Do you ever go to a movie and it winds up being nothing like you thought it’d be? The trailer led you to believe that the story was a comedy but there was nothing funny about it? The characters weren’t relatable and overall it just wasn’t what you expected? In some ways, that’s how I find parenting. I’m the lead actress and, unfortunately, in addition to not looking like Julia Roberts, it feels like the chances of a Golden Globe nomination are slim to none.
I had my parenting style figured out long before I had kids. That’s how naïve I was. For example, I would see a kid in the doctor’s office watching an ipad while waiting to be called in and I’d think ‘not a chance’ will that be my child. In my head, my child would sit patiently waiting, practicing his alphabet. He also wouldn’t consider picking the healthy snack I brought for him off the dirty floor and putting it in his mouth. I’d be well rested (because my kid would sleep through the night, he had no choice), wearing clothes that didn’t have any stains or boogers on it, and I would smile at my child with nothing but admiration and pride. It was the best trailer I’d ever seen.
What I didn’t see in that waiting room was the mother. The woman sitting there trying her best not to either lose patience or cry, all the while hoping the ipad had enough battery to keep her child distracted to get her through a wait time that seemed endless when it was really only 7 minutes. She was wondering if anyone noticed how tired she looked. How she hadn’t been sleeping and was stressed to the max. Her lunch today had been a half-eaten piece of toast so she found herself eyeing a cheesie on the floor, wondering if the 5 second rule really was a thing. More than anything, she was wondering if she was doing a good enough job. Because most days she felt like she was failing. Was she the only mother who felt that way? This was the real movie, and it was nothing like the preview.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hard on myself. I don’t give myself enough credit in many aspects of my life. When it comes to parenting, I feel like I could be doing better. Or that others do it better than me or would handle the situations I’m dealing with with my kids better than I do. There are some days, the hard days, when I wonder if I was really cut out for this.
Sadly, I’ve said this out loud in front of my kids, “I’m not cut out for this”. When I get overwhelmed and my small home feels like 4 walls of anger, tears and attitude I feel a loss of control. This isn’t how things were supposed to be, I tell myself. When things aren’t going as planned, when one kid is lashing out in anger and the other kid is smacking too hard or saying bad words or not listening, I blame myself. I’m not doing this right. This is my fault. If I was better, they’d be better. I’m not cut out for this.
Deep down, I feel that in many ways I’m not the mom I thought I’d be. Not all the time anyways. I thought it’d be easier, or different. Parenting. My kids. My life. What I hadn’t anticipated was suffering from post-partem depression, which in many ways changed me. What I also hadn’t anticipated was having my life turned upside down. Or suffering from anxiety. Anxiety that presents itself as rage (that sadly only my children get to witness). So when my child is lashing out and hurling insults at me or his brother, it takes everything in me not to do the very thing I’m telling him not to do- lash out and say things he can’t take back. After all, I want to lead by example. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. And it’s when I lose, the guilt sets in.
Then there are times when the guilt is replaced by pride. I am reminded that I’m doing a damn good job. For example, when my kids say something I know they learned from me. Aiden told his brother the other day to stop touching him. Camryn wouldn’t, of course, as it’s much more fun to pester than it is to listen. Aiden said ‘When someone asks you to stop, you stop. Learn that early”. It was me, word for word from his mouth. Or when he lost his cool over something ridiculous and finally calmed down and said “I’m not perfect, but I promise you I’m doing the best I can’. Also my words, now his. Or when they see me cry and they stop what they are doing, one strokes my back and the other curls in a ball in my lap, and they tell me they love me.
Or how about at parent teacher interview when I was looking through Camryn’s Kindergarten workbook and there was one page that literally made me drop the book like it was on fire and start crying. It simply said, ‘Peace is My mom’. He had drawn a picture of me (or maybe it was Julia Roberts, I’m not really sure) but I cried so hard because I didn’t see myself as peace. I didn’t feel peace because I was too busy judging myself too harshly for being human.
It was then I realized that maybe I’m not failing. That maybe I should try seeing in myself what other people see.
Because maybe, just maybe, I was cut out for this after all.