“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one” – Sue Atkins
Parenting is hard. Parenting prior to divorce is hard. Parenting after divorce is hard. Trying to include a new partner into the child/parent dynamic is hard. There is no question that all parents struggle to find the balance between discipline/boundaries and fun time. To navigate the ever-changing personalities and behaviors of their kids. To carve out the alone time required to refuel and recharge. To foster independence for our children but still walk beside them and teach them. To encourage asking questions but discouraging talking back.
At the end of the day, all parents want the best for our kids. We want them to be respectful, confident, contributing members of society. We want them to be kind and generous yet still maintain healthy boundaries. The end goal is to take all of our positive traits and gift them to our children, while leaving out the negative ones. We aim to foster humans who are good – people who can make a difference in our world.
I struggle with being a mom. Heck, I struggle with being MYSELF. I have a hard time gifting myself the self-love and confidence that I encourage and promote my daughter to have. I falter and fail, usually daily. Sometimes I wonder if I became a mom by mistake -surely, I am not equipped for this daunting task. Surely there is someone better suited than me. I look at so many of the mothers in my circle and feel so inadequate. They seem to have this natural way about them that I can’t see in myself. The seemingly endless energy to play dolls or craft. The joy they take in answering the same questions on an endless loop. The way they just sigh and smile and sip their coffee contently.
Sometimes I feel broken. Like I am missing an important piece of “motherhood”. There was no training for this. Everyone has advice during the pregnancy (sleep when the baby sleeps, take “you” time, enjoy them little because they grow so fast, laugh at the silly things, don’t sweat the small stuff, etc.) But how do we learn to deal with the fears and the feelings of inadequacy? How do we keep going when we are dead on our feet, when our hearts are so full of worry that we feel like breaking and when we cannot find an ounce of patience? How do we give of ourselves when we don’t have anything left?
I am sure dads feel the same way – mothers are not alone in this. So why don’t we talk about it? Why is there still this unspoken wall between what is okay and not? Is it the archaic belief that men can’t have fears and emotion? Is it that women are taught to confide in other women? Is it just too much, and we save our connections for something that is outside the scope of parenthood? A craving for intimate connection instead of exposing our fear?
I am the best at lifting up other women in my life – I can encourage and support and hold them as they spill out all their fears and worries. I feed them platitudes and set them back on their path. So why can I not do the same for myself? Is this a problem all women have?
Parenting is the strangest gift – it is hard and hurtful and tests us in ways we never could imagine. But the joy and the blessings we gain are immeasurable. It is a great mystery to me, this parenting gig. It is for life, it is sacred, it is rough.
But I wouldn’t change it.