Have I mentioned that being a mother is hard? Oh, only 5,642 times? Well, here’s yet another example.
More proof that I have my own maternal act together is that I cannot, for the life of me, remember to send my kids to school with their lunch boxes. All the prep occurs without fail—from making the grocery list, buying the food, and planning the meals, to packing the lunches and storing them in the fridge overnight.
Yet six times in the past few weeks, at least one of the said lunch boxes was left behind. Each time this happens, one of my sad children calls from the school office, pleading for me or my husband to save the day: “I forgot my lunch. Can you pleeeeease bring it to me? I’ll starve if you don’t.”
Never a dull day.
The question is, why is it so hard to get this task over the finish line? To simply take the lunch box out of the fridge and put it in a backpack. Well, according to my family’s track record, it seems to be the hardest task ever assigned. There are four human beings in our house who know it’s a problem, and we still can’t get it done.
While I’m often tempted to beat myself up over this, the truth is that we’re going through a lot of firsts at home, and it’s ok to fall short. At the time, I was writing a book for the first time, my husband had just started a new job, and the kids were in higher and harder grades in school. That’s a lot of new.
We fantasize that motherhood gets easier over time and that there’s a cumulative effect to the lessons learned. But the learning doesn’t always add up.
For instance, if a conversation goes sideways with your 12-year-old, you must remember that you’ve only been a mother to a 12 -year-old for a few months, at best. Pre-teen stuff is a novelty. One of the expectations we need to set as moms goes far beyond, “once a mom, always a mom.” It’s more like, “once a mom, always a first time mom.”
Throughout your motherhood experience, you’ll always be faced with firsts. In other words, whether you like it or not, or embrace it or not, you’re always going to be a rookie—and rookies don’t get things right the first time.
Think about it: once you get the hang of being a mother to a baby, that child soon starts going to school, eventually begins dating and driving…and then one day, gets married and has children and challenges of their own. And because each experience will be new, they will be hard for you. As my friend Kate says, “Being a mother is like climbing a series of mountains. New peaks and valleys appear with every new experience. You’ll never get the mountains to go away, but you do get better at climbing.”
I’m not a bad mother. I’m a busy mother with a busy family, and we’re doing our best. For the first time in my life, I refuse to allow myself to classify “doing my best,” as failing. Because it’s not.
What firsts are you going through right now? How can you give yourself a break?