Today was “Mommy and Hadley Day”. Now, before you start gagging envisioning me doing all kinds of Pinterest-themed projects with my 4 year old daughter at our kitchen table, let me tell you what that means. Mondays mean no school, no activities, no schedule. Mondays are usually the days I want to bang my head against the wall by lunchtime. However, “Mommy and Hadley Day” sounds much more positive than “Mommy Needs A Drink In A Bad Way Day”.
Usually on Sunday nights I’ll ask Hadley what she wants to do on our day together. This time, she told me she wanted to play school. She wanted me to be the teacher and she wanted to work on writing. I told her that sounded like fun and that I couldn’t wait. In my head I began envisioning us actually playing school, with me pulling out some of my old favorite kindergarten lessons from my former days of teaching. We would both have fun, she’d learn something, and she would beam up at me as if I was the best thing in her whole wide world.
The reality? She woke me up three times during the night because her nose was stopped-up and she couldn’t breathe well. As I stumbled out of bed I was greeted with a “Mommy? Are you ready to play?” I immediately thought of the sad face that Anna in Disney’s Frozen makes when her sister won’t build a snowman with her. My heart wanted to say, “YES! Of course I want to play with you. I’ve been waiting all night to play with you!” but instead I hear myself saying, “Not right now. How about after I have a cup of coffee and catch up on a few things first? I’m tired and need to wake up a little bit.”
She played by herself and was totally happy and content. And I felt like a horrible mother. I’d already messed up and the day had just begun.
Since we had been out of town over the weekend, Hadley was pretty exhausted. She didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything which was fine with me because I had extra housework to accomplish. (Why does a few days away create SO much extra work when you get home?!?) We did our fair share of playing… a tea party, a make over for me which involved getting my nails painted and having sticky lipgloss smeared across my eyelids, a fake slumber party, checking on her bird feeder and throwing seeds to the birds, cleaning out her frog’s aquarium, and my personal favorite- a water gun fight. I was also able to get some work accomplished and to play catch up on some things that I had been meaning to do. Although we did a lot of fun things, we never did get around to playing school.
She asked me to play school again just as I was walking out the door to go to my yoga class. I felt like a horrible mother yet again.
I’d like to take this opportunity to tell that feeling to SHUT THE HELL UP.
Seriously. On behalf of all of us who suffer with the “I’m not a good enough parent” voice. I don’t know who fed us the lie that we have to always have it together, that we have to devote every second to our children, that it is our duty and our privilege to completely sacrifice ourselves on a daily basis, that if we ever put ourselves first in any situation that we fail as a parent, that if we don’t do this or make this or buy this our child will grow up messed-up and blame us for it. It’s all lies. It’s unreal. It’s an image that NONE of us can obtain. Yet, still we strive. And we try our hearts out. And we feel like failures because we never can and never will reach the impossible goal. This feeling robs us of the joy we could be feeling while being with our children.
In reality, children need a balance… a time to play and work independently, a time to play and interact with others, a time to be loved and nurtured by us and others that love them. We need that same balance. Without the balance, unhealthy relationships develop and we can start to feel resentful, exhausted, stressed-out, or depressed.
Shouldn’t we all strive for more balance and less perfection? When I play and interact with my child, I want to do it with my whole heart and mind, without distractions. I will not feel guilty for those times when I need to work or spend some time for myself. What better example can I give to Hadley than to be a happy, healthy, balanced human being? One that she knows loves her unconditionally. One that she trusts. One that has a life outside of being a mother and a wife. One that lives and loves with her whole heart. One that goes for her dreams. That is a goal worth working towards. It has nothing to do with the fake image of parenting we have been fed our whole lives. It has everything to do with being whole and balanced, filled with joy.