The scene: first day of summer break, 2017.
Wake up with a headache after going to bed at 12:15am. Ugh. I knew better. Worst mom ever.
Get into the kitchen. Pull up a green smoothie recipe I'd seen earlier in the week. Getting my kids to eat spinach before 9:00am?? Best mom ever.
Don't have half the smoothie ingredients the recipe calls for. Wing it with frozen berries. Smoothie comes out puce-colored, foamy(!), and generally inedible. "Mom, I don't like it!" Pour smoothies into the sink, where the solids don't even make it down the drain filter. Ew. Worst mom ever.
Yell at kids to LISTEN TO ME for the fourth time to try to get out the door. Steam coming out both my ears. Worst mom ever.
Get to summer camp on time and patiently help 4 year old to transition to an unfamiliar environment. Drop off complete! Yesssss. Best mom ever.
Ask 8 year old what he wants to do now. He wants to drive back home to get the kickball, then go to the park. I agree -- but inwardly, groan. Athletic, I am not. I wish I were the kind of mom who delights in sharing interests with their kids. Worst mom ever.
Get kickball and go to park, even though it means making a near-complete loop to where we just were for summer camp. Find some pop-up soccer goals on a field and run around. It's actually kind of fun. Best mom ever.
Pick up youngest, rest at home, and successfully locate all the boys' swim gear for their first lesson of the season. Best mom ever.
Boys put on trunks. Little brother's are sliding down his hips! Check the waistband - the elastic inside has finally bit the dust, and I'm only just noticing. Worst mom ever.
Bring needle and thread to the pool. Take in the sides of the waistband as big brother has his lesson, with plenty of time to spare. Best mom ever.
Reward boys with treats from the vending machine as promised. Best mom ever.
Reconsider as they stuff alarmingly red Flamin' Hot Cheetos into their mouths on the drive home at 5:20pm. What's up with the naming the dyes "Red 40 Lake" and "Yellow 6 Lake"? And what, exactly, is "Xxtra Flamin' Hot Seasoning"? (At least they have the decency to list MSG straight on the package, lol). Worst mom ever.
Can you relate?
Have you ever had one of those days? A day that's a mixed bag of parenting highs and lows? Where one moment you're like, "I've got this in the bag!" and the next, "Ugh, I suck"?
I've noticed something interesting about the "best mom" / "worst mom" labels.
At its essence, those labels boil down to evaluating myself. My subconscious thinks, "I'm doing a good job, so I must be good...I'm doing a bad job, so I must be bad." And there's an interesting thing about evaluating myself this way - it doesn't make me want to try harder, do better, or become a better person. It makes me berate myself when I don't live up to my own standards. It makes me angrier, less gracious with my kids and partner, and more irritable.
It's a trap.
Self care for moms like me
Maybe we can all learn something from Carol Dweck, the researcher who gave us the insight to praise kids for their process, not their inherent ability. Let's take a break from labeling ourselves the best and the worst.
Here are some ways I'm trying out kinder self-talk and giving myself a break from the best mom / worst mom trap:
1) Catch myself in the act. Observe when the "best mom" / "worst mom" thoughts crop up in my mind, and try to do so without judgement.
2) Swap out the evaluations for phrases like:
As you probably know by now, self care is more than bubble baths and a glass of wine at night. Self care encompasses shifting the way we talk to ourselves as moms. Shifting from critical to gentle. From berating to encouraging. When we do this, life gets better. Our parenting gets better. Our view of ourselves gets better.
What helps you get out of the "best/worst" labeling trap?