As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. I grew up in a family of 7 kids, and I watched my own mother- who is a saint in disguise- totally rock motherhood. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything my mom couldn’t do, and I wanted to be just like her. I grew up playing with dolls, wearing my mom’s high heels, and pretending I was the greatest thing in the world- a mother. I would spend hours dreaming of doing motherly things like baking fancy cakes, folding laundry, and going grocery shopping. While my friends wanted to grow up to be teachers, ballerinas, fashion designers or prize winning authors, I knew I wanted nothing more than to be a stay at home mom.
My dream came true when I was 21 and my husband and I were blessed with our first baby, a perfect boy with giant blue eyes. Now, 10 years later, we have a crew of 4 kids- 3 boys and a girl. We are so grateful for the life we’ve been given. We have a beautiful home, we have great jobs, our children are all happy and healthy, and our marriage has grown in love over the years. I live in the perfect fairytale of motherhood I dreamed up so many years ago.
But what I didn’t expect would come along with my fairytale is the mountain of guilt and inadequacies I would feel every day. With every pregnancy test- positive or negative, every baby born, every first step, every first day of school, every birthday, and every report card comes those thoughts and feelings of self-doubt. If you are a mother, you know what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about those lingering thoughts that I didn’t do enough, or that I did too much, that I could have tried harder, or maybe I should have relaxed a little. Basically, I’m sure I’m doing this mom thing all wrong. I either let them watch too much TV, or I’m too strict with their screen time. I either don’t have the camera handy when I should, or I’m too camera-happy, and miss out on living in the moment. I’m either way too early for everything, or way too late- and it doesn’t matter anyway because I forgot it’s my turn to bring the treats. I’m sure I don’t exercise enough, eat clean enough, or wear the right kind of makeup. Sometimes I don’t make my kids brush their teeth at night, because it isn’t worth the fight, and I’m sure they’re going to have rotten oral health because of it. I haven’t been to the salon in a year, ok two years, which makes me feel like a slob, but I’ll probably wait another 6 months, just in case I seem too high-maintenance. My house is a mess, but I don’t dare clean it, because Pinterest says good moms have sticky floors and happy kids- and we all know I want to be a good mom. Oh my goodness, it never ends!
I remember the day I decided enough was enough. School had just started for my kids, and we had football, tumbling, soccer, piano, scouts, and church responsibilities on top of our daily tasks. I was feeling overwhelmed and I’m sure I was in a rush, as I always am, and I hurried out the door to one place or another. I dreaded coming home that evening to the mound of dirty dishes in the sink, the peas my toddler had thrown all over the floor during lunchtime, and the never ending laundry pile that was taunting me. Besides, I didn’t know what I was going to make for dinner, and I’d already picked up pizza 2 nights that week, so that was out of the question. For some reason, my husband had made it home before I did that day, and when I walked in the door, he had the dishes done, the peas all swept up, and was working on folding that pesky laundry pile. You would think my heart would have melted in a million pieces and I would have gushed with gratitude, but no. I was furious! After all, I am a stay at home mom. I should have been able to handle this situation on my own. I shouldn’t need my husband to come home after a long day at work and tend to my responsibilities. I felt so worthless- and it made me angry! You better believe I gave him a good lecture about doing other people’s dishes without them asking you to, and sweeping the floor without thinking about how it would make me feel! I really let him have it. And his response was simply, “I wanted to do something that would make you happy”.
In that moment, watching my husband so selflessly serve me, I realized that he was right- he always is- I should have been happy. And I decided that I would be. I have spent every day of my motherhood picking myself apart- I have never been able to be content or satisfied with the person I am. I decided right then and there, to STOP IT! I decided to stop the negative self-talk, stop comparing myself to others, and stop feeling like I don’t measure up. I decided I am going to try to do my best- and then I’m going to be OK with it. I am never going to be perfect, no one is, and that’s fine.
I have realized that my self-worth isn’t in throwing the perfect party or having a sparkly clean home. My self-worth is in raising good kids and loving their dad, and whatever else comes with it is icing on the cake. I found this quote that has made all the difference in how I view motherhood.
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.” (Marjory Pay Hinckley, Small and Simple Things, 2003)
Now that I look back on that 6 year old girl who wanted to be just like her mom, I see my own daughter, who wants to be just like me. I’m sure my mom wasn’t a perfect mom, but to me, she has always been perfect. Growing up, I never saw the dirty floors or the smudges on the windows, I never heard the countless prayers she’s offered in my behalf, and I never knew how daunting her task was. But now that I’m walking in her shoes, I know.
Knowing that generations of women have gone before me, and have struggled with far more than I have, knowing that they have felt beat down and worn out makes every moment of motherhood that much more precious. I know that I can choose my own destiny, whether it’s misery or joy. But when I choose joy, just like my own mom did all those years ago, it makes all the difference in my life and the lives of my children and family.