Shocking. I know.
Perfect mother's are like perfect pictures. They usually require a lot of photoshopping.
Am I perfect? No. You can ask my mom and husband about the breakdown I had in Early November because I felt like all I did was yell at Max. Or ask me how I feel about my housekeeping skills on Sunday evening when my house has finally descended into complete chaos after the weekend.
But most of the time, I think I'm doing a good job.
I don't think any of us will lose the "mommy guilt" entirely, but we can do away with a lot, if not most of it. And we'll all be better mothers for it in the end.
So here are the things I've learned to help me feel better about myself as a mother.
1. Get enough sleep. I know I'm not the only one who gets more and more pessimistic the more tired I get. I think it's a pretty common human trait. And motherhood is filled with nighttime feedings, bad dreams to comfort, late-night projects, and just plain ol' worrying.
I have a great husband who knows this about me. When I start getting down on myself, one of the first things he says is, "I think you need to go to bed." More often than not, he's right and that's exactly what I need.
So....feeling bad about yourself? What time is it? Do you need to go to bed? Did you get enough sleep last night? Maybe you should take a power nap or go to sleep early tonight. Enlist your spouse's help tonight. But get your rest! In my experience, this solves about 75% of my "mom guilt" related break downs.
2. Decide what kind of mom you are/want to be. There are lots of different kinds of mom's out there. They're all over the neighborhood, your congregation, and the blogosphere. You know them. There's "Crafty Mom," and "Organic Mom," and "Clean and Organized House Mom." Fun Mom, Gardening Mom, Interior Decorating Mom, Eco-Friendly Mom, Soccer Mom, Classroom Mom, Reading Mom, Sugar-free Mom, From Scratch Mom, and the list goes on and on.
Guess what? You can't be all of these mom's. You can't. I'm sorry. You just can't. It's impossible. But you can be some of them.
And now here's the fun part. You get to choose what kind of mom you want to be!
Now here's the hard part. You have to choose on your own terms, for your own very private, individual reasons, based on your own values. You are not allowed to choose in order to impress anyone or compete with anyone. This will only lead to more guilt.
To do this, you will need to sit down and think about your family vision. What do you want to spend your time doing? What do you think is important in this life? What makes you feel really good about yourself?
I'm not "perfectly clean home mom." I never will be. When I look at my list of priorities, a clean house isn't up there. I'm more, "twenty-minutes-to-a-decently-tidy-house Mom. And that's okay, I know that about myself and I'm not going to pull out my hair trying to keep a perfectly clean house. Some people love a clean house and are great at that. More power to them. If that's you, go for it! If that's not you, quit trying to impress "clean-and-tidy-house mom down the street." Let's be honest, she probably doesn't care if you leave the mopping for tomorrow...or next week.
Here's the other secret to deciding what kind of mom you are. Some of these mom's don't work well together. You can't be Full-time-job Mom, Clean and Organized Mom, Classroom Mom, Soccer Mom, and Everything from Scratch Mom. At least...not without going crazy, or sacrificing something important...like time with your kids.
You can only pick a few. Look at your values, your vision. Choose wisely.
Which leads me to number 3.
3. Be flexible. Being crafty mom isn't working out for you? Being Soccer Mom leaves you so exhausted that you end up yelling until everyone's in bed? Being Clean house mom winds up with you at the end of the day not being able to remember a single thing you did with the kids?
Time to reevaluate and change it up. It's okay. We're all learning and growing in this motherhood thing and sometimes life throws you a curveball. Did you just have a baby? Maybe you need to take a break from being everything-from-scratch mom. Moving across the country this summer? Gardening Mommy has to be packed up too.
Repeat after me: IT'S OKAY!
4. Make your goals dependent on YOU! If you look at my list of moms, you'll notice I didn't include "Perfectly-mannered-children Mom," or "Super-smart-kids Mom." You want to be this mom? Let me also introduce you to, "Screaming-yelling Mom," and "Pushing-nagging Mom."
This isn't to say that we shouldn't try and raise our kids to be educated and well-mannered. But you can not base your self-worth on your children's actions. Or your husband's actions. Or anyone else's reactions. All you've done is handed over the power to control how you feel about yourself to someone else. Someone who has their own free-will. Somebody that, try as you might, you can't control. That's where the screaming and nagging come in.
Don't do that to yourself. The only way you will feel good as this kind of mother is if you also happen to be "Dumb-luck Mom."
5. Give yourself grace. As a Mormon, this was a bit of a weird term for me when I started seeing other bloggers use it. I believe in grace, but I don't think we talk about it enough in our church, and I think many of us misunderstand it.
God gives us grace by forgiving us when mess up. Grace makes up for our many shortcomings. It helps us carry our load. There was an article by Brad Wilcox on Grace in the Ensign a while back. One of my favorite quotes from it is hanging on my fridge.
"Grace is not the absence of God's high expectations. Grace is the presence of God's power."
If we are giving ourselves grace, we are not letting ourselves out of any expectations and eating oreos on the couch all day. But at the end of the day we are saying, "I worked hard today. I made some mistakes. But that's okay. I'll try again. And every day I'll get a little better."
If we are giving ourselves grace we are allowing God a place in our life and letting Him help us along the way. The whole way. Not just at the end or when things get hard. We realize we are not perfect, but He is. And He will make up the difference.
Are you expecting perfection instead of Grace?
6. Get off the computer. Get down on the floor with your kids. Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them. Play with them. Laugh with them. Look into their eyes and see that little being with so much life and potential.
If at the end day, you can say you have done this, even if it is only this, then you have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I'm willing to bet it was a pretty good day.
Good night, mom guilt.