Doing My Best (Question Mark) (Exclamation Point)

Once a week or so my Facebook, which skews heavily towards moms, blows up with a post or article from the interwebs about being a better parent. Posts about putting down your phone and paying more attention to the present, posts about why you should never yell at your kids, posts about how teaching your children patience means letting them take 45 minutes to put on their coat, posts about all the ways you are probably scarring your children and ruining their lives because you aren’t perfect.

Basically, posts about how someone else lives their life better than me. I suck.

I made the mistake of reading one of the posts about yelling on a particularly bad day. I had just been hit with pregnancy symptoms, I had been solo parenting for weeks, the holiday planning was making me feel overwhelmed and stressed and instead of providing me with a hilarious list of animals that look like characters from Downton Abbey the internet punched me in the face with guilt.

Of course, any day is probably a bad day to read parenting advice. I cannot remember a single day since having kids where I was perfect. Pre-kids no one was really expecting me to be, you know?? As long as I didn’t commit any major crimes no one cared and the majority of the advice aimed at me was how to build a work wardrobe for under $200 or how to plan a dinner party for 12. But once you biologically become a parent people suddenly expect you to be a great parent all the time, although no one can even tell you what that means. There isn’t a handbook. There isn’t even a PAMPHLET. And even if there was, I’d still be doing stuff wrong.

Even on days where the kids are angels and I’m a saint, we probably didn’t eat all-organic, locally-sourced, home-cooked meals. We probably ate McDonalds. On the days when we eat a real, fully-balanced meal made with ingredients from the farmer’s market the kids probably watched 4 hours of iPad so I could make the damn thing.

Some days, I toss something in the trash, miss, and then just stand there staring at it on the floor, hoping it might pick itself up. I make sure my children are not physically suffering and then lie down on the couch. The kids eat Pop Tarts for dinner with a side of Pop Tarts for dessert. I yell. I am unfair. I cannot wait for them to go to bed.

As far as I am concerned, both of those days are my best effort. I am giving 100% of myself. All the parts that aren’t being used to keep me alive are going to my children. But I’m a person too, and some days I need all of my own energy to function. I need an extra hour to sleep instead of doing a craft or to watch House Hunters instead of PBS. I need 10 minutes of silence instead of breaking up another argument so I just let them argue. I need to lock the bathroom door so I can pee my pants while I throw up privately instead of with an audience. Again. I NEED those things, the same way I need air and food.

I assume if my life circumstances changed, I would find more to give. Working moms do way more than I do and survive. Single moms do way WAY more an survive. Literally a billion other mothers do more than I do and survive. But right now, at this moment, in my own life, I am giving 100%. You are probably also giving 100%, whether that means making those all-organic meals every night or taking even more naps than I do.

It’s not as hopeless as it sounds. Most nights I go to bed feeling like I had a successful day and not beating myself up over my mistakes (I figure in another four and a half years I might stop doing it all together). Even when I am totally drained I am lucky to have this life – and I really do feel lucky instead of just saying I’m lucky. My kids are great kids, despite my mistakes, and so far show no signs of permanent damage from either cheeseburgers or Disney Jr binges. Since I realized I cannot do everything – and don’t even WANT to do everything – I have gotten much, much happier. Just don’t show up unannounced or I won’t let you in to see my messy house, screaming children, and wet pants.

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27 Responses to “Doing My Best (Question Mark) (Exclamation Point)”

  1. E says:

    Don’t read those articles. People who spend the time and energy to explain to the world why what they are doing is OMG THE BEST! generally have low self-confidence. You are awesome and do not need anyone to validate your parenting or anything else.

  2. Erin says:

    I think that comment summed it up really nicely :) And I love that thought, that I’m giving my 100% even if it doesn’t look that successful upon review.

  3. cakeburnette says:

    I think you are doing a super job as a mom. From your blog, I can tell you are involved with your kids, teaching your kids to be good people, making memories with your kids, AND having crappy days just like the rest of us “regular” people. (Remember, you tweeting me is one of the high points in my life. ;) ) These sanctimonious articles just make me mad, but perhaps that’s because I’ve gotten to the “other side” of the parenting thing. I used the TV as a babysitter on more occasions than I care to admit, they lived off Easy Mac & applesauce in individual cups every time my husband deployed, my son plays video games every chance he gets, and we’ve been known to all have our phones out when we go out to dinner (not a home; that we do try to stick to)–and they are healthy, happy, normal teenagers who are our DELIGHT. Yep, you heard that right, we are enjoying the hell out of our TEENAGERS. Don’t feel guilty about anything!

    • bebehblog says:

      You’re like my parenting role model on the internet, and talk of your awesome teenagers gives me hope on the regular. Thank you for always supporting me.

      • cakeburnette says:

        Awwwww…that made me tear up! It’s hard to single-parent small folks when you aren’t actually a single parent. If those of us who’ve survived don’t encourage those who are still living it, what it is the point? Military life has a whole set of challenges and rewards and one of the best ones is the “sorority” of military wives/mothers! *hugs*

  4. Christa says:

    Now I want some McDonald’s. True story. But P. is watching TV all day today for sure because she’s a little under the weather and Bo only let me sleep 30 frickin minutes last night. I think I will binge upon moz sticks for lunch. And maybe fall asleep on the couch.

    • bebehblog says:

      I could seriously live on McDonald’s bacon egg & cheese sandwiches right now, and refuse to feel bad if that’s what this next baby is made of. I honestly don’t know what people who are anti-TV do with sick kids. Or on their own sick days.

  5. Barbra says:

    Thank you for this today. After a long night and a short tempered morning, this was exactly what I needed to read. You are awesome and my favorite.

  6. Leanne says:

    I am a weekly reader, but hardly ever comment. Your post resonates with me as does your blog because I am also a military spouse/mom and it sucks having a hubby who is always gone or working.
    About a month ago I deleted every mother group on my Facebook page and it was a great and freeing feeling. I hated feeling horrible about my mothering skills because I was not growing organic corn in my backyard and making handmade knitted blankets all while singing learning tunes to my gaggle of homeschooled children. I hated reading comments from judgmental moms, who I am sure have a houseful of help, on why you dare to reason with a two year old and the only way to talk is quietly. Those mom’s are doing 1/10 of what they say, but pretending that they are doing it all. I just couldn’t feel bad about myself anymore. I basically practice AP parenting, but there is a line to draw when it comes to having a healthy parent and 100% entertained children. It’s ok to yell at your kids at 10 pm when they are jumping around and not sleeping. It’s ok to sack on the couch while your kids are at school and your toddler watches Toy Story for the 3rd time that morning while eating junk on your couch and many other things that are much worse than these. I am done feeling guilty about crap.

    Your doing a great job.

    • bebehblog says:

      I love hearing from my other military spouse readers, since it’s such a weird/hard way of life sometimes and great to know someone relates. I have a lot of Facebook friends who do absolutely nothing wrong and don’t shame me at all…but it’s still hard to compare and come up short with their all organic meals and homeschooling and gorgeous, spotless homes. It’s a double edged sword – when E is gone and I’m alone connecting with people online is good for me, but those are the days I take everything extra personally. I am SURE you know.

  7. Robyn says:

    I know you’re not looking for a pat on the back, but i’m giving you one anyways. You practically are a single mom, with the hours E works. And i think you’re doing awesome! seriously. NO ONE is perfect. I prefer to look at all those parenting posts and books, and whatever, as the ideal that i’m striving towards (most of them anyways, some of them just aren’t for me), and not really the end result i’m actually going to get. does that make any sense? like i’m a work in progress and as long as i’m trying to do the best i can, (and some days the best i can sucks), i feel pretty ok. they’re like inspiration to me, not reality.

    • bebehblog says:

      Inspiration is a great way to look at it. Much better than seeing them as an attack. You should get just as many pats as me, I think you’re pretty amazing.

  8. Tara says:

    And this is why I read your blog. I saw that yelling article going around last week and just did not even click on it. There had been too much yelling at our house last week, and I knew it without reading a mom-shaming article like that.

    • bebehblog says:

      Someone even WARNED ME not to read it and I did. Forgiving myself for mistakes is easier without outside guilt on top of my own.

  9. Betsy says:

    Just…yes. My.thoughts.exactly.

  10. m says:

    You said it momma! We are all giving it 100% and that looks differently for different families. You’re doing a great job :)

    • bebehblog says:

      It looks different constantly, and being able to adjust so your 100% doesn’t mean you’re killing yourself can be hard. Thank you :)

  11. Suzanne says:

    LOVE this. Just what I needed to read. Thank you for writing it!!

    p.s. I still can’t believe you’re pregnant.

    • bebehblog says:

      Thank you friend. I sort of can’t believe it myself, although the fact that my bump popped today is making it hard to ignore!

  12. Julie S. says:

    Pretty sure I could have written this exact post. Add in a few snow days and NOWHERE to go to keep the kids occupied, and you would have it. “Perfect” or “good enough” have different meanings for everyone. To each their own. At the end of the day, shaming other moms isn’t helping. Well said!

    • bebehblog says:

      I’ve gotten pretty good at not taking stuff personally, but when one of those posts goes viral and it feels like everyone I know is saying “This is so true!” it’s hard not to think “Oh man, I’m the worst.”

  13. I would go so far as to say that imperfection is really important. Isn’t it more valuable to teach our kids how to have a bad day and try again tomorrow, or how to apologise humbly if we’ve been unkind in a weak moment, than to never show them our vulnerability? I think you’re doing a bang up job.

    • bebehblog says:

      Thank you Sarah. I think that’s an excellent point. My kids know all about apologies – both from me and from them – and that is an important skill.

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