How Motherhood Is Teaching Me To Be Kinder To Myself
"I've seen fellow mamas get frustrated with themselves when they felt they missed the mark, and it made me wonder why they were being so hard on themselves when they were only doing their best."
There are many things that come easy to me. I’m organized, can easily visualize things, a good planner, reliable, and always going to give something my all. But one thing that often feels like a foreign concept I’m desperately trying to grasp is kindness. I always joke that I’m a perfectly packaged, messy blend of my parents, and when it comes to the art of being warm and gentle 24/7, well, that doesn’t come easy to me. It’s a labor of love and something I constantly work at, failing along the way, but I’m trying. (#GodAintDoneWithMeYet) But one area that’s harder to navigate in my quest for kindness is what motherhood teaches you is to be kind to yourself I feel.
The older I get, the more I see the world as a gray space instead of just black or white, as there’s room for improvement, reinvention, and second chances — making it crucial for us to hold space for each other in the name of grace and mercy. Much of my “aha” moment stems from my dedication to advocacy and justice that forces me to look at a person’s entire story instead of a chapter I don’t like. While I don’t always get it right (God knows I slip and fall short on the daily), I am my hardest critic, which has made it difficult for me to forgive myself and love myself properly in order to become the best self I want to be.
As compassionate as I can be for others (especially causes), I do not give that same acceptance to myself. I’ll stay in a funk if I get something wrong I should’ve done better or (figuratively) beat myself when I fail to make a change in the behavior or ‘tude department. Friends and family have told me over the years to stop being so hard on myself, but it’s a message that’s been hard to receive.
And now that I’m a mom, it’s starting to resonate more.
Motherhood is an ongoing lesson about forgiveness, doing your best, and learning to bob and weave with the punches as they come. I don’t expect perfection as a mom, because I know it’s not attainable. Being a parent is a daily fight — for sanity, your kids to put their clothes on without having a meltdown, and having the energy to endure whatever life throws your way … because life (and your children) are going to throw pretty much everything your way. I’ve seen fellow mamas get frustrated with themselves when they felt they missed the mark, and it made me wonder why they were being so hard on themselves when they were only doing their best.
… a dose of advice I need to take that’s been had to swallow.
Being a mom has taught me self-kindness is not only necessary for myself but for my children. They are watching me whenever I don’t do something to my high standards, and they see when I don’t think much of myself in the self-esteem department because of it. Motherhood has been a quiet whisper asking me why I’m so hard on myself when I’m understanding that life is more of a marathon than a sprint? And if I’m constantly beating myself up about my own shortcomings, what lesson am I teaching my children?
My 5-year-old is very much like me. He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get something right (homework, changing his attitude, learning something new) that can take a toll on his self-esteem. It’s been a learning process to get him to ease up on himself, something that’s teaching me to do the same. In working with him to take a breath and start over, it’s teaching me to wrap myself in the loving message I want to receive.
I’ve come to realize the gift of motherhood is knowing I can’t be perfect at it, no matter how hard I try or organize my life. My kids see me fall and fail all the time — many times more than I’d like — and it teaches them that , sometimes, your best is all you can give.
So, dear mom — or dad or caregiver or random person who stumbled across this page — I have a message for you that’s been a daily message for me:
You are enough. It’s OK to fall short of your personal expectations about yourself, because just as easily if you feel you missed the mark, you can pick yourself up and try again.