I spent a lot of my pregnancy worrying about being a mom. Whether or not I would have enough love for two babies, about what would happen if I had post-partum depression or what would happen if I couldn’t care for them one day.
When my twins were born, it seemed like things had suddenly fallen into place. Being a mom felt so natural, and so right.
Still, the fear of failing as a mother has not diminished with time. There’s a lingering anxiety that pulls at my heart, and keeps me from drifting off to sleep many nights.
Judging parents has become so prevalent in our culture that it’s a struggle not to second-guess everything you do. The internet is full of articles defending and opposing everything you could possibly encounter as parent. Whatever you’re worried about, there is surely a blog, a self-help book, an “expert” there to offer the opinion.
I’ve never been one to seek out advice. I am stubborn and determined to find my own way. I have trouble asking for help or admitting defeat, but since becoming a parent, I have devoured thousands of words about perfect parenting. Logically, I know there is no such thing, that every parent is human, and that to be human is to err.
In my less rational mind however, and as my own biggest critic, I push myself, strive to enrich, teach, and parent as perfectly as possible. And with the pressure so high, and life so chaotic, there are days that I fail. Days that every peaceful parenting tactic I’ve ever heard of has no effect on my screaming children, and I resort to yelling. Days that I give in to too much screen time because they are at each others throats, and there is so much I can’t put off any longer. Days that my head throbs and I can’t keep my eyes open, and I am simply not as present as I want to be.
As my twins grow and venture out into the world, I am painfully aware that I cannot keep them in a bubble. I can’t keep them from experiencing the realities of childhood that I don’t like like the plethora of electronics and video games, the toy guns and registered trademark characters all over everything, the culture of name calling and violence and rigid gender roles.
I have worked tirelessly to impart my values, to teach them about the world and its complexities. I have tried as hard as I can to instill confidence and self-esteem. But as their world shifts, and is no longer so centered on their mom, I can’t stifle the fear that it’s all for naught.
These days, when the boys get an answer they don’t like, their first response is to hand me my biggest worry.
“You’re a bad mom. The meanest, the worst,” they tell me. “I hate you.”
Of course, being four, it’s frequently in response to something trivial — insisting on water instead of juice, or that they absolutely must go to bed. These aren’t the concerns that bring the avalanche of doubt upon me, and much to their chagrin, in these cases I am often willing to acquiesce that I am indeed the “worst mom ever.” All the same, it does little to take the sting out of those words, and leaves me wondering if they mean it.
I have to believe that I am not alone in this, that on some level we are all in this together. I have to trust in that, because if I don’t, then perhaps I was mistaken about my life’s purpose, and that’s a failure that is too hard to swallow.
There is no doubt that being a parent takes tremendous courage. Courage to accept that your heart will break time and again for your children and courage to face the immense unknown on their behalf. Perhaps most of all, it takes the courage to face your own humanity, to forgive yourself over and over, and try again and again.