For any Mom who has ever struggled with being good enough…
Recently I spent a morning at the pool with my son for a play date. Before leaving, I realized that I had forgotten one very important thing: I had to wear a bathing suit at the pool. I reached for my bathing suit drawer with my shaking hand outstretched and horror movie music playing in my head. Dun dun dun. When it was on, I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, Well… it is what it is. And we left. As it turned out, two of the other Mommies looked like Barbie. And do you know what I did when I was driving by myself in the car later that day? I cried. They had made me feel so awful about my appearance. Or had they?
You fill in the blank: “I’m a terrible ________.” You had an answer immediately, didn’t you? Maybe even have more than one. What was it? Mother? Wife? Housekeeper? Sister? Shopper? Weight? Spender? Shape? Sometimes I think people walk through their day feeling like they have a sign above their head, on which is written one of these accusatory sentences. I think women in particular feel this way, but I would guess many men do, too. These invisible signs make us feel like we are just not good enough. Specifically, that we are not enough to fill our own shoes in life.
When my son was born, he just cried and cried. I must have called his doctor a dozen times before he was a month old. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong! And every mother will relate to how agonizing it is to listen to her child cry. So with my nursing hormones raging, in tears at my in-laws one hot afternoon, I blurted out, “I’m a terrible mother!” My mother-in-law is a special lady, and never has she made a statement that had a greater impact on my life: “You are the perfect mother…for your son.”
As it turned out, he had reflux… and something I’d call the ‘Need to Be Mobile.’ (Once he could walk, we barely ever had tears!) Anyway, as I thought about what my mother-in-law had said, I realized that no one could be my son’s mother like I could. There is no denying how newborn babies calm and soothe when they hear their mother’s voice, smell Mommy’s skin or feel her warm embrace. That’s why we tell caregivers to sing, in Kindermusik. Baby prefers your voice, the voice of a loved one, to their Kindermusik teacher’s because of the relationship they have with you!
Now I’ll fast forward to when my son turned a year old. I decided to start going to a gym and taking a Yoga class. As I walked through the front doors, I swear everyone’s eyes locked onto my spare tire. (My doctor calls it “extra love,” which is why I think she’s awesome.) Anyway, I was at the gym to make the tire smaller. Everyone else at the gym was already perfect! Why were they even there? The women didn’t need to be thinner and the men didn’t need to be beefier… and yet there they all were. I didn’t go back to the gym the next week. It has taken many on-and-off exercise routines, support from my family and some inspirational writers to get me on track, but I’m hoping that sometime soon, I will feel good about my physical fitness again. One of the inspirational writers I read has a fantastic weight-loss story. After having her second child, she lost 70 pounds! And I found it fascinating that she didn’t lose her first pound until she accepted herself as she was. When she had surpassed her original goal, she wrote, “It [My body] was never “perfect” and never will be, but it’s mine and it’s the only one I got. And you know what? It’s freakin’ awesome! It was always awesome I was just too blind to see it…” -Veronica “Roni” Noone.
So now we circle back to the pool. There I was, feeling like I wanted to cover back up and go home, rather than stay. But there was my son, splashing away in the water, tossing his toys around, wiping out and loving it. Staying sure would bring him a lot of joy. Swimming would be a good fitness choice. And those beautiful mommies weren’t making me feel awful about my appearance… I was. I was comparing myself to them. They were, in fact, kind, friendly people and they were asking me questions about my favorite conversation topic: My boy! “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.
Turn over your invisible sign: It probably goes something like, “If only I was, thinner/richer/more outgoing/etc., I would be good enough.” But –stay with me, here–let’s learn from that family classic, Cool Runnings. The day before the Olympic finals, Derice asks his coach, Irv Blitzer, why he cheated during his Olympic finals. He wisely talks about needing to win a gold medal because he had made winning his whole life. “Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” So what is your gold medal? The thing you think will make you feel good enough? If Coach Blitzer is right, we need to put it aside and accept ourselves first and then go out and get it.
Moms, can we make a new sign? (I’m writing this just as much to myself as for anyone else.) Can we make a sign that says, “I’m a good _______.” Start small if it’s hard, but find something you can put on that line. It’s a strange exercise to do in a culture so against bragging. After you come up with something to put on that line, write it down and put it somewhere visible. My small start today will be, “I’m a good cook.” I know this in my heart because friends and family rarely turn down seconds. If you ever feel like you are not good enough, please know that you are not alone. Look for opportunities to help other women find their ‘positive sign.’ Maybe if we all work together, we can help Moms everywhere feel good enough. So even if you don’t have the most expensive model of car seat or couldn’t nurse your firstborn or haven’t read the latest book on parenting, you are still good enough to be your child’s mother… in fact, you’re the best one!
Special Note: Some Moms have trouble making safe decisions for themselves and their children. If you ever feel like you need help making safe decisions, please tell someone right away and seek professional help. You are still good enough! And we can be thankful that our community has experts who can help you through the tough times and help you make the best possible decisions for your families.
A note from contributing SoundSteps blog writer, Jenny Leggett: I love this post by Miss Sarah, and I think she has really nailed it. Just wanted to add this little resource that came across my screens and looks interesting (I haven’t read it yet, but it comes highly recommended). The book is The Declaration of You!: How to Find It, Own It and Shout It From the Rooftops and it looks like it has a lot of great topics and tools for self care and realizing just how “good enough” we are!