Is a present mom a perfect mom?
This post is inspired by some personal events in my life, so bear with me. I used to believe that the only way I could really and truly be a “good” mom was if I was physically present with my kids. The emotional and psychological connection to them was solid, but I wanted to be there with them so that they would know that I cared for them. It was my Achilles heel with work because as an aspiring psychologist for children and families, I needed to be away from my kids to help others. Isn’t that how it goes? Mom goes to work, kids stay with someone else. But no, not for me! I wanted to be the perfect stay-at-home-mom and the perfect working woman. Easy enough, right?
My schedule revolved around their schedule. Wow, was it tough coordinating clients’ availability and my kids’ preschool schedules, which for some years ended at different times (smack in the middle of the day)! The driving back and forth can be treacherous in lovely Miami traffic. Needless to say, I was stressed but I did not see any other way to live. I was so “in it.” My face was smacked against the windowpane and I could not see further than the scratches and dirt marks on the glass.
I was physically there. But what was I doing? I was fretting about the future… what’s for dinner? Do they have cute outfits? The latest child-friendly book on feelings and the BPA -free toys? And the work to-do list also dancing a ring-around-the-Rosie in my mind. My kids felt it. I was overwhelmed. I was putting everyone’s needs above my own. Trying to do right by everyone while I negated my being. Until I reached a breaking point, and everything just changed.
Needs vs Schedule
However, I realized that I was not taking my needs into consideration when I needed to work. It was automatic for me to think about my kids’ schedules before my own because I didn’t have “my own schedule,” at least not one that had nothing to do with them! I had to stop blaming the “lack of time.” I started talking about choices and taking the initiative. Obviously, I had to come to terms with the fact that there are only 24 hours in my day, just like everyone else’s. I didn’t have to squeeze out every second just to get more done. This meant spending less time physically with my kids and learning to be okay with it.
But then, something amazing happened. I moved away from the window and I realized that if I was so afraid of not being the perfect mother to my kids- I would not be worthy of this role raising them to become amazing individuals. I realized that I did not have the solid emotional and psychological connection thing I thought that I did because I was questioning it this whole time. I realized then that being physically present was more like being present to do the things that we needed to cross off the to-do list, but not necessarily connecting to my kids. I realized that I could let go of the guilt of not reading a book every night (there, I said it publicly!) or playing with them for endless hours (another confession) and that even then, we are very much so connected in a way that fosters their sense of belonging, stability, growth, and nurturance.
Now, my next challenge is this upcoming Mother’s Day. This will be the first time that I will ever be away from my children for an extended amount of time and without them on Mother’s Day. I don’t know how they will feel about it. I have already enlisted in the physical and emotional support of their grandmother and aunt to sub for me during Mother’s Day school events. The past me would have felt so guilty that this trip would not have happened. But, I am choosing to go and return to them with open arms. I am choosing to believe that this Mother’s Day is special because it is a national holiday and it commemorates all that we do for our kids, but I am also choosing to focus on me as a mom because that is perhaps the biggest way to commemorate myself.