The other day I was watching old episodes of Criminal Minds and one of the characters, Spencer Reid, noted that he had just turned 27 and had doctorates in Mathematics, Engineering, and Chemistry along with BAs in Psychology and Sociology as well as worked for the FBI saving lives as a member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit. I just turned 27 in March and haven’t done any of those things. A feeling of failure washed over me, a feeling I feel every year around this time.
Every since I graduated from college, birthdays have always brought me down. They are a yearly reminder of all the things I thought I would do with my life. All the things I failed to accomplish. In high school I was so sure I’d be ‘someone’. I planned to have my first book written by 22, be a successful lawyer slash doctor slash dancer slash actor slash whatever else I was interested in at 16. But I haven’t done any of those things.
But this year was the first year that the feeling of failure didn’t last long. I realized that I am someone. I may not be famous and I may not have done all the things my 16 year old self imagined, but I have become someone I’m really happy with. I’m Mom and Wife, two of the most important titles I could have. I’m Teacher and have had the opportunity to help some of the most amazing students. This year I realized I needed to change my definition of accomplished.
How do you define accomplished?
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
― Winston Churchill
I’m going to be very honest here: Since I’ve had kids, I feel like a failure almost every day of my life. I always wanted to be THAT mother. You know the one. Perfectly put together every day with kids who are always clean and look like they just stepped out of a Gymboree catalog. I wanted to be the mom who easily juggles working outside the home and still manages to bake and have gourmet dinners ready by the time her husband gets home. Instead I’m a mom who was excited this morning that I was able to shower before noon and I had clean yoga pants to wear. Many days, my kids spend most of their time in their pajamas or in whatever I can grab before my daughter tries to roll off the changing table. My house looks like a toy store exploded and even though I’m not working now, I barely have the energy at the end of the day to spell gourmet let alone cook it. Last night, we had Pastaroni.
Everyday I feel like I’m failing because I am not living up to these ideals. Everyday I try harder and harder and get more frustrated because my kids deserve to have the best mom possible. I want to be the prefect mom because they DESERVE perfection.
But then I begin to consider the detriment of having a ’perfect’ mom on my kids, Elliot and Oliver. Growing up, I always struggled with being a perfectionist. I felt a lot of self-created pressure to do things well and if I wasn’t what I deemed ‘good enough’, I quit. I couldn’t handle being seen as not good enough. I don’t play an instrument and I never played sports because those were things that I wasn’t strong at immediately. I don’t want my kids to feel that pressure. I want them to understand that it’s ok to make mistakes and that as long as you try your best, then that is good enough. I think that having a mom who isn’t perfect, who makes mistakes, and who just keeps striving to be better, could actually be the perfect example for them. But then the thing I struggle with is how do I stop feeling guilty? How do I become ok with not being everything that they deserve, but being the mother they need?
As a parent, what do you feel guilty about? How do you deal with it?
Friday is February 1st. While for many, this day is just like any other, meaningless in itself, for me it holds two very conflicting significances. For one, it would have been the due date for my son, Oliver, had he not had to come into this world early (more on that another time). So on this date I feel led to celebrate that I now have a beautiful, healthy, growing, breastfeeding, cloth diaper wearing little boy who has been the perfect addition to my family. But this date holds a darker significance for me as well, which makes it challenging to release myself to celebrate the way I feel I should. February 1 marks the anniversary of one of the darkest days of my life: the loss of my first child.