I have been a writer my entire life, a writing teacher for 16 years, and am fluent in sarcasm. You might say that I have a way with words. I’ve only been a mom for 10 years, and I often forget that sarcasm and hyperbole aren’t the best way to parent. If you do that one more time I’m going to rip you to shreds and then send you to your room with a glue stick to put yourself back together. Witty? Absolutely. Appropriate? Um… not so much.
It’s really hard to be a good mom. First of all there are 3 of them, and they can do some really annoying things. My 5 year old is suddenly into baby talk. It literally makes my brain explode. My 10 year old is quickly approaching 16, and her attempts at sighs and intense emotions are not sitting well with me. Who is moved to tears by losing a round of the board game Trouble? My 3 year old is just starting to experiment with her use of no; and will argue to death on something she is dead wrong about. Secondly, momming is one of a billion verbs used to describe what I do; and it’s truly difficult to be on my A game all of the time in every area of my life. What are they trying to do to me? Are they all against me? What in the actual heck???
My biggest struggle, apart from my snark and completely inappropriate statements (which thankfully my kids know how to translate into modern English) is my tendency to yell. It’s also my second least favorite thing about myself. How I can go from mildly irritated to completely irate is beyond me; and I hate feeling like I’m losing control. One of the things that I’m constantly trying to reduce is this impulse. One method to cope is to breath deeply and give myself a timeout. In the wise words of Daniel Tiger and co, When you’re feeling mad, and you want to roar, take a deep breath… and count to 4. This is not always possible, but it’s something I try to do. Ultimately, sometimes it is me who needs a timeout. This might mean I have to sprint to the bathroom and lock myself in before one of them can catch me; but it’s worth it to separate myself and deal with the irritation once I’ve calmed down. I’m sure there are outside triggers in life that increase the tendency to do this, but I haven’t quite figured them out. I just know that when I lose my cool, I really feel like a loser.
My second major mom fail is not cooking enough. When my hubby doesn’t take the reins, I rely to heavily on pre-made meals, which I know are full of preservatives, and going to “healthy” drive-thrus, like El Pollo Loco or Del Taco. Lol. Yes, I know Del Taco isn’t healthy, but I feel better about bean and rice burritos than I do about drive-thru burgers or chili dogs. (Though I admit we do get those from time to time.) If you keep up with me on instagram or past blogs, you will know that one of my goals is to take control of my kitchen. There has to be more than chili, soup, spaghetti, tacos, tostadas and enchildadas. Surely I can pull off the beef stroganoff more than once, or follow through with that chicken curry dish I pinned years ago. Each time I pass a bag of nuggets to the back seat I feel more and more like a bad mom. Just why do they want to eat dinner every night?
My final #momfail is exhibiting ridiculous behavior that I would never accept from them. These outbursts are completely embarrassing, and something I carry a lot of shame about. Last week, when angry with my son during homework time, I actually roared and threw his backpack across the room. Really Amber??? Luckily these bouts are few and far between, but the fact that they exist at all is not ok with me. I’m not to proud to admit when I’m wrong, and my son graciously extended his forgiveness to me; but I despise that I even create these situations for us to navigate. We often have to go to Los Angeles after school, and the traffic is no joke, especially when we have to go to Santa Monica and come home via the 10 East. About a year ago I was really struggling to control my anger in traffic. As we approached the on ramp for the freeway I began to pray aloud for patience. Within seconds I was being cut off by someone who was obviously far more important than I, and I expressed my frustrations as I do best, by yelling something absurd. Well that didn’t last too long, said Jordan. That gave us a good laugh, and another opportunity for me to apologize about calling someone a butt-muncher.
So how do we fix these problems? One, we face them. When we make a mistake, we apologize to all parties offended. We pray about them. We make a physical plan to do things that need to be done, like meal-prepping. We set up accountability systems with someone we trust in order to manage and reduce our behaviors. My friend Bridget and I have committed to texting each other immediately when doing something that disappoints ourselves. You know how I know that I can control myself? Because I would never throw one of my students’ backpacks across the room. Certainly my own children deserve the same calm woman that my students get every day. In fact, I have had multiple teenagers compliment me on my ability to remain calm even when I am frustrated (ha!). How disappointing that my own babies don’t always get the best of me. I know that when I am being “watched” I can keep myself in check.
Luckily, for myself and all the other mamas in this boat, what I excel in with these kiddos is love. There is not an hour that goes by that I am not making physical contact with them, via hugs, kisses and snuggles. They receive compliments and praise galore. We spend time together. We have deep conversations. We tell jokes. I nurture traditions. I say yes when I can. I build up their potential. I keep negative self-talk to myself (and the internet, ha!). We have great relationships, founded in deep love, despite all of my short-comings.
Moms need one another. We come to each other with our life woes, including many mom failures. But we comfort each other too. We remind ourselves that our kids are resilient. Our kids forgive us our shortcomings, and truthfully, they are often blinded to them. Ultimately we are harder on ourselves than they ever would be. Mom friends, like Bridget and I, remind each other that even when we’ve lost our temper, served ramen for dinner out of measuring cups, or snapped a crayon in half while making crazy eye contact in a warning that they better get it together or else; that we are doing a pretty good job most of the time. One of my favorite authors says that she knows she is getting it 75%-85% right, and that is good enough for her. I’m on board with this sentiment. Each day I will try again to be the best mom that I can be. Sometimes I will rock, and sometimes I will suck, and on those days I will apologize and resolve to try again. Because they are the best thing I’ve got going on; and I will always try to be the best thing they have too.