When it comes to my abilities as a parent I think I have a pretty realistic understanding of where I stand. I recognize both my strengths and my weaknesses and I neither judge myself too harshly nor give myself more credit than I deserve. I know there are some things I excel at (setting and enforcing boundaries, providing consequences, requiring politeness, apologizing when I make mistakes) and other things I don’t do well at all (keeping my frustration in check, losing my temper, providing well balanced meals, listening intently when my kids speak to me). There are some things I’m specifically trying to improve, like putting my phone away to be more present with my kids. I recognize that I am a human being and human beings are fallible and parenting provides countless opportunities to stumble and fall, the important thing is that I pick myself up and learn from my mistakes.
Man have I made some mistakes. I’ve made some pretty epic mistakes. And yet, I don’t consider myself a failure as a mother. For the most part I think I’m doing a decent job, and I know that every day I’m at least attempting to do better.
Most of the time I’m pretty confident in my role as mother. I’m not always proud of how I do the job, but I can genuinely say I’m doing my best. I rarely hold myself up to other mothers and find myself lacking (at least not in my all-around qualifications as a mother, though I do find myself lacking in specific areas of motherhood that I find particularly challenging). After this week though, I’m wondering if that is less a result of my overall confidence in myself and more a consequence of my relative isolation as a mother. Maybe I think I’m a decent mom because I don’t spend much time around other moms and so I don’t have the opportunity to compare myself to others.
This past week I’ve spent a great deal of time with other moms of kids my kids’ ages. My cousin has a daughter almost exactly Osita’s age and a son ten months older than Monito. My cousin and his wife have a two year old daughter and are expecting their second child next month. I’ve spent entire days with both my cousin and my cousin-in-law and both are incredible moms. I’ve watched them excel at so many of the things I struggle with and I haven’t witnessed them falter on even one occasion. Meanwhile they have seen me get frustrated and lose my tempter with my daughter on multiple occasions. They’ve seen me looking at my phone while I could be engaging my son. They’ve seen me hand my kids off to my mom so I can take a much needed walk alone with my book-on-tape. Meanwhile I never witnessed either of them lose their temper, or look at their phone or even request some time a lone, let alone actually take it. When I compare my own mothering abilities to theirs (and it’s hard not to when we’ve shared such close quarters this week), I find my abilities seriously lacking. For the first time I’m doubting my general status as a decent mom.
Maybe I’m not such a great mom after all. Maybe I’m right when I suspect that other mothers–the ones whose lives I witness via social media of various kinds–are just inherently better at this mothering thing than I am. So many women seem to do it all so effortlessly and seem to enjoy it more than I do. Maybe I’m not actually cut out to be a mom, at least not a good one.
I don’t know, it may sound silly to say those things, but sometimes I wonder… I thought I’d be a good mom, it was all I wanted to do with my life when I was growing up, and there are some things I know I do really well, but there is so much I struggle with and there are so many things I absolutely fail at every day. I used to think all mothers failed at some things, but watching my cousins made me wonder if that is actually true. Maybe some mothers don’t fail at anything. Honestly, after a week witnessing my cousins in action, I couldn’t name one weakness of theirs, while I’m sure they could mention plenty of mine.
I know comparison is the thief of joy, and I honestly believe that to be true, but I don’t feel like this is that kind of comparison. I’m not looking at what my cousins have and wishing I had it. This isn’t about envy or jealousy of a feeling that something is unfair. This is about watching other women who are damn good mothers and not ever seeing them falter and wondering if the fact that I do falther makes me a bad mom, or less-than in some way.
I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter if they are “better” moms than me. I am a mother and my kids are stuck with me, for better or for worse, and all that really matters is that they’ll be fine at the end of all this. Surely there are other women out there making fewer mistakes than I am, just like there are women doing a shittier job than me. In the end none of that matters, all that matters is what I believe about my own parenting abilities. My belief in myself has clearly been shaken and I have to figure out how to regain some of the confidence I have lost. Too bad I have no idea how to do that.
Do you feel confident in your abilities as a parent? Has that confidence ever been shaken?