In today’s Twitterfied, Instagrammed world, every mom looks better than me. Beautiful family pictures show kids in matching clothing. Clean homes have floors you can eat off of. Kids are always smiling. We live in a world where, increasingly, moms find themselves continuously “on trial.” A quick Google Search for “cops kid walking to park” brings up a long list of articles that parent-shame, mostly mom-shame, the idea of “free range” parenting (although there’s also a generous dose of racism in those articles). Another quick Google Search for “social media and motherhood” lists article after article detailing how social media makes mome feel inferior. Sure, we have the hashtags like #whymykidiscrying, that show kids cry despite our parenting, but really, people write those types of things to prove to themselves and others that kids will cry no matter what we do. In reality, moms find themselves continually in the public eye, constantly judged, by everyone, including themselves. What if, instead of showing only our best moments, we started talking about what motherhood really means?
When reality changed my expectations
When I was pregnant, I had grand plans for the type of mom I’d be. I wouldn’t ever be the mom who baked cookies (I’m a terrible baker), but I’d be the mom who made handknit sweaters, who played with her kid at the park everyday, who followed elecrtonic media best practices, who … well, who did a lot of things I don’t actually do.
In the first few years, I was pretty good at doing most of these things. Except the knitting, I’m not fast enough to make a whole sweater before my kid outgrows it. I took my kid to music classes, gym classes, story times. I made healthy dinners. We limited television. The idea of a phone or tablet never crossed my mind, although mainly because they’re highly breakable. I read books, made voices, played with action figures.
My kid is 10 now, and let me tell you honestly, a decade is a long time. A Really.Long.Time.
Look, I’m tired. I work full time. I balance parenting and work and once in a great while doing something just for myself.
I’ve lowered my expectations over ten years. I’m never going to be the World’s Best Mom. I’m not even going to make it to World’s Goodest Mom most days. Frankly, I’ve lowered my bar to World’s Okayest Mom.
And you know what, I’m really okay with that.
When I realized I was #worldsokayestmom?
A few years ago, my partner was traveling. It was late June, and my kid was in Kindergarten or first grade. It was nearing the last day of school, and worrrying about working while Kiddo was home on summer break was at the top of my mind. My partner was the one who usually made lunches, and I had forgotten to put anything together. Five minutes before Kiddo had to leave for the bus, I was looking in my refrigerator and my cabinets trying to throw together something that vaguely resembled food.
And you know what I ended up with?
- Stale crackers (no clue how long the box had been open)
- Old pepperoni slices (no green on the slices, good to go)
- Smushed string cheese
- An applesauce squeezy packet
I was texting GeekMom Kali, and the conversation became this comic:
See that note? That was totally my text to her. The image? Totally based on the picture I texted her. The hashtag? Totally part of the text.
You know what? The same amount of uneaten lunch came home that day as came home every other day. And I had a lightbulb moment:
My Kid Doesn’t Care About Fun Lunch
Y’all, this was a pretty life-changing parenting moment. My kid doesn’t care if I send a bunch of mismatched crackers or an artfully cut Millenium Falcon sandwich. My kid just doesn’t care.
Everything about being a mom was coming from my brain. I was comparing myself to other moms, but I wasn’t even comparing myself to moms I knew. I was comparing myself to these fictional stories, single moments in time, that I saw on things like Pinterest or Instagram.
The moms I knew in person were messy. We were all struggling with lack of sleep or teacher notes home or work stress or … well, basically, we were all struggling with life.
And, moms out there:
You are not alone.
What does it mean to be #worldsokayestmom?
Well, that’s a great question. In some cases, being the #wordsokayestmom is a pretty personal definition. What’s ok for me, may not be ok for another mom.
I’ve written about being an extreme parent. My all-time Okayest Mom story is about the time I jumped into the indoor pool, fully clothed, in the middle of a New England February because Kiddo wouldn’t get out of the pool and I threatened, “Don’t make me get in there fully dressed. You know I will.” As the words left my mouth, I knew it was a Terrible Life Choice. You know what? It worked for me. My kid learned that when Mama says she’s going to do something, she’s gonna do it.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to work for every mom. In fact, it probably works for very few moms. (And yes, to answer your question, driving home was miserable and my clothes started to freeze over because I live in New England.)
Being the Okayest Mom means:
- Loving your kid
- Knowing your kid knows you love them
- Supporting your kid
- Knowing your kid knows you support them
- Listening to your kid
- Knowing your kid knows you listen to them
- Doing what works for your kid
- Doing what works for your family
At the end of the day, our kids don’t care if we have beautiful family pictures or amazing crafts set out for them. Kiddo doesn’t even remember the amazing family trip to Disney World for Star Wars Weekend that we could just barely afford. If only I’d know that before we went six years ago.
Kiddo remembers reading Attack on Titan at age four. Yes, I hid the book under a couch cushion, and Kiddo found it while I was in the bathroom peeing. I had two choices: handling a tantrum and continuous questions or sitting and reading it together. I clearly chose the latter. Because? #WorldsOkayestMom
They don’t care if we feed them frozen chicken nuggets or the most nutritious kid-approved Pinterst Instant-Pot meal. In fact, a recent survey of the fifth grade parents at our elementary school indicates most kids prefer frozen nuggets. Ok, by recent survey, I mostly mean having conversations in the grocery store or at a school function. But, hey, data is data. So you know what I stock up on now? Frozen chicken nuggest. Because? #WorldsOkayestMom
Our kids care when we love them. They care when we listen to them. They care that we support them. I told Kiddo a few months ago, “I support anything you do. As long as it’s legal. Well, actually, as long as it’s moral because sometimes what’s illegal is moral.” That’s being the #worldsokayestmom.
Why I embrace being #WorldsOkayestMom
I can’t be all things to all people. In fact, very often, I’m some things to very few people.
At ten, my kid has heard me tell people all the time that I’m just looking to be the Okayest Mom, that I gave up on Best Mom years ago, and that I’m ok with that.
A few months ago, Kiddo said to me, “You know what? You’re not the World’s Best Mom.” To which, as is my way, I sarcastically replied, “Thanks for that.” My kid continued, “You may not be the World’s Best Mom, but you’re the World’s Best Mom for Me.” Yup, I know, your room just got a whole lot dustier, and your eyes are watering a bit. I feel you.
The thing is: I don’t need to be the World’s Best Mom. I could be, possibly, if I tried. Maybe?
If I was the World’s Best Mom, though, would I still be the World’s Best Mom for My Kid? Knowing my kid? I can safely answer: Probably not.
I’m the mom who does everything best practices say I shouldn’t. I have no idea what my kid does at school, unless I get an email home about a problem. I don’t double check my kid’s homework. This year, I decided Kiddo can be responsible for making his own lunch. I let my kid have a cell phone because I don’t want to run all over our neighborhood trying to figure out which friend Kiddo decided to play with after getting off the bus. I also got Kid a cell phone because I was tired of Pokemon Go tethering issues with non-connected devices, and we play as a family. I let Kiddo explore music on the streaming app we use, even ones with Explicit lyrics. My kid has not only heard me swear, but can use the F-word as appropriately as I can. I let Kiddo watch TV all weekend if that’s what makes us all a happier family.
I do these things because they are the best for my family. What works for us isn’t going to work for everyone else. What works for everyone else, isn’t going to work for us.
At the end of the day, being a mom isn’t about me. It isn’t about what I look like. It isn’t about lunches or crafts or how others perceive me. It isn’t about the myriad of things that social media tells me it should be about. That’s not to say I’m not going to share my stories on my private social media feeds. After all, I can promise you that my #WorldsOkayestMom life is hysterically funny, just ask my friends. But, being a mom has nothing to do with how others percieve me.
Being a mom is about my kid. It’s about making sure a person better than me grows up to be the change the world needs from the next generation. It’s about making decisions that keep this other human being healthy – physically and mentally. It’s about making my kid feel loved, respected, and supported. It’s about knowing that what works for other kids won’t work for my kid. It’s about my kid.
So, why do I I embrace being the World’s Okayest Mom? Because that’s what makes me the World’s Best Mom for My Kid.