When I had my first child, I thought the challenge of motherhood was about learning how to change a diaper, how to get a baby to nap, and the other million logistical how-to’s that occupy a new parent. But early on, I realized that the true challenge of being a parent is trying to deal with what was going on in our own heads: a million swirling questions about whether we are doing any of it “right” and if we have what it takes to be a “good” mother. A never-ending contest that has an ever-changing rulebook and an elusive and impossible finish line.
Two kids in, I am by no means an expert, but there are a few lessons that I’ve embraced over the last twelve years to keep me sane. (*Importantly, being sane as a mother 100% includes the occasional need to hide in a closet with a glass of wine, sleeve of Thin Mints, and/or a dance session with your favorite Lady Gaga anthem.)
Get Out Your Head -- and into your kid’s
My a-ha moment on this lesson came a few years ago when I was in a public swimming pool with my youngest daughter, around four at the time. There are few things that trigger more insecurity than being a mom of young children in a swimming pool -- you are running after a kid practically naked during a time in your life when it is nearly impossible to regularly exercise or eat anything other than the leftover macaroni and cheese you made for your toddler. There’s no finding your light for a beautiful instagram moment; just a series of mental snapshots of wondering why childbirth means having a weird belly button forever.
Cue my always observant daughter: “Did you ever notice that your tummy looks just like three hot dog buns stacked together?”
Me, snapping back, in horror: “Why would you say such a mean thing?”
I’ll never forget the look of confusion in her eyes when I said that, nor her response: “I didn’t mean to be mean. It looks so cute. I love your tummy.” She was speaking from a place of affection, not criticism.
The one simple truth of being a mom is that your child only wants to love you, and their only real need is to be loved back. All that other stuff, like whether your swimsuit fits or if your organizational skills are up to par or if you are killing or failing at this quarantine distance learning thing? Just noise.
So when I’m having a particularly tough day on the parenting front, questioning whether I’m really cut out for this, the hardest job ever, I stop what I’m doing, step into my child’s mind, and say out loud what I know my children feel about me (and my hot dog bun tummy) as a reminder and self-affirmation: I LOVE ME.
Bless the Mess
I have a running joke with myself when I make objectively questionable parenting decisions: odds are that my kids will end up in therapy for something, I’m just giving them the content. A bit of a dark thought, but stay with me -- I swear it’s actually a comforting lesson.
My own mother took me grocery shopping at midnight when I was a kid. We stayed up late, took naps after school even when I was in high school, and we were allowed all the sugar and junk food we wanted. My husband’s mother ran a fairly tight ship when it came to grades and expectations and there was always a full roster of afterschool sports. Guess what: decades later, we both have weekly therapy appointments. This isn’t an indictment of either of our moms, whom we love very much. Quite the opposite. No one method of parenting is going to cause or solve all of your problems in life, so don’t sweat whether every decision you make as a mom is going to determine the success or failure of your child. Parenting itself isn’t strong enough to do that. Embrace that we are all kind of doing it wrong and kind of doing it right most of the time and cut yourself some slack. We’re all going to get a participation ribbon.
(As for therapy? We should all be in it.)
You’re a Rockstar
This final lesson is one firmly rooted in the idea of acceptance of who we are, as mothers and as people. When Luigi and I started Smudge, a big part of our mission was to show others how we learned -- through work together and by creating a meaningful spiritual wellness practice -- to love ourselves and all the unique energy we possess. For us, part of that process included becoming more mindful about which energies we needed more of and sometimes which energies we already have that we could amplify and recharge. Stated otherwise: we learned how to identify and use our powers.
As a mother, accepting and celebrating my unique powers has really come in handy. I have accepted that I do not possess the discipline to be the kind of mom who makes meal plans or organizes intricate summer camp activities. But I have learned to embrace that I possess the energy to stay calm during a crisis (a true gift when my child had a seizure), to be a fair mediator when my girls are fighting (like, everyday), and to be positive when we are struggling through a difficult situation (hello, tweendom). I don’t always feel like the most perfect mom. But I feel like the most perfect me, as a mom.
Team Smudge believes in your personal power as a mom, too -- and the power of the amazing moms in your life. That’s why when we brainstormed about a product for Mother’s Day, we landed on our version of a box of chocolates that celebrate mothers and the one-of-a-kind rockstars they are: a beautiful and sweet assortment of crystals meant to amplify all the incredible ways moms personally sparkle. Each crystal that we included is intended to remind moms that on this day -- and every day! -- the energy they bring to themselves and any humans lucky enough to call them Mom is truly special. (Added bonus: no sugar high and they never expire!)
Happy Mother’s Day to all of our rockstars this Sunday. We wish you a day of perspective, acceptance, and some time to shine.
With love and gratitude,