Today is Sunday, Mother’s Day (UK/Ireland), the “Spring Forward” of Daylight Savings Time (UK/Ireland), and the last day of March. It’s the beginning and end of many things, a fitting backdrop for the way I feel.
Mother’s Day is hard for me. I struggle with it every year because, true or not, I don’t believe I’m particularly good at being a mom. The day in which I am to be doted on and celebrated sort of embarrasses me, eliciting pangs of guilt and shame as I reflect on my mistakes of the years, or maybe even hours, before. Having special attention paid to me just feels so undeserved, so false. And I say this not out of self-pity, truly, but out of blunt honesty.
I always wanted to be a mom. Before I knew I wanted to do anything else in life, I wanted my own babies. I am thankful for my little brood, and I love them all dearly. As I’ve gotten older, I fully realize that parenting isn’t a walk in the park, and that we all feel like failures at one point or another. It’s the repetitive failure that gets me. And it’s the events triggering my sadness, anger and frustration that can steal the joy of having kids from me.
One of the biggest triggers is food. My kids, the two oldest in particular, are very picky eaters. And I feel like I’ve tried EVERYTHING to combat that. Quickest way to making me feel like a complete loser is sitting me down in a “Healthy Eating for Children” workshop. I know what my kids SHOULD eat. I do. But they don’t eat it. And I feel like whenever I talk to other moms about this, some agree that their kids are the same, and that commiseration does help a bit. But whether you’re looking at the food pyramid or social media, there’s no doubt about it – the fact still remains that my kids are not getting the nutrition they need. And folks, thanks for the advice, but you name it, I’ve done it. I’ve done grocery shopping with the kids, cooking with the kids, getting books from the library about food, visiting a farm, watching TV programs about where food comes from, having family dinners at the table and setting good examples of healthy eating for them. After extensive reading, we started all three babies out with healthy, nutritious, homemade baby purees full of fruit, veg, whole grains, even fish! All my kids were born great eaters and got progressively pickier. So we’ve tried the smoothie route, the sneaking things into baked goods or sauces route, the turning veggies into chips route, then onto bribery and begging. I don’t force them to clean their plates, I give them choices, I keep my temper (mostly). But the lunches still come back from school uneaten (and the school-issued restrictions for lunches add more complications still to their already limited palates). The fights at dinner time happen nearly daily. The complaints of being hungry and asking for treats and snacks constantly grates at Frank and me both. We stick with it, trying to keep our rules and trying to keep them at least from starving, but sometimes we give up. Sometimes they get cereal for dinner. Sometimes there is no dinner.
I always think, “How the heck does Jamie Oliver get his kids to eat all the stuff he’s on about?” And then I feel like well obviously he’s a better parent and (duh) a better cook, so let’s just hope he never peeks into my kids’ school lunch or sees the chicken nuggets I’m shamefully pleading them to eat for dinner because I can’t think of one other thing they actually like to eat even though they’ve now decided they don’t like these either. Oh Lord.
Maybe part of it for me is that Food is my “thing.” Cooking is what I like to do. I know a lot about food because I enjoy learning about it. And seeing my kids refuse meal after meal after meal just feels like the ultimate rejection. I want them to be healthy and happy and I want to know their food was thoughtfully prepared in our kitchen. I selfishly want them to come home from college one day asking for all their favorite meals, bragging to friends about how much they’ve missed Mom’s cooking. But based on the way we’re going, I doubt they’ll have even tasted a beef stew or a lasagne or a fish pie before they’re 30. Has anyone ever had a 19 year-old come home with friends and say, “just wait until you try my mom’s plain spaghetti!”
I’m sorry for this post being negative and venty. These are just the things that have been on my mind a lot lately, and especially this weekend. I’m also on edge and emotional because my own mom is in the hospital having heart surgery, and I’m a million miles away feeling helpless and more than a bit distraught.
My mom and I have had our ups and downs, like most mother-daughter relationships, but I do have a lot more empathy for her now that I’ve had kids of my own. When I think of how she raised and homeschooled four of us, I don’t know how she did it. In my parent’s house, we actually ate our dinners, many of which could fill volumes entitled “Creative Ways with Venison” or “Hamburger Helper for Life.” She taught us to laugh at ourselves while giving us a lifelong love of learning and the discipline to achieve great things. No matter how you look at it, Moms like mine are the cornerstone of the family. They give us life, they feed that life, and then they send us out on our own to continue in their example.
I don’t actually think I’m a bad mom. I just don’t don’t feel like I’m a good one. I don’t know if I ever will. And while I hate the trial and error nature of parenting, I’m also thankful that I’m allowed to begin again. And again. And again! And I’m thankful to be reminded (mostly by my toddler) that I don’t always need to be in a rush to be somewhere or do something. Maybe I don’t even need to get it right.
Maybe, maybe? I just need to be present, in my completely disheveled, grouchy, imperfect, caring-so-much-it-hurts kind of way. I guess we’ll find out. That would be kind of a messy miracle, wouldn’t it?