Before you say it, I'll say it for you.
I'm not depressed. I take meds.
I've been to therapy. I know I have worth.
But, one of my biggest realizations is that I may never feel like a good mom.
I stay home. I cook good meals. I keep them clothed. I make eye contact and read stories. I say I love you every single day. I hug and kiss and say I'm sorry when I screw up.
I'm hyper aware of my mistakes.
But, I can't ever feel like I can be the opposite – hyper aware of the good things I do every day.
Yes, I can do it if I force myself to. I can list how I didn't yell today if I try really hard to go through my day and remember when I kept my cool when the six year old disobeyed, or the tween slammed her door in my face (again).
I can make a list of my strengths in a therapist's office and concede to them when a friend points them out.
But, I've realized I may never feel like a good mom.
I struggle with low self-esteem. Couple that with the tireless task of mothering and the impossible task of feeling like you always get it right, and well, it's a recipe for feeling like a failure every damn day.
My current fear is that my youngest is starting first grade and it's the first year they will all be in school all day long. I've waited for this moment, right? I should be jumping for joy and celebrating and being all nostalgic and crap.
Yet, I'm here and if I'm being honest, all I feel is pain and regret, and worry that my babies are gone and I didn't enjoy it enough. I wasted it away working, or staring at my phone, or doing laundry, or just saying no because I wasn't in the mood.
I worry that even today, I didn't spend the time with them that I could have. We were in the same house, for 12+ hours straight. No one yelled, I didn't lose my cool. I was patient with them. Yet, somehow. On a lazy Sunday, I still managed to feel like I failed.
I'm realizing I may never feel like a good mom.
My daughter said after dinner that she wanted to play a game as a family. Then they turned into the wild monkey like versions of themselves after they got a little calories into their bodies and they started acting like lunatics. Instead of sitting down to play a game, I sent them outside where they could run and scream and get the pent up energy of a day at church and in front of the TV out of their systems.
One could argue that I was a good mom for seeing that they needed exercise.
But, I would argue that I wasn't a good mom for having the patience to calm them down to play Uno.
I bake cookies, and say yes to snow cones. I occasionally forgo the bedtime routine to do something out of the norm that they are begging to do. I do plenty of good things as a mom. But, I'm realizing I may never truly see it that way.
How does it feel to mother like you're never measuring up? It feels painful.
It feels like you're constantly trying. It feels like one day they'll leave and never look back. It looks like you're going to die and have lots and lots of regrets.
I have tried so hard to be the sorry not sorry mom. I succeed some days. But, it's a hard fight I have to fight every single day to feel good enough. In fact, as I was searching for a photo for this post, I scrolled through hundreds of pictures from this summer.
Camping. Going to parades. Selfies with my kids. Taking my kids on hikes and to summer camps. I saw pictures of impromptu lemonade stands and rainbows. I saw a trip to an amusement park and pictures of a simple moment at home. I saw trips to the pool and kids holding baby goats. I saw riding four wheelers and playdates with friends.
And that was just the past 2 months. I've been a mom for 12 years. Can you imagine all the good I've done? How long have you been a mother? Can you imagine what it would look like if you laid it all out in a camera roll? The beautiful moments? The ones where you got it just right?
I imagine it would look pretty amazing.
Mothering came easy to me in the sense that I have loved my kids with a vengeance since the moment I laid eyes on them. I've put my heart and soul into trying every single day to be the mother I always thought I'd be. I failed, some days - yes. But, I've succeeded a whole lot if I stop and picture it in its entirety.
But, the hardest part for me?
It's been learning to love myself. And realize it's OK if I'm not perfect. I am in fact a good mom.
I just have to work harder than most to see it.
This post originally appeared on Perfection Pending.
Meredith Ethington is a writer and a mom to three, trying to help her kids understand sarcasm and her need for personal space. Meredith's debut parenting book, Mom Life: Perfection Pending, provides an uplifting yet hilarious look at all that is expected of moms in the 21st century and is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Absolute Love Publishing. She proudly writes for many of her favorite parenting sites, including Scary Mommy, Babble, Momtastic, and on her own blog. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where she loves to laugh at herself and admit that while parenting is the best thing ever, it's also the hardest job on earth.