Think about the first time you found out you were pregnant. I am sure there was the whole gamut of emotions. The idea of being a parent was so exciting to me. My heart was full of love for this baby who I had not even met yet. I was idealistic, thinking I was going to be this rockstar mom who had it all together and whose kids would be absolutely perfectly behaved, social, and well-rounded. The list of adjectives goes on and on.
Imagine the pressure I put on myself to have kids that fit the above description.
It turns out that I am not a perfect mom and you know what? That’s okay. With each passing day and child we have welcomed into this world, I have discovered that we are not perfect parents, and our kids will never be perfect kids. Here are five reasons why I am not a perfect mom and I have learned to be okay with it.
1. Breastfeeding (It’s hard.)
I am a mom of three. Before our oldest was born, I was bound and determined that I was going to successfully nurse him for the first year. Because after all, breast is best, right? I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital. My husband and I studiously took notes during the presentation by the lactation consultants. We were going to do this. With our oldest, I worked so hard to boost my supply. I struggled to produce an excess amount to store away for a rainy day. I had enough to feed him, but not much else. Even with my supply being what it was, I was bound and determined to exclusively breastfeed for a year. I knew in my head that it was okay to supplement if one had to. But that was not going to be me. I was going to do this.
I remember a particular conversation I had with one of my closest friends. She was struggling with nursing her daughter who is ten weeks younger than my son. I remember through the course of the conversation, I did my best to encourage her and remind her that it was okay to supplement. When I got off the phone, my husband said to me, “Why do you put so much pressure on yourself? You just got done telling your friend that it was okay to supplement, but yet you will not do that for our son. Why do you hold yourself to such a different standard than those closest to you?”
“Why do you put so much pressure on yourself? You just got done telling your friend that it was okay to supplement, but yet you will not do that for our son. Why do you hold yourself to such a different standard than those closest to you?”
That question hit me smack dab in the face. I could not answer his question. I did not know how to answer it. He was absolutely right. I did end up breastfeeding our son that first year, but it was not without struggle and anxiety. With each additional child we have added to our family, I have been open to the idea of supplementing should I need to. The process of breastfeeding has gotten easier with each additional child, but I will never forget the struggle that first time was. What did I learn from this? Breast is not necessarily best. Fed is best. However that looks.
2. Yelling (I do it.)
Before having kids, I swore I was not going to be a yelling mom. I was going to stay calm, cool, and collected when my kids got into trouble. Well, that all went out the window around the time of my son’s second birthday. Sometimes, I react on such an impulse or whim. There are days when I can’t take the whining, the sass, the repeated directions, the accidents in the undies, etc. The list goes on. Sometimes I have just had enough, and instead of taking a break and going to a different room or taking a deep breath, I lose it. I lose it. And while these moments are not necessarily my proudest moments as a mom, I know I am not alone in this.
When this happens for me and I start to calm down, I always apologize to whichever child was involved. I do not apologize for being upset. I apologize if my reaction to the situation was irrational or not how I want to parent. This is something that I am continually working on. I have learned different ways to cope. I have taken breaks or left the room when I found myself in a situation where my reactions may not be my proudest moments. But the good news is that every day is a new day and a chance to start anew.
3. Screen time (We use it.)
As first time parents, my husband and I vowed that our son would not have any screen time until he was two, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This meant no TV, no videos on our phone or on our tablets, etc. We actually did pretty well with that. There were times where the TV was on when he was awake, but he really did not pay attention. We tried to limit our TV watching to times when he was asleep. Once he turned two, we were a little more lenient with the screen time. We definitely did not let him go overboard, but we allowed him to watch educational shows or shows that we felt would be okay for his age group. (Thank you, PBS.) As he got a little older, we allowed him to watch Disney movies as well.
Ten days after he turned two, our oldest daughter entered the world. As we were slowly introducing and allowing screen time, she was around and part of our family. Therefore, she was introduced to TV and screen time way before she was two. That is completely the result of being the second child. There really was not a way to avoid that. I do have to take heart in the fact that we do not allow our kids to watch shows that are inappropriate for their age group.
4. Teaching my kids (Where does the time go?)
With my firstborn, we did a lot of work with letters, numbers, colors, etc. I found ways to incorporate this into my play with him. I was very pleased at what he knew and could tell me. It was amazing what his little brain was capable of, even at a young age. When he was two, his sister was born. I did not find the time to work with him as much as I did when he was our only. Not only that, but I did not find the time to work with his sister nearly as much as I had with him. Now she is two and I have a little bit of guilt that she was not given that one-on-one time that I did with him. (Call it second child syndrome.)
However, what I have learned is that even though my daughter did not receive the same amount of instruction as her brother had, she was read to every day. To this day she absolutely adores books. I feel that she will be okay because of that reason, and because of the fact that she has an older sibling. Also, play is the most important learning piece we can do right now.
5. Social media and smartphones (I’m distracted.)
A smartphone is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it is handy to be able to look things up and to stay connected to the world. On the flip side of that, it is also a curse for that very reason. I have such a hard time feeling that I need to always be connected, through email, texting, and social media. Who I really need to be connected with is my family. Parents with older kids always say to me, “Enjoy this time; they grow up fast.” I realize this is so true.
These years of parenting babies and toddlers will quickly pass. Each age group is just a phase, and with each new phase comes new and different challenges. I do my best to be present through each moment with my kids. All other things can wait. Realistically, people survived and did just fine before smart phones and this technology right at our fingertips.
A goal I had for this year was to be more intentional and present with people. A way to do this is to do just that–put down my phone and be present in the moment. I am working to only pick up my phone when my kids are sleeping or are not at home. This will help me to be more present with them. Some days are better than others, but this is a goal that I want to achieve, both for myself and to set a good example for my children.
As parents, we all have challenges. We need to learn to give ourselves a little grace sometimes and not worry so much about being perfect. None of us are perfect parents. But we are the perfect parents for our kids. If we can love our kids fiercely and that they know our love, we are headed in the right direction. We were called for the purpose of being parents, and what an amazing purpose it is!