Today was a gorgeous afternoon, and my kids spent 90 minutes of it sitting inside glued to a screen watching some terrible animated fairy tale. I don’t even know which one, but it was not better than playing outdoors in the sunshine.
Sorry, past me. I’m letting you down. I’m not the mom you thought I’d be when you so cheerfully got knocked up. These kids eat junk food. They get less exercise and more TV than you ever planned. They have, in their time on this planet, been yelled at and overindulged. Sometimes both in the same afternoon.
This isn’t because I’m a terrible mom. Just a real one.
And I’m not alone. The Huffington Post has a hilarious essay by Kara Gebhart Uhl, apologizing to the parents she judged four years ago.
Kara wonderfully reveals how she’s changed her standards for parenting since having kids herself. Haven’t we all?
After walking a few thousand miles in a baby sling, I’ve become much less quick to judge what other parents are doing with their kids. That toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store? I’ve so been the harried mom chasing her. That guilty hour spent staring at the walls while your little ones are plugged in to Sesame Street? Yep, me too. Sometimes I even sleep in late on Saturday mornings while my kids watch cartoons. Hey, my parents did it, and I made it through childhood okay.
What’s harder than forgiving other parents their lapses in perfection is learning to be gentle on myself. I know I just rattled off a litany of parental imperfections. Here’s the trick of it: I actually feel terrible about that stuff. I don’t think any less of you for giving your kids gummy candy or parking them in front of a movie so you can grab an extra hour of sleep.
But clearly I should know better. I hold myself to a standard I’ve long since released my fellow mamas from. One I’m often falling short of, because I’m not Supermom. I’m Perfectly Ordinary Mom.
How can we learn to be gentler on ourselves?
Possibly by focusing on what really matters: loving our kids. Kids who are loved and respected thrive, whether they get a steady diet of organic fruit or a decent meal capped off with Oreos. Much more important than all the imaginary parenting merit badges we earn for co-sleeping and breastfeeding and babywearing are the ways we show up for our kids every day. Do we listen to them? Laugh with them? Love them? Give them our hearts, and they’ll do great, no matter what mommy slip-up we’ve made today.