Do perfect moms exist? No. Only on TV. And my daughter doesn’t help by telling me one day that her friends’ parents don’t say mean things to them and are always there and are always on their side. This happened after a particularly bad morning when we were fighting and she was complaining about everything and being very extra and I asked her to please go away before I lost it. (A very shitty mom move.)
I actually stood up for shitty moms everywhere by telling her it’s not true that any parents are perfect all the time, and that we all make mistakes and that I love her very much.
It made me think of my mother, who I continue gaining appreciation for more and more every day, even though we fight a lot. When I was little my parents cleaned offices and all I knew was that I wanted to not clean offices when I grew up. I wanted to make offices dirty, I declared, by working in an office.
One day I brought home a ton of papers from one of the offices we cleaned. I was playing office, and laid them out in neat piles on the front lawn. I am amazed now my mother let me do that. Was she just too tired or busy to notice, or was she wise and letting me dream, play and be a kid? I would never let my kids lay out dozens of piles of paper in the front lawn now.
While I was merrily playing, a big wind came and the neat piles exploded into a tornado of papers. They littered the entire lawn and the neighborhood, and I ran around trying to get them but it was no use. I didn’t get in trouble for that, but I still remember how I felt losing control of the whole situation.
For years now, after college, I have worked in an office. First as a reporter, and then in communications. I recently left a perfectly fine government job I’d had for years to feel like I was making more of a difference. I lasted three months at this high profile nonprofit working on immigration issues, a dream job in many ways and an invigorating one. But I had to leave to be able to truly hang out with my kids and husband, and especially with my older daughter who has been getting into trouble. I wasn’t able to balance work and family at this job, and I feel like I am once again grabbing into the air but losing control of my career.
On the last day of my short stint, feeling like a failure, I was packing up my office when I found a colorful pad of sticky notes. I brought them home so my daughter could play office. When she saw them her eyes lit up and she asked if she could have them. Yes, I said.
For the past few days I have been spending entire days with her and my younger daughter. She has carried those sticky notes around every day, taking notes and dutifully highlighting her notes with stickies. If she forgets the pad somewhere she goes back to get it. I know this because I have been with her, watching, playing, talking, feeling like not so much of a failure anymore.
I don’t know what comes next career-wise.
But maybe shitty momming should not be measured in days, but seasons. And instead of shitty we should call ourselves real, brave, tired, loving, awesome, #1 Mom in the whole wide world - just like our kids see us most days.