Dear Fellow Mom, You’re Doing A Great Job. Seriously!

By Nina Restieri

When a woman becomes her own best friend, life is easier. —Diane von Furstenberg 

“I’m a shitty mom.”

I texted those words to a friend after a particularly grueling afternoon of parenting, in which I’d driven all over town to drop off and pick up my kids at various after-school activities, yelled at them more than once for being loud in the car, and basically lost my patience repeatedly. I felt so bad that my kids were stuck with me for a mom. I literally felt sorry for my children. Anyone, it seemed, would be better at the job than me. 

I sat down in my therapist’s office one afternoon later that week and relayed my struggles to her. I was stuck in the dark hole of my own circular, negative thoughts. 

“I suck at parenting,” I told her. “I’m literally the worst mom.” 

Sherry observed my meltdown from her semi-reclined position in her cream-colored, ergonomically designed chair. Her slim, manicured fingers rested on a yellow pad of paper, where I noticed she wasn’t writing anything down, for once. She simply sat there, listening to my laundry list of failure and shame. 

“I forgot to pack Andrew’s lunch yesterday. What kind of crappy mom forgets to pack her kid’s lunch? Thank goodness the lunch ladies are so sweet; they gave him a school lunch for free. And I almost missed Jenna’s international festival. There were probably thirty emails about it and somehow I still managed to forget about it, and I showed up at the very end. Matthew is being totally whiny because he wants more attention, and Jamie. Well, Jamie’s so sweet I just want to cry.” 

Then I started crying on Sherry’s couch, because Jamie’s so sweet and Matthew just wants to hang out with me and Andrew and Jenna are such great kids, and I just love them all so much and want to give them the best childhood I can, but somehow I feel like I can’t get it right. No matter how much I want to get it right, I keep getting it wrong. 

These kids are innocent and beautiful, and they have everything going for them. I want to be pushing the baby stroller with the deliriously happy baby inside, smiling and cooing and making those sweet little baby sounds. I want my kid to enter the car seat willingly, without staging an all-out war. I want to be the mom who doesn’t need to use television as a babysitter. I want to be good at this. I want to be better at it than I am. I want to be perfect at it. I want to be as perfect a mom as I can be, because my kids are the most perfect and beautiful little humans I’ve ever seen, and they deserve a mom who’s perfect. And instead they’re stuck with me. 

Sherry continued watching, not taking notes. Finally, she spoke up. 

“You know, Nina,” she said, “you’re allowed to be happy, even if you’re not perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom. Let’s start there.” 

Sherry and I were clearly coming at the issue from completely different points of view. She thought I could abandon the idea of perfection and instead shoot for “good enough.” I knew that good enough is not what I was raised to be. I was raised to be an overachiever, a massive success. How could I lower my standards in the most important area of my life? 

Nina Restieri, founder of MomAgenda

Shooting for perfection doesn’t serve us because perfection is not possible when it comes to motherhood. The job is simply too messy, too unpredictable, and too enormous. Letting go of perfection allows us to exhale and let good enough be sufficient. It allows us to dwell in that middle place, somewhere in between feeling like a failure and feeling like we’re perfect, where we know we’re doing our best and we know our kids are thriving despite our inevitable missteps. 

We’re all doing our best with the information and experience we have right now. The most important thing we can do is to give our kids a really good childhood, one with predominantly positive memories, one in which your child feels loved and cherished every day. 

Thinking you’re a crappy mother doesn’t make you a better mom. In fact, the opposite is true. When you’re hard on yourself and thinking negative thoughts about yourself, you’re more apt to be short-tempered, impatient, and just generally unpleasant. So if you want to be the best mom you can be, stop being hard on yourself and start to accept and approve of yourself. 

When we learn to accept our best efforts, to love ourselves and approve of ourselves, we can experience more joy and happiness in our lives. The good news is, accepting and approving of ourselves is simply a matter of changing our thoughts. And thoughts are surprisingly easy to change, once you decide. 

Follow these steps next time you start beating yourself up and thinking you’re not good enough: 

1. Notice the thoughts as they come. 

This first step is probably the most challenging, because it requires you to be aware of your own thought patterns, rather than simply allowing your thoughts to flow naturally, as you’re probably accustomed to doing. As soon as you start to think negative thoughts about yourself, notice yourself doing so. Catch yourself in the act. That way you can do something about it. 

2. Separate yourself from the thoughts. 

Realize that your thoughts are not you. You are the one observing the thoughts. The thoughts come from the fear center of your brain, a place that wants to be negative. Your true inner voice—your intuition—is much kinder and gentler than the thought stream running through your head. So make a decision not to attach to the thoughts—simply observe them and let them pass. 

3. Remind yourself of what’s true. 

Replace the negative thought with a more positive, and truthful, one. For example, if your thoughts are saying you’re the worst mom ever because you missed your kid’s poetry reading at school, let that thought go and remind yourself that you’re a great mom, you’re doing your best, and there is no single person alive who doesn’t make mistakes or mess up sometimes…and that maybe you need to write yourself a little note in your planner to remind yourself next time. If you’re having trouble coming up with a positive statement, think of what you’d say to your best friend or your daughter if she were in the same situation. 

Once you start to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll be shocked at how much lighter you feel. By observing and changing your thoughts, you empower yourself to move forward with a more positive mindset and to intelligently approach solving your parenting challenges. 

Today’s To-Dos: You’re Doing Great 

To-Do #1 

Practice approving of yourself. Take time at the end of each day to write down five things you did or said that you’re proud of. 

Use this format or something similar that works for you: 

1. Today I: ___________________________________________________________ and it was the right thing to do. 

2. Today I: ___________________________________________________________ and it was the right thing to do. 

3. Today I: ___________________________________________________________ and it was the right thing to do. 

4. Today I: ___________________________________________________________ and it was the right thing to do. 

5. Today I: ___________________________________________________________ and it was the right thing to do. 

To-Do #2 

You have so many amazing attributes that other people can see, but I bet you don’t spend much time celebrating those attributes. List five things you love about your appearance: 

List five things you love about your body: 

List five things you love about your personality: 

Now, list ten reasons your kids are fortunate to have you as a mom: 

Now, every time you start to feel insecure, interrupt that thought and think about the things on this list. Feel how you’re succeeding as a person and as a mom. You’ve spent so much time beating yourself up…so spend a few minutes each day lifting yourself up and celebrating your successes and victories. 

Adapted with permission from Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis: Ditch the Guilt, Put Yourself on the To-Do List, and Create a Life You Love by Nina Restieri. © 2021 by Nina Restieri. A Post Hill Press Book. 

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