One day, as I walked to pick up my son from school, the mommy guilt piled on. We had been dealing with some big challenges as a family, and I had not been as attentive or present as I would have liked. I thought to myself, “I just wish I could be like those amazing moms in my circle of friends. They have it all together. There is the mom who is training for a marathon, the mom who embodies patience, another who creates fun craft projects for her children and still another who serves her family so effortlessly.”
I was sure my family was getting less because I wasn’t doing all of the things those other moms were doing. All that my family got were my shortcomings and imperfections.
When I got to the school, I saw my son at the gate. I walked over to him and gave him a big hug. As we headed home in the beautiful sunshine, I carried his backpack and asked about his day. We laughed and held hands, but the experience was a bit overshadowed by my feelings of imperfection.
After lunch, he ran off to play and I sat at the dining room table a few minutes more. A long list of mothering to-dos came to my mind. Maybe I should be doing this thing more or that thing more — things I had seen other moms do, things I’d seen on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Surely I should be able to do it all, right? That is what my children want.
My son called out from the living room, “Mom, how do you spell 'love'?" I spelled it for him, not really paying attention. A few moments later, I felt a small tap on my shoulder. As I turned around, I saw my sweet boy holding up a dry erase board. On it he had written in his best handwriting a message: “I love my mom.”
The moment stopped me in my tracks. Here I had been stressing all morning about how I was lacking as a mother and making a list of all the ways I was not living up to my idea of the perfect mom. With tears in my eyes, I gave him a hug and told him how impressed I was with his writing and how much I loved it. Then, realizing he could have written a million different things, I asked, “Why did you choose to write this?” His response was like a message from heaven and spoke to my core. He said, “Because I want you to be happy.”
In that moment, with his sweet 5-year-old face beaming, holding his sign proudly, he was sending me a message, and I heard it loud and clear. It finally hit me after all these months of feeling "less than" that I have been the perfect mom for my children all along.
I am far from a perfect person and am continually working on ways to be a better mom. However, my definition of a perfect mom had been skewed. I had thought the previous months had been filled with imperfections, but my children had seen the situation quite differently. They didn’t remember the day I stayed in my pajamas as a lazy day but rather as the fun day we stayed home and played together. They didn’t look at my dinner of cheese sandwiches and grapes and see a fail but rather a dinner of their favorite foods.
When we gather together at the end of the day, put our hands in a pile and say our family cheer (“Families are forever! Jenkins choose the right!”), they don’t see a mom who is exhausted and worn from a long day. They see a mom who puts them first, who prioritizes her schedule so she is home for them. They see a mom who has worked hard for them all day and who is still giving when she feels like there isn’t much left in the tank.
The next time I’m feeling "less than" as a mother, I know I don’t have to look to other mothers, Pinterest, books or blogs to find meaning or worth. I simply have to look at my beautiful family. When I see their love for me, it helps me realize I am more than enough.