I keep replaying yesterday’s parent conferences over and over in my head. I made a mother cry. I can’t remember the last time I made anyone cry…at least anyone I didn’t give birth to. The words I spoke weren’t mean, or harsh. I was simply telling the mom how resilient her child was, and that after the difficult time he’d had during his parents divorce last spring, I’d noticed such growth in her son already this fall. I realized very quickly when she began to tear up that I’d touched a very raw nerve. I had probably hit upon something she had already been thinking about. Probably something she’d been beating herself up about as well. I couldn’t have known that the words I’d thought would reassure her would upset her so much, but I’m still thinking about how that conversation could have gone differently.
Recently, I’ve been reading article after article after article about how moms are so hard on each other, and what it takes to be considered a “good” mom, and what moms really think. I’m honestly so fucking sick of reading about what I should be doing, or how I should be feeling. I just wish someone would finally tell me how to have the emotional capacity for it all. I don’t need to be what anyone would consider a “good” mom. I’m not going to join your after school group. I’m not going to schedule a “playdate” because that word makes me want to stab puppies. I’m not going to encourage my girls to join certain extracurricular activities because the moms who bring their kids to those things, and try to live vicariously through their children make me want to stab really cute puppies. I’m not going to craft anything or sew anything or bedazzle anything. I’m not that mom and I never will be, but I love my kids more than I know how to say. Am I any less of a mother than the women who craft, or sew, or bedazzle? Absolutely not, but you wouldn’t know that by reading anything in the media.
I’m thinking about the mom who sat across from me yesterday wiping her eyes, and I keep thinking about all of the things I should have said to her. I should have told her that she’s not alone. I should have told her that I understand that motherhood never turns out the way you think it might. I should have told her that she’s doing an amazing job, and that her divorce should never be seen as a failure to her child. Instead, I thought about myself and about what I’d done to cause her tears and I didn’t say anything, which was a shitty, selfish way to react. I know now that she’s probably a lot like the rest of us who don’t say how we feel.
I’m tired of reading about how we should let go of the need to “have it all”. I let go of that a long time ago. What I need to know is what in the world to do with all of these emotions I have about my kids. I need to know how to have enough headspace and heart space left after all of their stuff to care for myself. I’m sick of the mom shaming. I’m sick of the comparisons and the things we should or shouldn't be doing. Why isn’t anyone talking about how much being a mother changes who you are? More importantly? Why isn’t anyone talking about what to do when you don’t like the person you’ve become as a result of motherhood? It’s true. It IS time to be kinder to each other. But it's also time to be kinder to ourselves. Even if the kids haven’t had a bath in 5 days and they’ve been eating corn dogs for every meal. Even if you have never logged on to the school grading website because you just don’t care that much. Even if you do ignore your kids so that you can enjoy a drink with other mom pals a la 1970. I think it’s also time for it to be acceptable to admit that motherhood is probably not what we thought it was going to be, and that it might even be the hardest thing most of us have ever done. Ever.