I’ve been told many times over the course of my almost-seven-year (I say this with all of the vim and vigor of my six year old telling you she isn’t six, but six-and-a-half) career as a mother, that I am both #momgoals and also a source of ire. I’ve heard from both friends and strangers alike that I am the kind of mom they aspire to be, but for me, those aspirations come with a certain level of resentment because I embody the ideal of the mother you can never be: fun, seemingly tireless, put-together (ha!) and beautiful, brimming with delicious recipes and creative activities and spontaneous weekend trips and all the things they tell you die with the mundane and tiring aspects of motherhood.
Well, to all the parents- mothers, fathers, and everything in between- out there struggling to make it through another day, plagued with guilt that you aren’t enough, or just trying to find the joy in something you’re expected to love whether it was your plan or not… know this: I do not exist.
Or, rather, the part of me that inspires envy or resentment or feelings of inadequacy does not exist.
That person-that version of me-is nothing more than a well-timed photo among a Camera Roll of unused outtakes and a whole lotta heart. (I’m absolutely certain you have an instagram-worthy gem right this very second and if you don’t, I’d be more than happy to give you a few tips and tricks to help you get one because let me tell you, presenting a perfect life to the masses isn’t a matter of living the right reality; it’s a matter of acquiring the right skillset.)
Maybe it’s a sign of my generation to care about social media at all, but I have to admit that I take pride in the fact that everything I post online is authentic to me as a person and the life that I live.
Like everyone else, I post the best-looking snapshots of my life- whether out of vanity or the desire to embody a life better than my own, I don’t know. Like everyone else, I want my photo stream to be comprised of artfully-captured loveliness. But I try really hard to paint a whole image: tantrums, bad behavior reports, and anger over self-administered haircuts among the laughs and kisses and lazy afternoons at the park.
I’ll spare you the “I’m just like you!” BS in favor of a bit of honesty:
I’m the mom whose kid hurriedly shuffles into the classroom as the bell is ringing, slightly embarrassed because they’re technically late but the teacher is kind so it isn’t held against them. This isn’t because we spent our morning laughing at mommy’s funny faces and assembling adorably quirky outfits. It’s because I’m definitely not a “morning person” or I’m struggling with depression that day and wasted precious minutes figuring out whether we can afford another “sick day.”
I’m the mom who chaperones every field trip and brings thoughtful crafts and homemade treats to every class party, but could never ever be “room mom” because I’m not consistent enough to do it everyday. If I show up to every school event with a perfect face of makeup (too much makeup, some would say), it’s probably because I sometimes feel insecure and out-of-place among the moms who didn’t have their first kid at 22.
This is all to say one thing: we are all doing our best, but please don’t for a second think that doing your best means doing what other people would define as “the best,” because that shit doesn’t exist.
Sometimes, your best means getting out of bed and walking your kid into school in your pajamas 45 minutes after the bell rang, avoiding eye contact with the administrator because you don’t even have a good excuse. Sometimes your best means working another series of night shifts that leave you exhausted and feeling guilty because you want to do more with your kid but you just can’t muster the energy. Sometimes your best means taking joy in your child as they flourish because you didn’t even want to be a mom in the first place. Sometimes your best means staying alive to love your baby another day as you struggle with mental health issues. “Best” is subjective, but the cool thing about that is that you get to define what it means. Please don’t ever forget that.
So, keep on keeping on. You’re not the only one who wonders whether you’re good enough. Constant self-doubt and relentless guilt are part and parcel of loving another human more than you love yourself. It’s natural to feel that your best will never be good enough. But please, try to treat yourself as kindly as you’d treat another parent who came to you with the same questions you have.
Chances are you’re doing a hell of a lot better than you give yourself credit for, and if you ever find yourself wondering how I manage to do it all, just remember that my kid was probably tardy to school today. Hold your head high, too. You’ve got this.