A few years ago, I had a conversation with a neighbor who told me that she cooked from Martha Stewart Living and Cooking Light every night and never repeated a recipe. Ever. I was flabbergasted. Until then, I was proud of my dinners, which were on a two-week rotation of five to seven repeated recipes.
Today, I am happy to get pasta, chicken nuggets or quesadillas on the table. I’ve really won Mom of the Year if I manage tacos on a Tuesday. I am mom to three boys, ages 14, 12 and 9. Our oldest son, Ben, was born with special needs and requires extra care and help with all daily skills. My husband, Ryan, and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this summer – and most days, we are just trying to survive parenthood.
Before children, I was an assistant dean of students at Queens University of Charlotte. Kids changed my ability to do it all, so I was a SAHM (aka a stay-at-home mom) for many years. Three years ago, I began freelance writing for local sites and magazines, and I’ve built my business to 10-12 regional and national clients.
Although I recognize I have a lot to juggle, I still find myself comparing myself to others. This is what I call unreasonable mommy benchmarking — comparing ourselves to other moms, wishing we could do what they do with the same 24 hours. We make assumptions about others’ super-heroism and unfairly claim our own deficiencies.
For many the new year is a time to start something new or stop something old. Before you settle on your resolutions as a parent, don’t dismiss your own superhuman feats. Think about how the following may apply to your daily interactions and assumptions:
Those rose-colored glasses are foggy
What we see on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram is not usually the whole story: Before that adorable baby took the photo, he was screaming bloody murder. Right after the couple posted the photo of them hang gliding in Hawaii, they got into a huge fight. We don’t report the bad stuff.
When I write about our home life, I don’t share every detail. I have the messy house, thrown-together dinners, wrinkled laundry on the couch, badly behaved children, arguments with the husband, miscommunications on Facebook, poop (everywhere) — and many more life-happens moments.
The details in between all of that are what I write about.
I don’t mean to give the impression that our life is perfect or that we don’t have problems. I’ve come to realize that most people share their best moments – and who wants to see poop everywhere?
“Should”-ing on ourselves
Much of the time, we use everyone else as a benchmark to determine how well we are doing at the job of parenting. We see or read about what others are doing with their children and immediately think, “I should be doing that too,” or “Oh no, my child should have that!”
Our kids are not joiners – they don’t want to be on a soccer team or in a school club. They definitely don’t want to sing in a choir or play an instrument. Other kids are taking violin lessons, riding horses and starring in theater productions.
I feel the “should-ing” creep into my psyche – should we push our kids to do more? Are we lazy parents if it feels great not having to be on a soccer field all day on a Saturday?
In moments of clarity, I realize my husband and I are not joiners – so why expect anything different from our sons?
It’s okay to strive to do new things; but even better to look at the reason why it’s important. Does it fit for your child? Family? Lifestyle? Values? Budget? Unnecessary pressure from outside sources can cause feelings of inadequacy, creating a panic to do the same as everyone else.
Stop beating yourself up
We often hear from someone, “I won’t judge you,” or “No judgment here.” We are careful not to judge others for serving chicken nuggets two nights in a row or letting their child forego a night of brushing their teeth, but when it comes to ourselves, we judge away, never giving ourselves the break we often deserve. Giving ourselves the same courtesy we may give a friend or even a stranger seems only fair.
Make peace with your weaknesses
Thank goodness we were all born with different abilities. We each bring something to the Table of Life and can share that talent with our family and friends. Treasuring our strengths and using them to the best of our ability is what makes us productive members of society.
We use the euphemism “area of improvement” to make us all feel better, but let’s face it, we all have weaknesses. Even Superman feared Kryptonite. We can choose to make ourselves better or accept that we cannot be great at everything.
My sister has a lot of patience teaching her children to cook and bake. When my kids talk about their aunt, they always speak of the great cakes and pies she has whipped up. When I cook, I want my kids as far away from the kitchen as possible — it is my time to relax and focus.
I have been known to tell them “no” when they have asked to help. Terrible mom — right? I have learned to accept that teaching my children to cook will probably not be an area in which I excel. Luckily, Ryan has more patience in the kitchen and will involve the boys in cooking.
It’s all smoke and mirrors
When I asked the neighbor who made a new recipe every night if she still did that, she regretfully shook her head no. Life had gotten hectic, and she had moved on to Trader Joe’s frozen meals.
No judgment here, I have been serving Trader Joe’s for years.
Happy New Year!