I studied hard during my first pregnancy to prepare myself for the parenting world. I read the books, took the classes, listened to the advice from others.”It’s the hardest test you’ll ever have, so prepare yourself now,” was the phrase I kept hearing over and over again. I look back and laugh at myself, so naive to think that you can actually study and prepare for parenthood.
Now five years and three children later, I’m still looking for the manual that tells me what I’m supposed to do and a cheat sheet on what comes next. I’ll never forget the time that I was walking home from the grocery store with my oldest, who had just turned three, and my youngest daughter who was only an infant at the time. My hands were full with grocery bags, I was trying to push the stroller with one hand, as I raced to get home. My oldest wanted something in the store and when I told her “no” she threw the biggest tantrum I’ve ever seen. Right there in the middle of the street in Manhattan. She threw her shoes, wailed as loud as she could, and refused to stand up. I stood there trying so hard to keep the tears in while others passed and just stared at me. I tried to smile at them so they could understand that this is just a three year-old doing her thing and she’s just got to let it out, but I knew what they were thinking. They were judging, whispering to their friends, thinking I am probably one of the worst parents in the world.
To be honest, I thought the same things that they did. What did I do (or not do) in the past three years as a parent to make my child act this way? You failed, Lauren. Good luck with the next one.
I beat myself up pretty bad because I thought that I was doing something wrong. But the truth is, don’t we all feel that way sometimes? There isn’t a manual that tells us how to parent. You can read every single book on parenting that’s out there and it still won’t give you the right answers.
There are moments that keep me up at night because I’m wondering if I am doing the best job as a mother to my children. Will they grow up to be respectable young men and women? Will they be proud to tell others that I am their mother?
We put so much pressure on ourselves, as mothers, every single day to try to be the perfect parent and raise perfect kids. It’s only natural for us to be hard on ourselves and constantly worry whether or not we are setting the best example for our children. They see us at our best and also at our worst, but what exactly do they pick up on?
I’m here to tell you that through your best and your worst, you’re doing alright, mom.
I was reminded of that this weekend. I was laying in bed upstairs nursing the baby while my other two were downstairs watching television. I heard the theme song to a show that came on that my oldest knows she’s not allowed to watch. I figured because I wasn’t down there with her that she would just continue to watch it because there wasn’t anyone to tell her no (and truthfully that’s what I would have probably done at her age). But I was wrong. Within a minute of the show coming on I heard it change to a different channel. Without me even having to say a word to her.
I sat there and smiled while giving myself a pat on the back. “You’re doing alright, mom,” I said to myself.
Later that afternoon while we were on our way to the store I mentioned to her that I was going to let her pick out something for helping us in the yard earlier in the day. She said okay and she also said she would like to get something for her sister (who wasn’t with us). I told her that she didn’t have to, that this was a reward for her hard work and she said, “But I want to because I love her.”
I smiled again. “You’re doing alright, mom.”
As easy as it is for us to get worked up about whether or not we are doing something right with our children, rest assured that it’s the little things everyday that our children show us that lets us know we are doing just fine.
So put down the books and stop looking for a manual because you’re doing alright, mom.