Saturday, April 27, 2013

Being the Best Mom I Can Be on the Worst Days

I'm sure I'm not the only mom out there who has rolled out of bed thinking something along the lines of "I can't do this. There is no way I can make it through the day. I can't handle this mom thing today." That was me this morning. Last night I pulled my third almost-all-nighter in a row. Emerald has a cough/cold, and last night was the third night I laid next to her nursing her, holding her, rocking her, trying desperately to keep her asleep while she thrashed around sniffing and snorting and hacking her head off. Last night she woke up coughing then crying about every 15 minutes all night long. I dozed off a few times, but mostly I sat there propped up on a bean bag holding her, nursing her, rocking her while she coughed and cried. When she woke up for good at 8:00 (after not falling asleep until almost midnight last night) I knew I had already failed for the day. Before I even got out of bed (or got up off the floor, because we slept in the playroom last night to keep Mercedes from hearing all the coughing) the thought "I can't be a good mom today" ran through my head about 15 times.

My dad passed away recently. The week in between when he passed and funeral, I was grieving at home alone with my two girls and it was hard. At the funeral, I admitted to a friend that "I was not a very good mom this past week". She replied with, "You were the best mom you could be." I love that. Even on the days when I don't measure up, when I am a total failure as a mom, when I'm sick, when I'm exhausted, when I'm grieving, even when I feel like the worst mom ever, I'm still the best mom I can be.

Today I can't think straight. I can barely walk in a straight line. My muscles are so sore from holding Emerald all night that I can barely lift her today. I have zero patience for meltdowns and tantrums. We're definitely not doing any fun messy projects or having any dance parties or playing tag or hide and seek around the house. It's raining today, but even if it wasn't I wouldn't be outside pushing them in the stroller, playing at the park or chasing them around the yard. Emerald has been fussing and crying constantly. Mercedes has watched hours too much TV.

On days like today, I tend to lose my patience and send Mercedes to her chill spot for something I normally would just give her a warning about. I might be a little slower to pick up Emerald when she cries. I might even say something rude to Mercedes or raise my voice, forgetting that she is a tiny person who deserves my respect, and have to apologize to her for my attitude.

I definitely am not being a "good mom" today. But I'm being the best mom I can be. And I think that's okay. I think it's okay for my kids to see me not happy sometimes. To see me have to work a little harder to achieve simple tasks. It's okay for my kids to not have a super fun day filled with exciting activities. It's even okay for them to see me screw up and to hear me apologize. Not only is it okay, but it may even be good for them to know that Mommy makes mistakes and fails and has bad days too. Sometimes, Mommy even has a meltdown and bursts out crying, just like they do.

I do my best to be honest with Mercedes. I definitely make sure to apologize if I overreact or say something disrespectful. And I try to explain to her why I'm acting differently than normal. I'll tell her, "I'm sorry for raising my voice. Mommy got frustrated too easily because I'm tired and didn't sleep well last night. It's not your fault and I shouldn't have yelled", or "No, Mommy can't play hide and seek right now because I have a headache and a tummy ache and I need to sit down. Can you please read me a story instead?"

There are a million ways to be the best mom I can be even when I'm practically walking in my sleep. I can cuddle my baby. I can let Mercedes read me stories, play with my hair, or let her use her doctor kit to pretend to make me feel better. I can remind myself a million times that I don't have as much patience as normal and choose to ignore a few problem behaviors until I get a good night sleep and can handle the situations without overreacting. I can give both my kids all the hugs and kisses they want. I can be honest with them about why I'm having a hard time, so they know there's no shame in having a hard time and they can be honest with me on their hard days too. I can show my kids that I'm not perfect, that life is not happy all the time and set an example on how to apologize when we are out of line. I can choose not to let one bad day (or in our case, 3 bad days in a row) define me as a mom by remembering that loving my kids and being the best mom I can be on the worst days IS being a good mom.

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