Become a Better Mother by Committing to the Practice
Have you ever had a day when you just want to quit? It all felt too hard, you didn't know how to make it better, you were exhausted.
Have you ever hit that gravely low place of "I'm just not a good enough mom?"
I think all moms feel this - sometimes even daily.
There's no way to measure whether you are good enough or not. I can tell you all day that you are a great mom, but if you don't believe me, you don't believe me. What you really need is a way to trust in yourself, moment by moment, that you are being the person that you want to be with your kids.
When you have that trust, you can stop questioning yourself. You can recognize the tough moments for what they are - just a moment - and re-calibrate by apologizing or trying again.
When I was new to Pilates I remember a day when class felt particularly tough. I couldn’t finish any exercise. My neck was hurting, I couldn’t hold imprint, I couldn’t do as many repeats as the instructor was leading us to do. Halfway through the class I heard myself thinking, “I’m never doing this again.”
What was wrong with me? The last time I went to this class I had enjoyed it. I was no stronger then, no more able to keep up than I was that day.
The difference between that day and this one was my my trust in myself. What I liked so much about this class the previous time I went to it was that the instructor said, several times, “It doesn’t matter where you are right now. Keep trying. You will get stronger. However many repeats you can do today is good enough for today.” She said that today, too, but I wasn’t hearing her.
All I could hear was my inner voice saying, “You can’t do this, you aren’t strong enough. You will never be strong enough.”
Finding My Good Enough
That same afternoon I hit a point of exhaustion where I stood in the hall and couldn’t remember where I was going or what I was planning to do there. I had been struggling with my daughter over everything.
I sat down, right there in the middle of the hall, and leaned my head against the wall. I wanted to quit. That mean inner voice that had been talking to me all day was going on about how I wasn’t cut out for this job of motherhood, I wasn’t good enough, patient enough, strong enough.
Only motherhood is something I can’t quit. And I don’t even want to, even when I’m so exhausted I can’t see straight.
So when Stella saw me sitting there, brought me a library book and said, "Read this booky?" I tucked her in under my arm and I read it. Right there in the hall on the carpet that needed vacuuming and shampooing and with whatever it was I thought I needed to do still undone. I committed to just this moment - reading a book with her tucked under my arm.
She snuggled up against me. She giggled when I used a funny voice for one character. So I did it again. By the end of the story I wasn't worried about my undone tasks or the state of the carpet.
I loved the feel of her small body pressed into me and the wonder of the story that had unfolded from the pages of the book. In the fullness of the moment, my inner voice was quiet. I knew how to do this moment. And if I could do that one, I could probably tackle the next one, too.
Just Keep Showing Up
Mothering is more than a job, it is a practice. A practice of showing up, over and over and over. Even when your child is fighting with you, throwing food or toys at you, even when they are telling you to go away.
It is showing up when you want to walk away. It is being in the moment, whether the moment is hard and impossible or transcendently beautiful. This is a practice that you can't ever quit, but it gets easier the longer you keep practicing it.
I sometimes think back to those early days when Stella was so tiny and I really didn’t know what I was doing. But I kept practicing. I didn’t focus on what I didn’t know, but on what I did. And my mothering muscles got stronger. The practice was easier.
When you focus on the act of showing up for the moment you are in, it relieves you of worrying about how you will deal with some future hard situation. Does parenting a toddler scare you? Or parenting a teenager?
There's no need to worry about that if the child sitting in front of you is still an infant. Be fully with the infant child that is with you in this present moment.
It Gets Easier
I can do things now I never thought I’d be able to manage back then. I have carried a screaming, kicking toddler out of the library and calmed her down so we could go back in and try again.
I've traveled with an 11-month old from California to Australia and back. I've parented solo for months straight.
I've held in through anxiety, depression, and cancer treatment.
It wasn't pretty, but it was good enough.
I can weather sleepless nights, catch vomit in my hands, negotiate an hour-long bedtime routine at the end of a long day, sit in a therapy office with my daughter's father and both believe we'll make it through this hard place and be afraid we won't.
Just like I couldn't imagine how I could ever do some of those Pilates moves, back then I couldn’t imagine how I would do any of these mothering maneuvers. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever feel good enough at this job of raising this little person put in my care.
But I’m here. One moment followed another and I grew as she grew. I have the skills now to deal with where we are. Just because I kept practicing.