I want to tell the truth for a moment. Without self-judgment. Without fear of ridicule. Without a sarcastic comment to shield my true feelings. Without burying my head. The real and simple truth of this stage of my life. I have no idea what I am doing.
Here is what I do know. I measure success in movement. Movement along this insane roller coaster ride that we affectionately refer to as parenthood. I wake up every single day and I pray that I can do enough to keep pushing my family forward. And sometimes forward movement is exhausting. To be honest, sometimes staying in the exact same place is exhausting. The pure effort and exertion that is required to simply not move backwards is beyond comprehension.
A great day is making even the tiniest step forward. An ok day is holding my ground. And a bad day is ending upside down and backwards 10 steps behind where I started the day. And in the spirit of honesty, bad days have been trending in my house.
I don’t have “bad kids”. I have kids. Kids who are learning to test the limits and boundaries. Kids who are discovering the meaning and power of words. Kids who sometimes use that power for good; and sometimes use that power for evil. I have kids who run and jump and tuck and role and fly. Yes, sometimes they actually fly through the air in the middle of my house. Kids who gladly accept the challenge of determining just how long it will take their mom to crack.
Some days I am calm and patient and deploy all of the strategies my common sense and “mom sense” know are the right way to react and engage with my mini-humans. I keep my cool as objects fly through the air towards my face. I rationalize with an irrational 4 year old refusing to eat an apple because “his teeth hurt” while he simultaneously demands oreos. I take a deep breath before I answer one million questions about baseball and the weather and where babies come from. I grimace in silence when I step on toys in the middle of the hallway; toys that just moments before were put away. I deal with the fact that some kind of siren must sound throughout my home when my tush gets within an inch of sitting position.
And even on these days when I do everything the patient and calm way; I am silently counting down the milliseconds until bedtime.
Other days my “cool” is nowhere to be found. I speak fluently in threats that I will never follow-through on. I deliver punishments and then immediately feel too guilty to inforce them. I issue rewards that are in no way deserved. I opt for the easiest way out of challenging moments. I speak more loudly and more forcibly then I care to speak in front of my children. I let them see me squirm. I hand deliver them ammunition to deliver the 1, 2 punch. And then on the really bad days, I just start to cry. And for a moment while I am crying I see something that looks vaguely like remorse and compassion wash over their little faces. And then in an instant it is gone. They have won the day. And they embark on their victory lap around the house. Spreading chaos and tripping hazards as they gleefully fly their “W” flag.
I am not following a recipe. As far as I know no one has cooked up the perfect equation to take young children and flawlessly yield kind, intelligent, well-adjusted humans who sit perfectly still and follow every single rule set before them. And as far as I can tell from the tales exchanged between my girlfriends and I or the parenting truth bombs occasionally scattered over my social media feeds; I am not alone.
None of us know what the heck we are doing. And most of us feel like what we are doing is completely and utterly wrong. And I have to admit, there is a certain peace that comes from the solidarity of the parental struggle. Knowing that I am not in this alone is just the push I need to get through some days.
I have no clue what I am doing. Each day I wake up with naïve aspirations of doing it all. I want to be a flawless expert in all facets of my life. I want to parent like a rock star. I want to deliver stellar mind-blowing performance at work. I want to be a masterful health and fitness goddess. I want to have time for every volunteer organization and committee that comes my way. I want it all. But the reality of most days is that I wake up at 5am to workout, and in case you are wondering there is nothing goddess-like about me at 5am. At 7pm I find myself sitting at my desk in a familiar great debate: book-it home to be the not-so-rock-star-mom home just in time to tuck my kids into bed, or put in one more hour at the office to deliver semi-stellar, not-so-mind-blowing performance at work.
I want it all. Because my life is full of wonderful and amazing things. Things that truly deserve all of me. But parenthood is a crash course in the school of “divide and conquer.” So we give little pieces of ourselves in all directions at all times. And it is never enough. We always feel like we are not doing enough. So we judge ourselves. We fear judgment from other people. We make sarcastic jokes to cover the real feelings of failure masked below the surface. We bury our heads and go to bed feeling like we have no idea what in the world we are doing.
It is ok if we all just level-set our expectations a little bit? Look, I have no idea what I am doing. But this is what I can promise you…
I will tuck my kids into bed at least ½ of the nights this week. I will come up with a few new and clever ideas at work. My kids are probably going to eat McDonalds at least once this week. Maybe twice. I will get my workouts in this week, but I will hit the snooze button at least once. Maybe twice. This week I will have at least one full and uninterrupted conversation with my husband (and we will both stay awake for the entire thing!) I may leave the house a little later than I plan each morning. Because my 2-3 minute tardiness is in the name of fresh, hot, and very necessary coffee. This is one addiction I cannot apologize for. I may miss an email or two from my various volunteer groups. I may forget to put things in the backpack. I am sorry. I promise I am doing the best I can.
Hi. I am a mom trying to do it all. And I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Send coffee.