I read this article in my newsfeed today, and these are my thoughts:
There was a day a couple years ago that I brought the kids to the zoo. My sister and I spent the entire day on our feet, with our combined 10 children, making the day fun and exciting for the little ones. I was enjoying my sisters company but also very exhausted so after the zoo was getting ready to close, we decided to meet up at a playground by our houses. My youngest daughter at the time was about 2 and wanted to swing in the baby swing but I was just too exhausted and a lady who was pushing her child offered to push mine. Normally I’d hop up and do it because a) that’s my kid and b) what would onlookers think of me, ignoring my kids desires like that. lol Instead, I expressed deep thanks because of our long day at the zoo and how tired I was and just wanted to sit and visit while the kids had a little more time to play. I watched from that bench as this fellow Mama kindly pushed my daughter as she stood with her child as well.
How often I felt the burning looks of onlookers in grocery stores, playgrounds, and especially as I climbed in our vehicle for the 3 months I was apart from my husband as he prepared to join us after we moved. They had no clue that I already spend 24/7 with my children as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and for those 3mos I was filling the roll of their daddy as well and had to bring them with me anywhere I needed to go and had zero moments to myself except for briefly in the evening after I got them to sleep. During that time, there were days I brought the kids to the playground and told them, ‘you’re going to want to show me all the fun things you can do, but today I’m going to relax and keep an eye on you while I play solitaire on my phone.’ and I ignored what everyone was probably thinking of me as they called my name and I told them not right now; there were days I brought them to the playground to stay occupied so I could have uninterrupted chats with my husband and family/friends back home from the state we just moved from; there were days I had all my kids with me at the grocery store where people acted as though I was too strict with my kids (one woman actually suggesting that I shouldn’t spank my child for running off because CPS could take my kids – my response was, I’d rather spank my child and deal with CPS than lose my kid or they get kidnapped… thanks for the unsolicited advice lady); I don’t know if anyone thought anything of it, but there were multiple times I got us all into the van to go for a drive because I needed to get a breather and barked at the kids to climb in, snapping at them and stressed. I was not a perfect mother, nor am I now, but my world has consisted of trying to balance caring for my kids and trying to make sure I’m in a healthy place to do that… and sometimes I get a little spastic when I’ve not taken care of myself and on occasion, people get to witness that. lol
Even while having my husband home with us, he works from before breakfast until after supper… so on his day off, I run errands alone. Some evenings when he gets home, I go spend time with a friend. And sometimes, he’s so tired after working such a long day/week, we have our daughter keep an eye on the baby while he and I relax.
People are so quick to judge. I don’t believe it takes a village to raise a child, however, the encouragement we have received over the years has helped me to be the Mom I need to be. Never ever has an ounce of hate or guilt tripping ever helped me to do better or be better, it only either heaped guilt or frustration on me. And I promise you, many snapshots in my day might make us appear to be tired or frustrated, maybe even neglectful, but there are a thousand other moments that aren’t caught – the many 20-60min conversations with my daughters about their emotions and hormones, or as they grieve or process things; the many 5-10min conversations that happen because of questions that the kids have about growth and puberty, how the body works, or a question having to do with their schoolwork; the snuggles, kisses, I love you’s, and I miss Daddy’s; the many times of getting up in the night to check on kids, get drinks, calm fears, change diapers, feed babies, soothe sick and fussy kids, etc.
It takes a lot more to be a good mom than looking up from your phone at the playground. It takes a lot more to be the mom your kids need than simply not yelling. It’s all the moments in between. Do we love on them, do we kiss them, do we take responsibility for our mess ups and own them, are we repentant, do we validate their feelings, do we teach them about grace, do we help them find their voice to speak up for themselves, are we their safe place despite our imperfections? I’ve often thought, if only I was yelling all that stuff at them, then maybe the neighbors might hear how much I truly love my kids outside of that moment of insanity when I had it up to my neck and lost my temper and the window was open. lol
At the end of the day, the judgment of onlookers means nil. At the end of the day, I have to shake off where I failed so miserably and take courage to go forward to do better where my kids need me the most. I take those failures as lessons in being a better human in general, and allow God to use them in teaching my children how to be emotionally healthy as well as spiritually grounded; to learn in everyday life the message of love, repentance, grace, forgiveness… and for that, I’m grateful.