07 Jan I am not a bad mom, but I’m also not a good one.
The snow began to fall Thursday night. Our third or fourth snowstorm this year so far. We knew school was delayed before we went to bed. When I woke up, the first thing I did was check my phone for school closings. I texted my daughter and exchange student and told them to keep sleeping (all this from bed – technology has its perks).
Luckily I was also granted the morning off of work so I excitedly grabbed my morning coffee and cracked open my most recent library book – Daring Greatlyby Brené Brown.
In my cocoon of blankets on the loveseat in the front room with my book, journal, Bible, and hot, black coffee, I was in complete peace. You know the kind that we moms often long for but never really find because we have too much going on around us, too many voices to listen to, too many tasks on our lists to accomplish, too little time to really relax.
It was less than ten minutes until the two younger kids tumbled downstairs, giddy with snowstorm mania. They wanted breakfast. I told them I wasn’t moving and that they are competent to take care of themselves. Pour cereal and milk into a bowl – easy.
Once they finished eating and used up some of their screen time, they apparently had nothing to do so they positioned themselves inches from my happy place to laugh and play, fight and yell, wrestle and cry. The biting wind chill made playing outside an unsavory option until later in the day, so I couldn’t kick them outside.
I texted my neighbor and pleaded for her kids to come over. It sounds counterintuitive to invite more little ones into the house, but playmatesoffer a good outlet for energy and also typically lead children into other rooms. However, since it was just 8:45, they were still in jammies and were hunkered down playing board games.
I did what all competent moms do – shooed my children away so I could keep doing my own thing. And when I say “shooed them away” I mean I yelled at them to quit being annoying and made them leave the room I was in.
So much for my peace.
The guilt began to collect. As it always does. The mommy guilt.
Back and forth in my head went the battle:
I should be entertaining my kids, but I want them to learn to be alone and I want to be alone.
I should play a game with them, but why can’t they play a game together. I don’t have the imagination to play Legos or house, or participate in an imaginary fashion show, or take a part in the bizarre Minecraft world.
I should assign chores, because clearly they have time on their hands. But I don’t want to deal with the housework beast right now.
My kids get enough love and attention, I’m sure of that. Yet whenever I am not actively engaged with them, I have an undercurrent of guilt. I’m certain they’ll be harmed because of all my deficiencies. Years of therapy will be required to undo all the damage I’m causing by relaxing, burning cookies, and inviting friends over.
While my mothering faults grew into monsters in my mind, I simultaneously copied quotes from the introduction of Daring Greatly. I literally had this one all the way written out before the irony hit me:
“When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive – it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real question for parents should be: ‘Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?’”