People I Want to Punch in the Throat: I am the World's Okayest Mom

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I am the World's Okayest Mom

 World's Okayest Mom
World's Okayest Mom
We are coming into the dreaded holiday season where people mainlining pumpkin spice and holiday cheer start upping the ante and I can already feel my heart rate rising and the hairs on the back of my neck bristling. My Facebook feed is flooded with mostly humble braggy "thankful" posts from people who normally complain about everything - even the weather - on an hourly basis, mixed in with hundreds of (supposedly) unbelievably easy and adorable crafts to make between now and Christmas.

Luckily, I am able to skip right by those posts and tune out the moms at the playdates who are already worrying about how quickly their newest Easy Peasy Life Scheduling Apps ("I just downloaded it this month, and it is a life changer. I can make lists of lists I need to make!") are filling up with holiday parties, photo shoots, shopping lists, visits with the in-laws, gift exchanges, private visits to Santa, and more wedged in between the usual soccer practice, art lessons, chess club, and Kumon. Since I don't give a crap about most of that stuff, I just smile and say, "I'm so thankful that my kids want cash for Christmas this year, no one has invited me to their cookie exchange in a year now, and I just paid forty bucks for school pictures, surely no one expects me to take more pictures, right?"

When I see the horrified expressions of the moms illuminated in their glowing cellphone displays, I need to remind myself that I am an OK mom and there is nothing wrong with that.

There is a lot of pressure to be the World's Best Mom. Both from the outside world and from inside my tiny brain. Everywhere I look, I am bombarded with commercials for crap my kids don't need and holiday traditions I must start and food I must bake and then consume in mass quantities. There is an overwhelming feeling to make everything magical and amazing and special and unique and memorable and awe-inspiring or else I'm not a good mom. But you know what I realized a few years ago? I didn't have to listen to those commercials or my tiny brain. I could ignore it all.

That's right. I don't aspire to be the World's Greatest Mom. I don't even try.

I am perfectly happy being the World's Okayest Mom and no one's childhood will be ruined by that.

And it's not just this time of year that I feel this way. It's all year round that I hold that badge of honor proudly. I don't celebrate half birthdays (I celebrate the actual day, you can't get two parties out of me) or spend my weekends constructing the most kick ass diorama anyone in the third grade has ever seen (I wasn't good at those when I was in third grade, my kid has a better chance at an "A" making it by himself) or baking anything my family would enjoy eating (I live near a bakery for a reason). I don't make festive fall scarecrows to pose on our front porch (hay makes me sneeze) or get up to watch the sun rise with my kids (do you have any idea what time the sun rises??). 

Just because I don't do this stuff, doesn't mean I love my kids any less.

I don't live in a fog of mommy guilt where I worry if I'm screwing up my kids. I don't lose sleep at night worrying if my kids like me or if they had a great day. They know I love them and that's what is most important. I have to let them make mistakes and learn from them. I have to take care of more than just their happiness. The way I see it is, it's pretty hard to screw up your kids. As long as you're not abusing or neglecting your kids, you're probably doing OK. As moms, we have to let that guilt go. We have to stop worrying so much about our parenting and second guessing ourselves and judging ourselves. Our kids are happy if we're happy and I don't see how we can be happy if we're letting the mommy guilt get us down. We can't worry about the kids or the husband or the house at the expense of us. Let's face, it we're the glue that holds this family together and if we start losing it, everyone is going to lose it. We have to give ourselves a break and say, "Today being the Okayest Mom will do."

It doesn't always have to be perfect. Some days you can just pants it. You can throw out the schedule and the menu plan and the vacuuming and just read a book to your kid (better yet, have them read to you, that way you can still play Candy Crush) or draw pictures (never let a six-year-old draw your portrait unless you're ready for the honest truth about your crow's feet) or build paper airplanes (actually, don't do this - my house is littered with paper airplanes and mommy guilt might not stress me out, but paper airplanes everywhere certainly does). 

During this ridiculously festive and overbearing season, let's put aside our guilt for a day and just embrace our Okayestness (hey, if I'm making up words, I might as well go for broke) and just slow down and breathe and be. I don't know about you, but I'm going to relax and enjoy this time of year and not worry about hitting every item on the holiday to-do list or concentrate on "making memories" with my kids. My guess is, if I just slow down and spend time with the ones I'm truly grateful for, those memories will make themselves. They may not be the best, but OK, is fine by me.

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50 comments:

Delenn said...

Oh thank you thank you thank you for this post!

nikki said...

Santa Photo's day after Thanksgiving.. and the Christmas Tree First weekend in Dec.. is as far as I go to making a perfect Holiday time....he wants more.?. he can damn well get off his lazy 8yr old arse and do it himself.......

Trae said...

When I was a new mommy....single, new college graduate, who had to move back in with mom & dad, I beat myself up a lot for not being the BEST mommy out there. There was no gymboree, or play dates, or Disney vacations for my son. I just couldn't afford it. Then, one afternoon as I was watching Oprah, my life as a mommy was changed forever. Dr. Phil was on and he was giving advice to a stay at home mom...who strived for Super Mommy status. He asked her to list her priorities. Obviously, she listed her kids, her husband, the household, etc. Dr. Phil asked her where she was on the list....which she wasn't. He said that in order to be the best mom, wife, sister, daugher, etc....you have to put yourself number 1.
Hearing that, literally changed my entire outlook on being a mom. I went from being a fat, sad, lonely, single mom to the best "okay" mom I could be! Thirteen years later, I'm still single, but I own my home and I'm happy and satisfied how far we have come. My son & I have an awesome relationship. He is respectful, kind, and generous...which I will take as a direct reflection of my parenting skills =)
Disney trips are still not a part of our life, but it wasn't part of my childhood either...& I think my parents are pretty fantastic!
I wish every new mom could watch that Oprah episode & now read this blog post! It's time we quit trying to "outmommy" (I can make up words, too) each other.

Elizabeth Catalano said...

Well said! Mediocrity is not a dirty word. And as soon as my 3-yr-old can safely handle scissors I plan to teach her to cut corners.

Michelle Sullivan said...

Love it! :)

julie p said...

Lol love it! I'm doing the "Thankful" posts but I make them tongue in cheek like, "today I'm so thankful for my children ... because I have someone I can make do the dishes." Or, "I'm so thankful to live in a country where we have free education so that my kids are required by law to be there and not up my ass all day :)" Overachieving mommies make my all stabby.

shelwoy said...

For most of my daughter's life, I was raising her on my own. Having to work 50+ hours a week to survive without any possibility of assistance, guidance, or support from a family made life very hard for my kid. For holidays, there was no opportunities to work bake sales or attend craft fairs, no all dayers at the mall listening to the sweet ringing of cash registers blend in with Jingle Bells. If we were lucky, we'd get invited to a friend's house for a meal on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas Day - Being together. That's it, just enjoying time with the one who matters most. I found Mr.Right when she was a pre-teen. Most guys would have sprinted out the door after realizing my situation, but he walked in and cared for us, provided us with a beautiful and loving family- as if he'd always been there. Those are the greatest gifts I could ever have given to my daughter. Our first Christmas together as a family, I knew being an O.K. mom suited me just fine when my daughter looked up at me smiling and said, "This is the best Christmas I ever had!" And she had not even opened a gift yet.

Unknown said...

Don't forget the "25 EASY Elf on the Shelf ideas that take UNDER 5 Minutes!" (and similar) FB posts. Yep, I got that one today. And it's not even Thanksgiving! I do the occasional baking and photo-taking, but I'll fully admit I'm too lazy (and tired) to do Elf on the Shelf or any sort of crafting. Anyways, thanks for the great post!

Jenna Moore said...

How to be the world's best mom to my kids: Just pay attention to them. They don't care if I miss soccer practice. They don't care what I get them for Christmas, as long as I'll play with it with them. They don't care if all my cookies are from pre-made dough, particularly if they get to help make them. What makes their day? Me playing a game of Uno with them. Easy peasy.

NancyK said...

My status just last night...
There are some aspects of parenting that just suck, and some days it feels like trying to drive a car blindfolded....you have no idea what direction you're headed in, or if you've made the right turns, you just hope you make it out alive and in one piece.

As long as my kids know I love them, and I provide the basics, and extra is just gravy. I impress no one!

Lynn Richards said...

I think I'm going to print this out and put a big red, "AMEN" next to it.

Deann Salazar said...

I think it's all about perception. I think I'm the best kick ass mom out there, but I think that while I'm saying sure we can read one more book or yeah okay we can do another sleepover with that weird kid who always wants to go home at 2 in the morning or hunh who would have thought that you adding food coloring to orange juice would make it look that gross but whatever drink up.

I have never equated over achieving parenting with acts of greatness. I've viewed it as moms wanting to make memories for themselves (which okay that's fine but it doesn't have to do as much with parenting).

J and J Mommy said...

Thank you -- it is so hard to let go of the mommy guilt, or to put ourselves on the top of the list. I could have written what you wrote...thank you for sharing it...

J and J Mommy said...

Thank you for writing this and sharing this today. As someone who has recently come to accept that I have been living with an anxiety disorder for many years, this time of year (while it's a time I love) also becomes the most stressful and difficult. Trying to get everything done that I want in a short amount of time, wanting it to be perfect, wanting my kids to do/get everything they are supposed to during the holidays...and I nearly kill myself in the process. I get angry, stressed, frustrated...and end up taking it out on my kids.

When I've expressed my frustration and my sadness to my psychiatrist, a couple of times she has shared the sentiment that "It's not always about being a 'Good Mom'. Most days it's about being a 'Good Enough Mom'. A mom who loves her kids and does her best.".

Your post has helped to drive this home, and I can't even begin to describe how much your words today have touched me. How much reassurance, support and strength they have brought. Thanks for being the "Okayest" mom -- and a "Good Enough" mom...and for letting us know that it's "OK".

S said...

Someone asked me the other day if I was going to do the Elf on the Shelf for my sons. Um, no. Because (1) they aren't even 2 years old yet and don't even grasp that there are holidays coming up, and (2) I am lucky if I can do the basics every week without adding additional tasks to my to-do list. Geesh.

Jen Carlisle said...

9 years ago as a newly back to work working mom a fellow mom gave me the best advice ever. She said, "as a working mom you may feel guilty about not being with your kids 24/7 but as a stay at home mom you may feel guilty about not being able to do or buy what you could as a working mom. There will be guilt with every decision or you make... or you could just relax and remember that you are doing your best and that will be just right." Her advice as always stuck with me and helped me a ton. Thanks for such a great post!

RachRiot said...

Agreed. Most of that shit is not for the kids-- it's to impress other moms or so you can post your picture-perfect little "memories" on Facebook. "Look at us! We're SO HAPPY!" Give me a fucking break- your kid was crying 10 minutes before the photo shoot because you were yelling at them to act happy.

Cassie said...

The best Christmases involved:

1) an Advent calendar shipped straight from Germany -- new pictures/chocolates every day!
2) a tree, which Mum and I trimmed together. I always put the felt drummer quartet in one spot because otherwise they'd be lonely.
3) the idea of presents; to this day it doesn't matter if you give me cash, just stick it in a giant box and wrap that sucker because it looks so much prettier.
4) Mum's favorite incense/something intensely sugary for breakfast/listening to classical music/reading all the books on the morning of.

Midnight Mass was nice until the choir started making my ears bleed. With the wonder of streaming media, I can catch it from Rome! HA. We always talked about cookies, but we only managed them twice and they turned out a little burnt. Wegmans forever.

That, at 27, is what I take away from years of holidays. Me, my family, some of the trappings from both cultures, and love. None of this yearly portrait shite. No home video, not even that many photos. Sometimes the Muppets. Usually just love. Sad to see things trending toward less love and more crap (inevitable, but sad).

You are a damned okay mum and that's the best kind of all.

fishducky said...

Let's hear it for OKAYNESS!!

Krysti said...

You are my hero.

Minnie Burger said...

As a child, it took a lot of convincing to have my mom just give me cash instead of presents for Christmas. She felt guilty for not putting the "thought and effort" into it, but I always knew exactly what I wanted so it was a lot better that way. Some of my favorite holiday memories were when we went shopping together with the Christmas money. We got to spend some quality time together, the malls were pretty empty, and what I wanted to get was on sale so I could get more bang for my buck.

Sometimes having an okay mom can be pretty spectacular :)

Dalai Mama said...

Thanks for saying that. Mommy guilt is a great big bitch and gets to the best of us. And I would bet if you ask your kids, they would probably rate you as pretty fabulous (most days).

Rory Bore said...

The Cheerleader of Meh! Love it.
Mom, mom...she's the one..... if she can't (won't) do it......um, I guess it won't get done.
It'll be ok. everyone.Just.Breathe.

ErinMSW said...

I love you. That is all.

Emelie said...

Okay, so I'm not a mom, but this post made my day. Thank you so much for this.

And if I ever do have children, I want that mug.

KrisT said...

Amen to it all! Step one: break up with women who think Pinterest is a how-to manual for Excellent Mommying. Step two: cocktails! That is my new two-step manual for happy parenting.

Meredith said...

"Okayestness" sounds like the perfect word--and the perfect goal to me. Thanks for telling it like it SHOULD be, Jen.

Tara aka Bunny said...

I'm not even a mom but I tell my sisters things like this all the time. They are not doing their children any favors rushing here to there stressed out trying to get them to activities while stuffing fast food in their mouths in an effort to get SOME food in them before a ball game or dance practice. My mom was like you and I thought she was the world's greatest mom. :) YOU are the one doing it right.

Mae said...

AMEN! Well said, Jen

Ashley said...

We're about to adopt our first baby and this could not come at a better time! Thank you for this post - I'll refer to it often.

Carrie - ASassyRedhead.com said...

I'm a new step mom to a 15 year old and I have been living in that fog of guilt of screwing her up.

No more.

I suck at this mom crap. And that's ok. I don't abuse or neglect her. I love her more than life but that doesn't make me suck less.

But I'm with you. Too much of this holiday crap can get old quick.

OK is perfectly good enough for me. You're the bomb. =)

Mike Regione said...

would you like to come to my cookie exchange this year?

tyla francis said...

Love this! Our kids are only young once and the memories we choose to create will stay with them forever! ♡

Erin Neff said...

I agree - I also will not be doing Elf on the Shelf for my daughter b/c she is an infant, and I'm not committing to that crap for the next 12+ years until she figures it out! And if Grandma or Grandpa buy her one, that elf will stay at their house :)

Erin Neff said...

The idea of "creating memories" is silly. You cannot predict what anyone will remember, no matter how special you think something is. Try to remember your childhood Christmases and see what sticks out to you now - 20, 30, 40 years later. Likely it's not much.

chunkydunk said...

Hahahaha!! Love it!

Serena Jones said...

This made me laugh... just wanted to "Like" it. ;)

chunkydunk said...

I love this. I am currently pregnant with my first child, and I had dreams of grandeur of being one of these "Best Moms" starting with pregnancy. Well, 22 weeks in and I have already failed miserably!! I was going to eat healthy and exercise daily and take all the classes, etc... So far all I really want to eat are carbs, I have an aversion to most things healthy (esp things like kale and quinoa, which I used to like), and just walking from the parking lot into work makes my uterine fibroids start to hurt.

It took me 4 1/2 yrs and a round of IVF to get pregnant, and I used to get so annoyed when women complained about being uncomfortable while pregnant. I always said if I ever got pregnant, I'd be so damn grateful I would never utter a single complaint. Well, balls to that. I'm just over half way there and I'm ready for this shit to be over. This pregnancy has helped me see that though I can make all these plans for all these grand things for my child, life is going to happen the way it wants to, and I'm just along for the ride. So I may say I'm going to make all his baby food with organic fruits and veggies, and I'm going to read to him every day and teach him how to read before he's 3, and our holidays will be nothing but magic and glitter and cookies and lights (I am currently kinda crafty, but I'm sure that will change), but I am learning very quickly that though those are all noble aspirations, they probably won't happen. At least, not the way I want them to.

What I do know is I already love this little guy more than life itself, and I will do whatever I need to in order to make him happy. But I also know that I am not perfect, and that life doesn't usually follow my plans. So as long as he knows how much I love him, and he feels safe with me, then we'll all turn out just fine. Even if that means the occasional happy meal, store bought cookies for xmas, a skipped birthday or holiday photo shoot, or not always getting everything he wants. We're all OK!! :)
Sorry that was so long, I can be a long winded bitch sometimes. lol

Nicole S. said...

You know, sometimes I feel out of the loop with moms these days. I don't feel guilty as a mom, unless I lose my temper with my kids, in which case I apologize and move on. I don't feel harried - and I have 4 children under 5. I don't always love being a SAHM but I don't hate it either. I know we are lucky and our lives are relatively calm, even boring sometimes. I guess we keep it simple and I don't find a lot of other people who do. Glad to have found one in you! Great post!

Laura Schmidt said...

Ha! That's awesome :-)

Sparkle said...

Exactly. Let memorable moments happen naturally. Those are the best memories not manufactered ones.

Mr. Hendrix said...

This is a great post. Glad I found your blog. I don't repost those "repost if you love your son/daughter" things on Facebook because I don't care if Facebook knows I love my kids. I love my kids and they know it. That is the most important thing.
You and Jenny Lawson make my day!

K LaFountain said...

I just came across your blog, and I must say, you have got it all right! I'm a working mom and it's very hard to find time for the normal things in life, without worrying about how I'm going to create memories doing cute(but time consuming) traditions. Honestly, because I don't fit the profile of stay at home mom who has all these ideas of parenting grandeur, sports lessons, dance lessons, elf on the shelf making freaking cookies at 3 am and still manage to wake up as susie delightful. I don't have the time to bake 4000 cupcakes for my kids class, I can't get in to be helper parent, and I see my kids teachers once, maybe twice a year. In the town I live in, a lot of moms get to stay at home because their husbands make oodles of money in the oil field, and they tend to lord that over others, thinking that because they can buy the best brands and give their kids wonderful memories they are better than me. I've dealt with the guilt of that for a long time, but honestly, instead of being that mom who relies on her husband to make the oodles, I will be the one making the dough. My kids know I work my ass of for them, and they have everything they need, albeit not everything they want. If they want something they have to earn it. I often feel less than adequate as a mom, and after reading this, I thank you that I won't feel that way anymore. I hope that when my kids are older they will know that their mom busted her butt to become what not a lot of women could be, an automotive mechanic despite all the old fashioned stereotypes that hover around women in trades. Thanks for this, you made my day

SMiracles said...

Since she was 3, my kid has known that elves are invisible. Every time the vents kick out hot air (thereby disturbing the dust bunnies) I'll say "OMG did you see that freaking elf move?! What were you up to? It better be giving a good report you spy elf!" Then she'll spend 5 minutes searching for said elf. Once she even took out a butterfly net out of her toy bin to capture it. No way will I ever spend $30 to buy one of those generic ones from the store, it would ruin the magic.

Keara Cochran said...

It's like we're the same person!

JuniperSunshine said...

As a SAHM, I heartily endorse this sentiment! We all need to let go of the guilt.

JuniperSunshine said...

LOL I'll take my popsicle-stained, tangled-hair kiddos any day because they are *actually* happy, not "photo happy".

JuniperSunshine said...

I just snorted coffee through my nose. Yeah, it won't get done. LOL

JuniperSunshine said...

If you are simply kind to her and interested in her life, you are already better than 90% of stepparents. Just be a friend and someday you will suddenly realize that you have become a mom. :-)

JuniperSunshine said...

Um, I'm one of those women "relying" on my husband to make the "oodles". I put him through grad school by working as a nanny. That's why I "get to" stay at home - because we spent years working towards that. Maybe the women you're referring to are horrible people, but it's not necessary to insult SAHMs in general. It's really hard to be supportive of working moms who feel the need to bash us at-home moms. Not everyone is able to be an automotive mechanic OR a SAHM. Face it - not a lot of women could be at home with 5 kids and still be successful, sane, and organized enough to run the household at the same time. Many of us at-homers are just as busy and highly skilled as you are. Your kids should be proud of you for doing what you can to give them a better life - not because you are making money. I don't respect my at-home dad any less than my working mom - they both were awesome parents. OAMs come in "working" and "at-home" varieties, BTW. Maybe us mellow mamas should stick together instead of claiming that either having a career or staying at home is something your kids should admire.