I wake up every morning with the full intention of being the absolute best mom I can be. You know – the one who cheerily wakes her children, makes them Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes with raisins for eyes, skips through the daily activities with a spring in her step, and smiles and swoops in with a kiss when the kids are acting up. The mom who cooks a nutritious four-course organic meal for lunch and places it in colorful bento boxes for her childrens’ enjoyment. The one who never ever turns on the TV, instead planning new and enriching activities every day to refine her childrens’ development. I wake up planning to be the mom who spends nap time missing her kids while baking them organic blueberry cupcakes with Thomas the Train decorations on top. Yes, that is who I aim to be every single day.
But heck – let’s get real. By about noon the bar has dropped to the point where I’m satisfied just being a good-enough mom. And I’m okay with that. After full mornings trying to channel my inner Mary Poppins, I simply surrender. And decide that being a good-enough mom is good enough for me.
I am exhausted
maniacs high-energy toddlers is damn grueling. From the second they open their eyes in the morning until they pass out at night, they never stop. Ever. And I’m old. And pregnant. An Advanced-Maternal-Age mommy who needs a nap – or just five minutes to sit down. So if I can bribe the kids to sit long enough to watch a few episodes of Dinosaur Train so that I can catch a break, so be it.
I also have a job to do
Fortunately, I am now freelance. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, it turns out that “freelance” doesn’t mean “earn money for no work.” I have to put in time and energy to finish my jobs. This is literally impossible to do while the boys are awake. It is barely possible while they’re napping – it is inevitable that as soon as I pull out the laptop I will hear a loud crash or cries of some sort coming from their bedroom. So sue me if I am up against a deadline and tell the boys that it is nap time 30-60 minutes early.
The boys have each other
That’s why people have multiple children, isn’t it? So that each child has a built-in companion? So I let them play together. “Play with your brother” is a common refrain in our household. It’s not that I don’t want to play with them, it’s just that I have to finish the laundry/prepare dinner/submit this project/pee in peace. And I figure that as long as they’re not killing each other, they’re learning lifelong values and lessons such as sharing, negotiating, and compromising. So really, it is a parenting strategy instead of a crutch.
The constant shouting is melting my brain
Is it in boys’ DNA to SHOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME?? I say “stop shouting” so many times that it just sounds like jibberish – and they don’t even acknowledge me anymore. In fact I think they laugh. I swear there is some mental effect of all that shouting. It’s frying my brain and making me incapable of thinking clearly. At a minimum, the ringing in my ears is completely banishing any forethought of becoming Super Nanny incarnate. It’s a miracle I have any logical thought processes left.
There’s only one of me
Don’t get me wrong – we fully understood what we were getting into when we had children with zero family help (hence the waffling that ultimately made me a mother of Advanced Maternal Age). But wow, it sure would be nice to have some – any – help. I truly and fervently envy my friends who can call a family member in an emergency – or simply drop the kids off for a few hours. Kids acting crazy and pushing me to the verge of a nervous breakdown? Suck it up and figure it out. One kid hurts himself and we have to go to the emergency room at midnight? Drag Kid B along, drop off Kid A and Mommy at the hospital, and then wake up Kid B to come back with Daddy at 4am to pick us up. They weren’t kidding when they said it takes a village.
I’m okay if my kids aren’t fluent in Mandarin by age 5
Really, I am. I also have no desire to rush reading, writing, or superior athleticism. The proof is in the pudding with my almost 4-year-old who still wears Pull-Ups at night. I just figure that when they’re ready – they’re ready. Let them be kids. Does that make me lazy? Naive because my children aren’t in a feeder preschool for the top private schools in the nation? Then lazy I am – as my kids play in the mud while others recite the Latin alphabet backwards.
First World problems really aren’t all that bad
I had the opportunity to travel extensively before I had children, and the lingering lesson it taught me is that – no matter what – we simply have an extraordinary way of life here. Complaining about my commute to work every day? Instantly humbled when I meet the 83-year-old Ghanaian woman who hikes eight miles each way to gather firewood and water to feed her family. Put into perspective, the majority of our so-called problems are frankly petty. So excuse me if I don’t make Pinterest-perfect meals or my boys wear t-shirts with finger paint stains on them. It’s just that I think we should be spending less time on that and more time focused on issues that matter.
They will survive
As Gloria Gaynor puts it, I was petrified with my first child. Terrified that I would inadvertently hurt him, drop him, scar him, or emotionally ruin him. And then I learned – he is a pretty resilient guy. With my second son, I had much more confidence that he would not only make it, but that he would thrive. And damn – with all the pushes and knocks down he gets from his big brother, that kid is even heartier than the first. So now I simply don’t sweat the small stuff. Toddler drinking out of a sippy cup that fell on the ground? Eh – soon he will be ingesting germier things. Kiddo fell down and bloodied his knee? That’s a bummer – but he’ll pull through. All any panic on my part would do is develop little hypochondriacs.
The love is what they’ll remember
This is what it really boils down to. One day when my boys look back, I doubt they will hold dear the memories of the picture perfect crust-free organic peanut butter and homemade strawberry preserves sandwiches on whole-grain wheat painstakingly cut into shapes of dinosaurs. I suspect that a few hours of Octonauts isn’t going to turn their brains to mush. And I hope that what they remember instead is the profound love that their mommy had for them. The messy, adoring, imperfect love that is reflected by the real me. The me who laughs, who cries, who gets angry, and who shouts ENOUGH. The me who cuddles and kisses, and groans and sighs. The me who plays Legos and then shushes in frustration so I can finish an assignment. Because that is reality. And that is what they’re going to find in their friends and partners as they grow older. Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t always pretty. But it is always there, a constant undercurrent despite the temporary face. And I hope that is what my boys learn and remember when they think back on their good-enough mom.