Most of the moms I know find it easier to be kind to their friends in moments of distress than to be kind to themselves.
When our friends forget a play date or school performance for their kids, we find ourselves sharing kind words of empathy and forgiveness. Mom's learn how to forgive yourself. “Don’t worry about it. We all do it. We are just one person at the end of the day.”
On the other end, recently I had my own experience with self-torture when I left one of the kids behind in my car pool. Usually the first one out the door, this time he wasn't there. When I asked the other boys where he was, they informed me that he had cub scouts.
One week later, I am still finding myself playing the situation back in my head, each time beating myself harder. You should have called. You should have confirmed. You are a TERRIBLE, IRRESPONSIBLE MOTHER. YOU ARE NEVER ON TIME. YOU ARE NEVER WHERE YOU SHOULD BE. BAD BAD BAD!
Who prepares us for this universally enormous feat of being a mother? When you have babies, your job is easy. You feed them, change them, and give them a whole lot of love. Your day ends at 7pm when they are tucked into bed for the night. As we get older and they get older, our responsibilities evolve to a place where you could spend every waking moment involved in their existence. I often question where I should draw the line and cut bait. Am I hurting them more or helping them more by being too doting?
The worst part of my situation was the reaction of the other parent. She was angrier than anyone has ever been with me. If the situation were reversed, I would have taken it in stride. I’ve left my own kids behind before by accident. I remember one Christmas when someone at church called my cell after mass to inform me that my son was left behind at church. Knowing he was safe, we laughed all the way back to church. When we arrived, he hopped into my car as if nothing had happened. Was he scarred? Heck no. He is fiercely independent and a wonderful kid. I didn’t plan it. It was an accident.
In my neighbor’s defense, she was absolutely right in being angry with me. I had done the unspeakable. I had the neon flashing sign above my door “IRRESPONSIBLE PARENT.” Why did I even think I could do a car pool anyway? I was the ADD mom who squealed around the corner last minute, perpetually late. I was a big-picture gal, not a detail gal. I was the fun mom. I was the one who was standing in the middle of the street on Friday mornings passing out homemade muffins as the cars filled with kids passed by. I was the one who made the kids laugh every time I took them home with my family’s crazy antics. I was the house that everyone came to as teens because they knew they could rely on me for love, and support. I was the one the high school football team named a play after, the one who took my neighbor’s son out for pizza after being elected as his class president.
Now, my neighbor and I are “separated” which makes me sad. Three days of crying later, I began thinking. What defines a good parent? Is it being there for their physical safety, right on time? Is it making sure ever ounce of their homework is complete? Is it making sure that they have their shoes in the car when you get to school (yes that was me)? Was it making sure that they have kindness and respect for every person they meet? Was it teaching them to love themselves beyond their flaws? Was it compassion and the ability to reach beyond the outside and embrace both physically and emotionally all those we love? Last, was it teaching them the concept of forgiveness?
In the end, it is all of those things and more. Will we have them all? Probably not. However, this could be an awakening for me. This helps me to understand in my journey for perfection, that I am not perfect. I am a good, sometimes great, mother in training. Because at the end of the day, a perfect mother doesn’t exist.
Every day I get stronger, but for now, maybe I should pat myself lovingly on the back for being the best mom I know how to be.
For more parenting stories and life tips with Wendy visit her at Life With Wendy.