I don’t know where the inner mom critic comes from. But here she is. Following me around on my hard days, pointing out what I did wrong.
Mom guilt is real.
Today was a hard day. For no particular reason. Sometimes those are the hardest. There isn’t a big upset or trauma to blame. Just lots of little things.
I was late getting the kids out the door for school. And in my rush, I forgot to put my daughter lunch in her backpack.
I also forgot my sons folder, and his wolf cub stuffie he got to bring home for helping a friend log into a reading program.
I didn’t get the four year old dressed because of said lateness, and let her walk to the bus stop in socks, a t shirt and a pull-up, to the dubious looks of my neighbors.
I didn’t make the pies I promised to make. Again.
I didn’t make it to the grocery store while the kids were at school, which meant towing the whole brood along with me after school. Something I know my oldest hates.
When I finally got to making the pies, I was just too tired. So I made pumpkin muffins instead.
Because truthfully, money is tight and I know two dozen muffins will get us to Friday’s pay check much easier than pies.
I was short tempered at dinner and bedtime and everyone got to bed late.
A litany of my perceived failures.
My inner critic is a cruel mistress.
But side by side, parallel to my critics version of events, another day happened too.
I took pictures of my oldest pretending to be a cheetah for spirit day. We forgot the lunch because we were so excited.
I stayed outside with the for year old because she wanted to wait for Daddy to come home from work. He gets in right after the school bus leaves. We collected rocks and watched the hot air balloons that dot the Arizona skies in the fall. It was 99 degrees. Who needs pants?
I didn’t make it to the grocery store, but I worked on my writing. Something I promised myself, and others I would commit too after a hard summer. That means other things sometimes get forgotten.
When I picked the kids up from school, my daughter told me about missing her lunch. She thought she had brought it and misplaced it. She told me how her friends helped, and the cafeteria gave her hot lunch. She was able to tell me she felt scared and worried. She named feelings and communicated her fear. That enabled her to come home happy and strong. It didn’t derail her day, even if it felt like it might derail mine. She is learning, and I’m so proud. A few weeks ago, before our gratitude and feelings journaling, this would have ended in an hour long tantrum and panic attack.
My Son was excited he got to keep the wolf cub stuffie one more night. And couldn’t care less about his folder. He is my little practical optimist.
And those pies? Well my kids were just as happy to help make pumpkin muffins and lick batter. My oldest made flowers out of the left over cup liners. And we all had a few too many pumpkin muffins for desert. They are excited they get to eat muffins for lunches and breakfast and snack the next three days.
Bedtimes took forever, but that’s because I sat down in the middle of the floor at 7pm to play a game of sorry, because my little man is struggling a little this week, missing his family, and board games are his favorite way to reconnect.
And my oldest, she wanted some special mommy time too, so we laid in her bed and she told me all about the Grand Canyon and the trip we are planning this weekend. She wants to be a geologist, and this unit at school has stoked that fire even more. She also told me about her day, her math quiz, her friends, her problems. She shared with me about her increasingly independent life.
And the four year old who I fought with all day, and refused pants, well, she is snuggling with me in my bed while I help nurse the dreaded back to school stuffy nose that likely the culprit of the cranky.
I often focus so much in my failures, I forget to see all the good I did and the fun we had.
But my kids? I don’t think they care if I made them protein packed gluten free muffins, or gourmet pumpkin pies, they were just happy to help. My son doesn’t care if our whole schedule is running an hour behind, he just wanted to play a game with Mommy.
And my daughter, she had a hard day at school. She faced a scary situation for an eight year old with anxiety. And she crushed it. She showed grace and kindness and bravery under pressure. She spoke up, she got lunch, and discovered she had some control over her environment. She wasn’t at all mad. She laughed first, when her Dad found the missing lunch box by the front door. She treated it as an opportunity. She taught me something. She let me off the hook.
And that’s all our days are. Opportunities to love and give and spread kindness. Even to ourselves.
Especially to ourselves.
To let ourselves off the hook.
So tomorrow? My inner critic can shut it. Because for every failure she points out, I know there is a different way I am succeeding, or a new opportunity I’m meeting.
And it’s my deepest hope, that you can find your successes too, buried beneath the mom guilt.
When you choose a soft word over a harsh one. Or maybe no word at all.
When you took another step even though you wanted to stop going.
When you smiled through your tears.
When you were brave and told someone how you felt.
When you sat with your kids on the messy floor, and noticed their faces instead of the dust bunnies and dirt.
When you put yourself first for once and did the thing that filled your soul, so you could continue to pour into others.
Because we all have a to do list a million miles long. But the checks you mark aren’t what make you a success. And the ones you don’t get to don’t make you a failure.
Success is showing up for your family and for yourself day after day, and doing the hard things.
And I’m proud of you. This life isn’t easy. But your critic is wrong. You aren’t failing. You aren’t doing it wrong.
You are just the Mama your family needs.
God made you and those kiddos like a puzzle piece.
So you keep loving them the best way you know how.
And tell your inner critic where she can go.