Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crappy Mom

I wonder, what would be the definition of a "Great Mother"? How about a woman who has patience, is kind, and fun. Loving, easy-going, and gentle. There is laughter in her home, she sets boundaries, is fair, and uses kind words. She creates teaching moments, lives in the present, is calm and at peace. She makes her children feel special, encourages their talents, treats her spouse with love, and is a good example. She has a home that is kid-friendly, yet clean and organized, ensures that her children do well in school and other activities by being involved but not overbearing. She allows her children to serve others, allows them to make mistakes and learn from them. Does not gossip about others, and is kind to herself to show her children that they have great worth, etc etc... And so if THAT is a 100 on the scale of "Great Mothering", what would make a "zero"?? How about a mother who killed her child? A mother who abused her child daily? Yes, that sounds like a zero to me.

So, where do I fall? Is there is a scale of goodness when it comes to motherhood?...or anything else for that matter? Or is it that you have good days, and bad days?

If I were someone who smoked, but not every hour, would I be a "smoker"? What about if I just had one a day? What about one a month? When am I a person "who has smoked" verses "someone who occasionally smokes" verses "a smoker" verses "an addict"?? How often do you have to do something, to become it? For it to become a part of who you are?...a part of your identity? How often do I have to act crappy as a mom, in order to "be a crappy mom"? ... When am I just "having a crappy day" verses "acting crappy all the time"?

There is this notion that "If I do my best, that is good enough." But is it? What if abusing my kids was really the best I felt I could do? Is that "good enough"? Of course not.
So, Dalton left for school today with one glove. Who cares? Well, his other hand will be cold. Is that the end of the Earth? No. But did I make it seem like it was? Oh yeah. "If you do not find your other glove in the Lost and Found today at school, you will not go to Jack's birthday party today." What does he think, those things grow on trees? They are expensive. Those are his ski gloves, and I do not want to go to REI AGAIN and get him new ones. So, I better hit it home, how important that glove is! And then the sinking feeling, as he is walking out the door to school, that I really screwed up. I broke his spirit. I know that it is bad because Shelby says softly, after he's walked out the door, "Mom, can't he just find it tomorrow, please?" He is already running late, and the baby is sick. So I can't call him back in and apologize and drive him to school. So I let him go. Pretty sure that that was the worst walk to school ever. He is probably agonizing over that damned glove. Hoping, praying to God that it is in the Lost and Found, so that he isn't the ONLY boy that doesn't get to go to the party. So, I call the school. They patch me through to his class (the perk of being a regular volunteer there) and I tell him on the phone, "Dalton, it's mom." "Huhi." (he's thinking, "Why in the world is my mean mom calling me and EMBARRASSING me in front of my whole class?)"Dalton, I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I should not have made such a big deal about your gloves. It's OK if you don't find it. You can go to the party no matter what.""OK." "You are special. Now have a great day at school. Bye." (I don't want to drag it out, as I know that everyone's eyes are on him, in his class, and there is NOTHING he hates more.)"Bye." And then, when I should have felt a little better, I didn't. Even though that was my best for the wasn't good enough. Yeah, I had excuses. The baby was up all night with Shelby's cold, my home made wheat bread didn't turn out well, that I spent a lot of time on last night. The produce share that I picked up last night contained 2 kiwi and FIVE BAGS of carrots so now I have to figure out how I can use them all before they go bad. My house is a mess. Gavin had to go to San Fransisco this morning. I haven't showered for three..four (I've lost count) days. I've broken out, Shelby is out of school for the winter break and is watching more TV than she has watched in the past year. My Christmas cards are not done, or started....ya da ya da ya da. But none of this is an excuse. And then I wonder how many crappy mornings does it take, how many loose-my-cool-moments does it take before I officially AM a crappy mom? I wonder this, because I am feeling like a first-class crappy mom. Am I the guy who smokes a couple times a day, yet doesn't identify as a "smoker" even though everyone else identifies him as such? I want to be a good mom. I want to be a Great Mom. My kids deserve that. So, I need to practice being kind, more patient, fun-loving, happy. I need for that to be my knee-jerk reaction when life is a pain in the butt. So, instead of "lighting up" the next time life happens, I can chew a piece of Nicorette and just take a walk...knowing that it's baby steps...Baby steps to greatness.


Kati said...

Oh....Ashley. I can guarantee you are most definitely not a "crappy mom." I am positive you are a great mom. Just that you were willing to let Dalton know that you were sorry is awesome. You are teaching him that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves to be forgiven. I think that is quite the opposite of crappy. I think it is amazing. Besides...having a baby under one year of age is an excuse for anything. Especially when they are sick! Don't be so hard on yourself. I think you are great.

Anonymous said...

We all have those days. I think the difference between a crappy mom and a mom who is trying to be a good mom is that she sees when she messes up and corrects it. There is no such thing as a perfect mom. : ) Love the honesty of your post.

Brittany said...

"The most important thing she'd learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother but a million ways to be a good one." -Jill Churchill "Grime and Punishment"

Tamar Chansky said...

Ashley-- what a great post. Sounds like a tough day, and oh my goodness-- this time of year I think most parents can relate (and the other ones are too embarrassed to tell the truth : )

All you need to do-- as you discovered yourself-- is to apologize-- it's like a meteor shower to a kid-- they will remember that and use it on themselves and that is how you build resilience.

I write about the whole destigmatizing mistakes, failures etc in my new book: Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness. Another lesson of the book is to not supersize bad days into permanent trends, but rather to see them as the specific and temporary phenomenon that they are-- so-- not crappy mom, but crappy moment! Your kids are lucky to have a mom who is working so hard on the job of being a mom.

All best to you
Tamar Chansky

Sara said...

Ashley...can I be the judge who tells you if you are a Crappy Mom or not? No. I wish I could....because you're not....but you probably wouldn't accept my authority.
But, just so you know, I have watched you as a mother, and there are so many things that you do that I want to do.
I remember going to you house, and Dalton was 3 years old, DRESSING HIMSELF. You and I both know (especially in the society we lived around when he was 3 years old) that most 3 year olds DID NOT DRESS THEMSELVES. I was so impressed at what a self confidant, independent kid you were raising. I use that idea every day. So, I turn my back on my 15 month old, even though I KNOW he is going into the bathroom again. And than I turn back to him, we identify all the bathroom "things" (toilets, plungers, etc), as we firmly walk out of the bathroom and close the door (stupid pocket doors!). That act of turning my back kills me, but I learned that from YOU.
So....Crappy Mom....I hope not, because I'll be one too.....I'm pretty sure I'm (you're) on the right track. I hope you keep on it, because I'm right behind you.

Ashley said...

Thank you ladies. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I was better today. Far less crappy. Kati and Sara, you are so sweet. Suzanne and Brittany, thank you for those kind words. Tamar, I went to your site and your books look incredible. I am going to read them as soon as the holidays are over, and I have two brain cells that are functioning. Thank you for your advice and kindness.

Morgan Moore said...

If it's ANY consolation- I was big time crabby today and had 10 PANS of cinnamon rolls, not ONE of which worked out. I decided we won't be delivering treats (too much last minute stress and we aren't doing Christmas cards this year either)...I feel like a million bucks without all that added stress. You are a good Mama! I know you know it!


Dan K Shaw said...

WOW, we all have crappy days, I wish is was as smart as you in how to handle them and learn from them. Great job. We love you.

Suzy Q said...

Lost gloves, mittens, socks, shoes, Monday envelops, and homework are the bane of our existence. I've bought way too many $30 pairs of REI gloves for my kids. It really sucks.

In the past 10 years, I've been a crappy mom more often than I care to admit, but at least I never took up smoking! I love this post, which is especially timely with Jim leaving town for 6 weeks next weekend. I will try not to light up and avoid being a crappy mom thanks to your inspiration.