Date night with my husband ALMOST happened last night. I was one outfit- change too many of getting out the door before dinner plans crashed and burned. Welcome to parenthood. I say that now like a new mom yet I’ve been living it for the last six years.
I’d just applied my mascara when I heard my phone ding. “Date night’s off, Thomas just barfed in the kitchen.” I wish I could say my heart dropped, but my first thoughts weren’t filled with disappointment but rather relief as I eyed the comfy sweatpants I’d taken off only an hour before. Spanx jeans work wonders for the figure, but coming off the holidays with my body being a little “jollier” than normal, they felt like too tight, stretched-thin skin.
I apologized to the babysitter for the carnage witnessed in the kitchen (gross!) and with the smell of bleach wafting through our nostrils, we settled in to leftover chicken soup and crackers for dinner and cuddles on the couch while watching Smallfoot.
This morning I woke up earlier than the kids, and by early, I’m talking 4:30 a.m. Mom guilt, rather, parent guilt, sucks. At 4:30 a.m. all I could think of was how I’d failed my kids the day before. I could have been kinder. I could have been more understanding. Was it absolutely necessary to have said no to so many requests? Did I hug them enough today? Should I have taken them to the playground, or to a museum? Scrolling through social media trying to fall back to sleep did nothing to quiet my questioning mind. My feeds, flooded with belittling pictures of impressive crafts, and desserts perfectly baked by mom and son (none of the cleanup effort, though), and captions, “Impromptu trip to the aquarium”, “Best day ever with the kiddos”, admonished our day of finishing up chores, playing outside at home, and watching movies. Everything I saw and read made me feel worse as a mother and human being because I’d done nothing extravagant or creative or spontaneous with the kids. And, I know better. I’m a teacher. I witness the negative effects of social media on a daily basis working at a high school. We all know that everyone only puts their best foot forward on social media platforms. I’m guilty of of it myself. Because the truth is, when you write about your struggles too much on social media, you end up ghosted. Though I’ve never been one to air my dirty laundry on Facebook, or Twitter, I’ve watched others do so, shaking my own head at them for choosing to do so, knowing that people will only use it for the purpose of gossip, or to build their own selves up in spite of their shortcomings. The cycle is vicious.
Regardless, I couldn’t quiet my mind, and there was no amount of blog-reading after Googling, “mom guilt” that could appease me. About 6:15 a.m. I heard what I thought was one of the kids stirring. I crept down the hall and peered into my daughter’s bedroom only to find all three of the kids snuggled in bed with each other, my 6-year-old reading to her brothers her favorite book.
Swoon. Disclaimer: this never happens.
Catching myself smiling, I snuggled back into bed and the sick feeling in my gut that had plagued me since 4:30, dissipated into nothing. Thundering little feet charging down the hall to our bedroom followed as all three of my kiddos crawled into bed and burrowed beneath the covers. As I held one of the boys in a rare moment of stillness, just enough light filtered into the room giving me the chance to admire the depth of his big brown eyes, his puckered lips, and still-chubby cheeks. In that moment, I felt validated as a mother. These authentic, and heartwarming moments of validation that we all need as parents are found solely in our real relationships with others, not in those that are forged and maintained through a computer screen. Likes and comments in the masses feel good, no doubt, but real validation that satisfies the heart and the mind can only come from our tangible relationships.