirements of dietary needs that mean cooking most everything from scratch, and a large home to take care of (first world problem, I'm well aware). For mothers across the globe, the challenges look different. I'm no stranger to the notion that most of the problems we face in America are first world problems, but that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to succumb to overwhelm, to cry on a daily basis, to wonder what we were thinking and to oscillate daily between quitting everything and moving to a secluded location to live a simpler, slower life or taking on even more to either assuage some guilt or provide more/better for our children.
When it all seems impossibly hard, take a moment of solitude and repeat to yourself: I am good enough. I am human. I make mistakes, but I do great things, too. Every mother in the world has moments of failure, and each one suffers fleeting feelings of doubt and insecurity that she should even be allowed to care for her children. Today, I'm allowing myself to feel whatever I'm feeling, and to love myself in spite of it. I allow myself to make mistakes without self-hatred, recognizing that with every mistake, a little forward progress is made by way of learning.
Maybe it's a little woo-woo for your taste, so make up your own words but keep the premise. You are enough and you were chosen to be the right parent for your child. Take solace in knowing that this is a fundamental part of humanity. We aren't broken. We are human mamas doing human things. And human things include failure. Love yourself so that your children learn to love themselves in spite of their own failures.