Parenting: We all want to get it right, but are we?
Every time you hear the phrase "single mom", an image, a stereotype, pops into your head. Likely, that image involves a woman with more kids than society deems appropriate, working three jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. She's forever stressed, her house is a mess, her kids eat cereal for most meals, and she's one spilled glass of milk away from a complete breakdown. When I set out to become a Mom, this stereotype surely wasn't what I pictured for my life or my childrens' lives. Yet, here I am. Now, when I reflect upon my own life, that stereotype picture is now my reality.
With each spill or mess I have to clean up, I'm constantly wondering if this is the one that's going to finally push me over the edge. Most days, I fall into bed completely exhausted and replay the day over in my head. From the moment my alarm goes off until the moment I fall into bed at night, I feel like I'm running at 200 miles per hour. I can sincerely say that like every single mom on the planet, every single day gets every single ounce of energy and every bit of strength that I have in me. Yet, every night as I reflect upon the day, I feel like a failure.
I yell too much. I don't spend enough time playing with my kids or teaching them things like how to cook because it's overwhelming trying to do it with four small children at once. I focus too much on cleaning my house but I never get ahead. I get frustrated and give up more often than I should because it feels like I'm never gaining ground. Often I have to pick and choose which bill to pay first and which one can wait until the next payday. Things fall into disrepair around the house because there's never enough time or money to handle it all and because I'm usually juggling way too much, my kids tend to get into things they shouldn't. The grass gets much higher than it should (we've actually lost the dog for a few moments before) because juggling a full-time job at work and a fuller than full-time job at home is overwhelming. I feel alone not having an adult to share this life with so I overshare on social media and sometimes, I find myself clinging to electronics more than I should simply because they give me a voice to be heard.
Often, I feel myself grinding my teeth from the stress of daily life. Last night, I found myself in one of these moments and in frustration, I threw myself onto my bed and said "I just wish I could afford a nice vacation and someone I trust to take care of you guys for a week so I could go away and come back a better parent". One of my daughters heard me. "But Mom, you're already a great Mom," she said, "we don't want anybody else to be our parent. We love you" and followed it up by curling up next to me and hugging me tightly.
Even in the midst of what I felt was a complete failure of a day, my own daughter, the one who'd made me so frustrated only moments before, told me she was glad I was her Mom. That night, I made a conscious effort to put down my phone and be present in the moment for my children. As I watched them swinging and laughing in the back yard, I really studied their little faces and how big they've gotten in the last year. For the first three years of their lives, I spent nearly every waking moment with them so not doing so has been a huge adjustment for all of us. I've missed so much of them growing up while I've been busy trying to provide for them and meet their basic needs and provide for the five of us.
I don't profess to know it all. I don't claim to be getting everything right. I know that I'm failing in a lot of ways, perhaps even more ways than I'm getting right. But more than anything, I hope at the end of the day, my kids know they are loved. It is my sincere prayer that when they look back on their lives, they never feel like they missed out on anything because they only had one parent - I want to love them so much, that my love makes up for anything they could have possibly missed. I can hear from 1,000 people that I'm amazing, but to hear those words from one of my children, who probably tells me at least 100 times a day how mean I am, means I'm doing my job. And to me, that's all that matters.