God writes our story.
I am still learning to surrender the pen.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

There is No Reward for 'The Most Exhausted Mom'

How did your mom send you off to school?

My mom, the greatest mom I know, sent me off to school in my sister's hand-me-downs and $1.25 in quarters for lunch. I reused backpacks until they fell apart, she made or borrowed my Halloween costumes, and I wore a key on a chain around my neck when I was allowed to stay home by myself (in the 5th grade). When I ate lunch I ate white bread and Oscar Meyer. I came home when the streetlights came on. As a baby I was bathed in Johnson & Johnson. If my parents had errands to do, you bet I was along with them, and they weren't bothered by keeping me entertained. I dealt with it. I was a kid and I could use my imagination or whatever I wanted as long as I kept quiet. 

Almost none of these things are socially acceptable now in the mom circles. We are judged on if our children's crackers are in the fish or the bunny form (you are totally in the mom world if you know the difference there...). There are moms who perfect the art of making child-like bento boxes for lunch. Tediously placing their lunch together like it is art to make a dinosaur or beach scene. We load ourselves down with diaper bags full of toys and iPads and snacks, and secretly sweat the tantrum our child may throw in public.

Being a mom has always been a tough and thankless job, but it has reached an all new level of possible-nervous-breakdowness in this generation. Mom shamming via social media is real, and it is ruthless. I have been to mommy groups who have made me feel more ostracized than the cruelest day of high school ever has. So what do we do? We do our best to dazzle! We Pinterest. We one-up. We send little Jonny home with a sleepover favor that will make his mom KNOW that we are the best slumber party hostess in the whole city. Maybe the saddest part about this is sometimes we don't even mean to. We want to make our kids happy; we are kid-centered in our lives. So and Susie tells our child that her mommy hand makes her dolls from unicorn hair, gosh darn it OUR KID NEEDS THAT TOO. When we hear that Lucinda from the PTA does the magical elf that creates messes (because we need more messes) for our children each of the 25 days of Christmas (WHEN did Christmas become 25DAYS?!), we want to be super mommy for our children too.

The truth is, I am a terrible critic of myself. I feel like I have failed when my child isn't in GAP clothing and looking like a tiny adult model like the other kids in his class. "That poor child's mother", the other moms will say, "Is that polyester? Tsk tsk tsk." So I drop him off in class looking like a zombie myself because I have zero time for myself because I'm reading the ingredients on the hair gel to make sure it's child friendly so I can style his hair like it will last more than the .2 seconds it takes to walk to the car.

I am tired.

However, there is good news! There is NO reward for the most exhausted mom. Yep, you read that right. While you may sit and have a puzzled look on your face right now, let me explain:

Let's take a break guys. Instead of wearing our kid-pleasing-homemade-treat-non-GMO badges with pride, let's go out for a girl's night- with drinks! We aren't getting any rewards or recognition when we exhaust ourselves the way we do, what we are getting is kind of tiny brats. There. I said it. I love my children; I don't want to make them brats! They need to learn that no means no, and that the world actually does not revolve around them. Hard work and patience and delayed gratification need to return into our vocabularies when it comes to our children. I digress. Mommies, what I am saying is we cannot pour from an empty cup. We over over-friend and way beyond tense. I know I actually miss precious little stories and moments with my son when I am trying to make our lives appear Instagram perfect. The messes made, and the moments of surrender to seizing the day, are where memories are made. I had grey carpet in my room as a child and boy was it stained, but each stain held a story. A story of playing with cheap makeup, or popcorn butter and movies, or the pet I had to have.

There is not some judge that will walk up to the mom who has been awake for the most hours or the mom who has spent the most money on her child. Those moms are great moms! But I know I am a greater mom when I take care of myself, even just a bit. Whether that's going out with my girlfriends every Thursday night, or pushing off doing the dishes to take a nap with my son, or having a date night with my husband. Sometimes when those overachieving moms hear that I do these things to protect my sanity they throw out there, "Oh I could never do that. I haven't left Calvin for more than a few hours in the 60 months he's been in my life!" or "Oh I just wish my husband and I could abandon our children for a night away, but we just love them so!" (Okay, maybe the comments aren't that bad... but I promise you sometimes they comments I receive are just as condescending). Stop that. Just stop it moms! Recharge yourself and come back home swinging and ready to knock out some moment-seizing! Not for your Facebook wall, but for your child's childhood. It is true, you cannot truly take care of another if you are running on empty yourself. And moms, there is a big difference between a girl's dinner out and leaving your child to be raised by the nanny. You deserve a night! Put yourself first every once in a while, even if that means starting small and just spending 45 minutes in the bathroom uninterrupted. Go out for a date night! One of the best things you can do for your children is to show them a shining example of a healthy marriage. (But more on that another time...)

There is no reward for being The Most Exhausted Mom. So don't be! Be a Great Mom who loves her children, but also one who loves herself enough to take that step (no matter how small it is) to treat (and love) herself.

Start now.

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