I saw you yesterday. You were sitting alone in a dark closet hiding from reality. I watched the silent tears stream down your face as you tried to pull it together. You were overwhelmed by life. You felt defeated and beat down from a long day of putting everyone else’s needs first. It was right after you lost your temper and yelled over the spilled drink, the broken toy and the time out that took an obscene amount of time to complete. It was just a spilled cup, it took no time to clean up, but it felt bigger. It was just a broken toy, nothing that couldn’t be fixed, but it felt bigger. It was just a simple time out, a simple lesson to teach the back-talking six year old some respect, but it felt bigger to you – much bigger. It felt like an avalanche of stress was coming down on top of your already full plate. It added up to a feeling of defeat, a feeling of utter failure as a parent and an altogether overwhelmed spirit.
Your day continued on, but you were just going through the motions that day, your mind was somewhere else, somewhere far away.
I heard you the other day, begging your child to go to school. You hoped to send him without a fight this time. You hoped to avoid tears and tantrums today. You hoped it wouldn’t be like that one time you drove away sobbing, leaving him standing at the gate crying and pleading for you to come back, but it wasn’t like that time – it was worse. I saw you say goodbye as he began to melt down. You felt eyes of judgement and pity follow you back to your car.
On the drive home you sat sobbing painful tears of empathy for the tiny four year old begging you not to let go of his hand. It felt like a dull knife was wedged into your stomach as you replayed it in your head over and over. If only he knew that you wanted to pick him up and take him home just like he wanted, but that would be wrong. You knew you had to teach him to fight through his fears. Your day continued on, but you were just going through the motions that day, your mind was somewhere else, somewhere far away.
That perfect mother you see in your head is an imaginary figure put there to make you feel inadequate.
I feel your pain mom of three who thinks she is screwing it all up. I know how it feels to focus on the few parenting wrongs instead of the many rights. I know how it feels to look in the mirror and see someone who is constantly falling short of that motherly expectation in our heads. You want to be the mom who never raises her voice, who bakes healthy home made snacks everyday, who signs up to volunteer at school every week. The mother who does everything with a smile.
The problem with this mother in our heads that we so desperately strive to be is that she doesn’t actually exist. That perfect mother you see in your head is an imaginary figure put there to make you feel inadequate. She’s a pipe dream, a fantasy and an un-achievable goal. I beg you to ignore her and adjust your expectation to something more achievable – reality. You will always fall short of perfection because you are human. Motherhood is hard, plain and simple.
The reality is what’s really staring back at you in the mirror. You are the reality of what a good mom looks like. You get up every morning, even though you’d rather stay in bed. You feed your kids dinner, even though you’d be content eating cereal every night. You continue to nurture, love, encourage, comfort and take care of your children even when you feel too exhausted to breathe. You’re a good mother who is trying her best and that sweet mama is enough. You are enough.
I plead for you to look in the mirror and see what other people see. They see a hard working, dedicated, loving mother doing a wonderful job. They don’t see your faults like you do. They don’t see the time you lost your temper and yelled, they see the time you encouraged your son not to give up after he fell off his bike. They don’t see the time you cried in the closet out of exhaustion, they see the time you sat up with your sick child for hours offering love and comfort. They don’t remember the times you regret, they remember the moments you are proud of, and you should too.
I see you overwhelmed mom. I know you’re tired of feeling like you could do better, but I see you differently. I see you through the eyes of your husband, who adores you and greatly appreciates all the hard work you put in day after day. I see you through the eyes of your children, who love you more than words can ever attempt to express – you are their whole world. I see you through the eyes of God, who loves you more than you could possibly even fathom. I see you through the eyes of other mothers, who look up to you and admire you for your patience, dedication and nurturing spirit. They want to be like you, good and bad, they just see a wonderful mother. They know perfect moms don’t exist. I see you overwhelmed mama and I beg you to see what I see.