As a mom, I am constantly searching for ways to be better, often feeling as though who I am isn’t enough because I didn’t have some great example of a mom to imitate. My mom was the epitome of what NOT to do as a parent, so I’ve navigated the world of “momming” on my own these past 19 years. I’ve worked to be the best mom I can be without being too hard on myself for all my shortcomings. However, I’ve learned, sometimes, the advice I come across is often counterproductive and causes more pain and anguish than it does help.
I find myself, a tiny bit of downtime, sitting at Jiu Jitsu practice, waiting for dinner to need to be stirred again, sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to get out of basketball practice, or let’s be honest, even sitting in the bathroom on the toilet because there is peace and quiet in there. I scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to pass the time just to zone out for a minute or two. Other moms glide across my screen as I swipe up across the glass. I imagine that’s how many of them may walk too, gliding. So many od them seem to have it all together, and they flash across every feed. They post their wonderful memes which seem so perfect and so enlightening.
I hate those memes! They begin to make me question every move I’ve ever made as a mom. I see the memes with “I’m the mom who…” insert anything a wonderful mom would do here. I see the square with the flowery words exclaiming, “your children need…” with a list of advice that rarely worked for me. My mind reals, my heart rate quickens. Oh, I have done so much so wrong! Many of these words of wisdom, from people with a PhD or perfect parenting skills, are foreign and add to my already heavy weight of anxiety that piles on my shoulders. They tend to do nothing but make me feel like more of a failure as a mom. I don’t understand them. I don’t agree with them, but of course, I do not comment my true feelings for fear of being rejected by all the “perfect” parents. They make me feel as though there is something wrong with me as a mom.
After much thought, I’ve made myself a goal: trying to rid myself of this melancholy social media creates. It keeps me up at night, agonizing over how to be like the memes. Visions of the memes creep into my thoughts long after I’ve shut my phone, while I’m watering the plants, vacuuming the floor, or any of the other things that take me away from spending that “special time” that so many memes tell me I should be devoting to every child, every minute of every day. Why do allow it to get to me at such a high level? When these thoughts throw themselves against the forefront of my brain and begin to drag me into despair, I have started to remind myself, what if my thought process isn’t wrong? Even better, what if I stop caring about what is right for others and what others think? What if I stop obsessing over the memes that always tend to stress me out and leave me lying awake at night wondering if I’m screwing up my kids at every turn? What if I realize, those memes suck and are written by someone who doesn’t know me and who doesn’t know my children? What if I focus on the facts that every child is different; every parent is different; every situation is different; every home is different; every relationship is different.
Don’t get me wrong, I know these memes, words of wisdom, fun little quips about what every child needs are well meaning. Honestly, I may have shared them myself as I try to “be a better parent.” But, I’m learning to realize, they make me feel as if who I currently am isn’t good enough.
One such meme so graciously tells me, “When little people are overwhelmed with big emotions, it’s our job to share the calm, not join in their chaos.” L R Knost
Thank you for such enlightening words of wisdom that will surely make me stop in my tracks each time I see our child melting down over me asking her to clean the bathroom that only she uses. I wish I could say “thank you” to the fabulous L.R. sincerely, but honestly, I can’t. To me, those words of wisdom are a reminder of every failure I’ve made each time I didn’t bring calm to the situation.
Do I try? Absolutely! Am I sometimes successful through all of their chaos? Certainly! Are there many times I’m successful in remaining calm for the first 10 minutes of a meltdown before I begin “joining their chaos?” YEP! Are their times where I just snap quickly and don’t even know I’ve immediately added to their chaos before I know what’s hit me? More often than I care to admit.
Let’s be real for a moment: when my daughter knows she’s to clean her room every Saturday morning, and she’s outside playing basketball instead of cleaning up the tiled floor she’s turned into a carpet with her clothes in the bathroom, it annoys me to no end. I ask, “did you clean your room?”
“Noooo,” she whines.
“Go clean your bathroom, please.” I repeat as I do every Saturday morning.
“But, I’m hungry. I need to eat.”
*Insert mom eye roll* “You didn’t need to eat before basketball, but you do now.”
“I wasn’t hungry then.”
“Of course you weren’t. Okay, eat breakfast then go clean your bathroom.”
She eats breakfast, very slowly I might add, then gets distracted then gets lost in the craft room because—I have no idea—but, it happens.
I get annoyed. She gets whiny. I repeat myself, again. She gets more whiny. She refuses saying, “It’s my room! I don’t know why I can’t keep my room how I want it!”
My voice raises. This can go back and forth for quite a while. Does it make me a bad mom because I raised my voice when she refused to listen to me?
This meme slides into my mind, making me feel small after I finally got her to be responsible and clean up after herself. I go from feeling like it’s a success because she’s finally cleaning her bathroom to, “oh no! Did I just damage my kid? Did I just become a monster? How could I raise my voice? Am I being controlling? Am I creating a power struggle?”
No, L. R., I’m not. I’m not screwing up my kid because I may have added to her chaos, so she’d clean her bathroom. I was being a decent mom and teaching her to be responsible. Guess what, L. R., this is not the only time I’ve added to chaos to get my kids to listen either, and that’s okay.
Picture this: one fantastic weekday morning my daughter comes to get me from my bathroom just as I was squeezing myself into my work pants. “Mom, A is being mean to C. A said really mean things to C, and now he’s following him around and in his face. C even tried to put on his headphones and walk away, but A just keeps following him.”
Me: *sighs* “okay, I’m on my way.”
By the time I finished the pants-dance where my pants and I must come to terms with the fact that we must get along because I refuse to buy a bigger size, my husband is in the living room talking to a very teary-eyed A. *insert eye roll only I can detect* He’s recently started crying every time he’s done something wrong because my husband takes it easier on him when tears are involved.
Me: *steps in, so my husband could get back to what he was doing* “What’s up? What’s going on? Did you say these things to your brother?”
A: “I said ‘sorry,’ and he ignored me.”
We go back and forth with why, just because he says sorry doesn’t mean his brother has to accept the apology. Side note: no, I do not make my children accept an apology when the behavior continues time and time again. At that point, apologies are useless. Eventually, I send A to his room until it’s time to leave for the bus. He begins methodically hitting the walls to let us know just how annoyed he is the tears were all in vain.
As I pull C to the side to explain how he could have easily said, “I hear your apology,” I notice the time creeping dangerously close to the time I must leave. The methodical thump, thump, thump, overhead continues, rhythmically, monotonously, and I’m grateful when my conversation with C is over and I can go to work.
I hug the little people and rush out the door, no time my makeup on at home, and head for work.
60 seconds later my phone dings. It dings again. It dings again and again. Stuck at a stop sign that is notorious for backing up, I check my phone. 7 blank messages are lighting up my screen. *HUH?!*
There it is. A has gone through every thread our family has and begun sending blank messages. Just me-2 blank messages, another ding; message to me and my husband- 3 blank messages; message to me, C, daughter, and husband, 1 blank message. Before I can tell Siri to call “ICE,” a total of 13 dings in less than 60 seconds.
Me: “Tell him to knock it off! I’m done! I’m over it! I’m going to work! This is nuts and ridiculous! What kind of passive-aggressive tendencies must one possess to find a way to annoy so methodically and monotonously someone who isn’t even home to hear the knocking on the walls?! Seriously! UGH! Make it stop! No one has time for that!”
Let me be very clear: my calm lasted as I discussed the issue with him following his brother after saying hateful things. My calm lasted as I explained to my sensitive boy how he could have handled the situation a little better. My calm lasted through the methodically hitting of the walls as I gathered my things to leave the house. My calm lasted as I realized I would be putting my makeup on at my desk that morning. However, my calm did not last through the passive aggressive relentless dings from the empty text messages. Do I count it as a failure because my calm snapped as I quickly told Siri to call my husband, so he could make the dinging stop, my calm melting as it begins adding to the chaos? Nope!
Guess what: I am still a good mom, even if it sometimes does look differently than someone else’s version of a good mom. I am still a good mom even if my cracked patience contributes to the chaos once in a while.
Guess what else: when I got sassy, the passive-aggressive behavior took a back seat to “ah, damn-she means business.” My son learned his pre-teen, passive aggressive attitude was done. My son learned he doesn’t get to be so annoying just because he feels like it. However, the meme creeps in as I drive to work. “You added to the chaos. You didn’t keep the calm the whole time. Did you mess up your kid? Is he going to be scarred for life?”
Unfortunately, the onslaught of being made to feel like a failure thanks to a well-meaning meme does not end with just one meme. There are a plethora in many forms that, while meaning no harm, are condescending and unhelpful.
The one that hits even more painfully than “Keep your calm; don’t add to their chaos,” tells me, “Your words sow seeds in your children’s hearts. From those seeds spring up either confidence or uncertainty, dignity or dishonor, worth or worthlessness. Your words create the beginning of their life stories, and they will carry this story with them always. ~Rebecca Eanes
OUCH, Rebecca! That hurts.
As a teacher, I see students whose parents are doing their best, saying all the positive things, trying their hardest to show their child they are loved. Parents drop everything, take their child to every doctor’s appointment, every therapist appointment, all the places, but their efforts do not instill confidence or dignity. This does not make them a parenting failure, but this meme creeps into their thoughts, making them feel “less than” because their words don’t have the impact the memes tells them it should.
As a mom, I try hard to build up my children. That does not stop their own fears and anxieties, triggered by a chemical imbalance that I have no control over, from creeping into their deepest thoughts. I tell my children how loved they are, how much they matter, how smart and capable they are, how funny they are, and how much joy they bring to the world. This does not stop my pre-teen child from feeling unloved at the slightest altercation with a sibling. This does not stop my daughter, who has already graduated high school, from texting me from the bathroom floor at work because she became overwhelmed and overstimulated.
What happens when, no matter how much love we show our children, our child tries, or even worse, succeeds in committing suicide? Is it because my words sprouted in my child’s mind as dishonor and worthlessness?
NO! It means, the memes are not for you! They do not know you! They don’t know the love you pour into your children, only for them to rebel. They do not know how hard you try to help them, only for them to do what they damn well please. They do not know many hours you spend trying to console them, only for them to still have extreme anxiety.
The next time you are mindlessly scrolling through the never-ending feed of Facebook and see that painfully perfect quote that makes you feel as though you are failing at life and should live as a cat lady because you’re clearly only equipped to care for a feline, ignore it!
In fact, not only ignore it, refute it ! Remind yourself, comparing yourself to another to the point of it causing you anxiety and sleepless nights is beyond counter intuitive. You’re a badass, and the meme is taking your mind away from what really matters, being yourself, because yourself is who your children need you to be. You are good enough. You are not measured by a meme. Your worth is not measured by the words of a stranger who writes a book on how to be perfect.