The other day I was telling a friend about some parenting challenges I was facing and how overwhelmed and inadequate I felt about mothering one of my kids. He said, “You know, I realized the other day that there is absolutely no way I won’t screw up my kids to some degree. It’s just going to happen. My parents are fantastic and I still have issues because of their parenting choices. My kids will have issues because of me no matter how hard I try or how well I parent.”
You might think I’d feel defeated by his insight, but I felt so relieved. We’re ALL screwing up our kids! No reason to be paralyzed with fear over each and every one of my parenting choices. I will inevitably fail to raise offspring with no issues or baggage because of my parenting.
Do you know even one person who can say that they don’t have any issues from how they were raised–no matter how exemplary their parents were? We’ve all been a little screwed up by our parents, not because they were bad parents but because they’re people.
So that’s one less thing to be anxious about before falling asleep at night. I’m not perfect and while doing my best, I’m still a messy and flawed person. So is everyone is my family. And my kids will have issues because of me.
Here’s hoping some of those issues will actually make them thriving adults. “My mom was so disorganized and I’m simply scarred by it, so I have to make my bed every morning and keep an immaculate fridge as my REBELLION against the unmade beds, socks without matches, and messy shelves of my childhood. It’s the secret to my success!” Wishful thinking, for sure, but one can dream.
But I’m not sure what benefits my impatience and selfishness could possibly have on my children. I know I’m not doing it all right, no matter how much I want to. And that to some degree, my kids will suffer for it. But there’s something liberating at acknowledging my defeat. Instead of failing at being a perfect mother I can aspire to be a damn good one.
Will my children remember me as a mother who loved them and tried her best to raise them well? Will they remember being important and valued? Will they remember feeling safe in our home? Will they remember me as a woman who struggled to be the mother she wanted to be and refused to give up even though she knew she’d never achieve it? That’s what I’m going to shoot for.
Instead of trying not to screw up my kids, I’m going to get up after falling down and start again each day. Maybe trying for a little more patience, a little less yelling, a little cleaner bathtub, a little less iPhone, and a deep breath when I remember that my motherhood won’t be perfect, but it can still be damn good.