When I found out I was pregnant for the first time fifteen years ago, I stayed awake that night asking myself this question, "Do I know how to be a good mom?" And then three weeks later, I laid on a cold, sterile table as my doctor searched in vain for the heartbeat of a baby who had briefly been there and was now gone. Tears rolled down my face as I walked out of the office that day, grieving for a baby that was suddenly a memory instead of a reality. I was devastated, hurt, and heartbroken, but what I didn't know that day was I had just walked to the threshold of the door to what it means to be a good mom because good moms love so deeply that our hearts are never the same.
A little less than two years later, I held my baby girl in my arms. The hospital staff just let us load her into our car, only checking to make sure we had a properly installed car seat, and we took her home. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had skimmed enough parenting books and surely they would help me be a good mom as I figured out feeding schedules and how to cut teeny tiny, razor sharp baby fingernails and oh my gosh what do I do with this umbilical stump?
Now that I'm thirteen years down this motherhood road, I've realized that being a good mom doesn't mean being a perfect mom. A perfect mom puts sand in a plastic box so her toddler can have a meaningful sensory experience and doesn't care about the mess. A perfect mom plays board games for hours on end and makes hot chocolate bars with candy cane stir sticks and makes sure the milk is organic and the chicken nuggets are made only from chickens who were allowed to roam free in sunlit barns. She never loses her patience, never checks her text messages while her child is around, and is the president of the parent/teacher association while managing a Fortune 500 company before returning home to prepare a delicious, nutritious meal for her family.
In short, the perfect mom doesn't exist. And if she did, we would all hate her.
The perfect mom is a unicorn, mythical at best. But a good mom is the velveteen rabbit, a little worn from use. And while I'm not confident in a lot of areas of my life, I'm confident I'm a good mom because what ultimately makes a good mom is the part that requires showing up. I've held back hair as she's thrown up over the toilet and, I regret to say, all over me. I've wiped her bottom and her feverish forehead. I've stayed in the school parking lot long after she's walked through the school doors, praying and hoping that today would be a better day. I've sat in the rain and the cold and heat that rivals the surface of the sun to watch her play soccer. I've cried when she's overwhelmed by joy and I've cried when disappointments have her down. I've yelled too much, lost my patience, and seen how many mornings I can get by with Frosted Flakes for breakfast. I've driven more carpools than I can count, attended Taylor Swift concerts, and spent many weekend nights with my house full of tween girls with high pitched squeals who think cleaning up after themselves means putting half empty soda cans under the bed. I've looked at my phone too often, set the clock ahead an hour so I could tell her it was time for bed, and pretended to have an upset stomach just so I could have a few minutes alone in the bathroom.
But I have no doubt that she knows she is deeply loved because I have faithfully shown up for the job for the last fourteen years. It hasn't been perfect, it hasn't always been pretty, and nobody is likely to turn our story into an award-winning movie. Being a good mom doesn't really make the highlight reel because there is very little glamour in packing another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. It's just about being faithful with what has been entrusted to you for such a short time that I could sob thinking about it. It's loving hard, laughing loud, crying when you are at your breaking point, hugging them tight, and having a good bakery on speed dial because there isn't any way you are going to be able to make a birthday cake like the ones the mythical perfect moms post on Pinterest. It's messy, loud, beautiful, mundane, exhilarating and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
And I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.