There are two moms inside me: the aspirational mom and the actual, real-life mom.
The aspirational mom is always neatly dressed, cheerful, and calm. She has plenty of energy for both her work and her child—and herself. The aspirational mom has a clean home and cooks creative and nutritious dinners.
There are rarely whole days when I am exactly the kind of mom I want to be. Sometimes, I get a few hours where I am able to be the aspirational mom. I try her on to see what she looks like. Kiddo and I bake delicious treats and spend time in the garden. We play games and, somehow, I make a dinner that everyone wants to eat.
Most of the time, I’m what I call the real-life mom.
My house is clean-ish. I’m wearing a riff on the same leggings and sweater that I wear most days. I get my writing work done in fits and starts. Sometimes, my patience is thin and no one eats the dinner I make and I drag myself across the finish line of the day exhausted (and maybe even a little resentful).
I’ll be truly honest: I’m not “doing it all.” I’m not firing on all cylinders. Most days, I’m not even trying to be that aspirational mom. I’m just trying to show up for myself and my family the best I can.
Sometimes I feel guilty that not only can I not be that aspirational mom, but I often don’t even feel like a “regular” mom. I’m a mom who lives with chronic pain and mental health issues. I know that most of the mainstream parenting talk out there is not for — or about — me. That advice often doesn’t fit what I need to hear or know.
What hurts the most is when I compare myself to those other moms. The ones who don’t look like they’re struggling. The ones who talk about how blessed they feel and how happy they are. I’m glad for them, but that doesn’t map to my experience all that much. So instead of trying to mimic them or trying to do it all, here’s what I do instead.
First, I keep my eyes on my own paper. When I first became a mom, I had no idea what I was doing. So I joined all the Facebook groups and read all the blogs written by doing-it-all moms. And I was miserable.
So now? I don’t. I have a handful of blogs I read and exactly one Facebook group that I use as a gut-check. And otherwise, I stay present with myself and my own kid. I don’t compare either of us, and life is much sweeter that way.
Next, I extend myself compassion. The moments when I’m not at my best are not the moments when I need to be berated. Those are the moments when I need to cut myself the most slack, when I need the most compassion.
In these moments, I literally put my hands over my own heart and breathe. I try to remember the love that I have for my child and the fact that I am just as deserving of love, even if I can’t do it perfectly. I try to laugh and be present, even if that means that I can’t “do it all.”
I try to remind myself that even if I’m not doing it all, I am doing my best.