A couple of years ago, I sent my then-second-grade son to school on the bus one blustery Monday morning. My younger children were still asleep, so I lay back down in bed. About 45 minutes later, the phone rang and jolted me out of my sleep.
I noticed it was my son’s school and immediately my heart sank. I was sure he was sick or hurt and my mind went straight to the worst. When I answered, the receptionist told me she had my son in the office with her. “Second-graders don’t have school today since they made their First Communion yesterday,” she admonished.
“They don’t!?!” I replied in a daze of exhaustion and confusion.
“No, dear. You need to come pick him up.”
“Okay, then. I’ll be right there.”
I rolled out of bed and quickly changed into something somewhat presentable. I grabbed my sleeping children and put them into the car in their pajamas. I racked my brain the whole way to his school. I tried to reach the deep recesses of my mom brain.
How on earth did I miss that memo?
I did the mom walk of shame to the office and collected my child. I tousled his hair and gave him a clumsy side squeeze. I looked at him with a regretful smile and he shrugged his shoulders back at me. We walked to the car in silence.
“Mom of the year,” I muttered under my breath as I began to silently berate myself. How could I be so careless and irresponsible? How could I have done that to my poor child? How do I still not have this motherhood thing down? I can’t believe I could be so negligent. He has every right to hate me. I’m sure this will scar him for life.
I was still beating myself up as we turned out of the parking lot. From the backseat, my son piped up cheerfully and said, “Wow! I have nothing on my agenda now. This is pretty awesome!”
I made eye contact with him in the rear-view mirror and we both started to laugh. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I still felt really bad and I was really embarrassed, but I knew everything was going to be okay.
Since then, I’ve missed signing permission slips, forgotten to turn in school forms, deleted (accidentally and on purpose) important emails, missed important deadlines, forgotten to purchase what I signed up to send in for class parties, let the lunch account drop below zero, forgotten it was dress-down day or crazy-sock day or school-spirit day (or countless other days), forgotten to pack a snack, and most recently, completely forgot about fourth-grade parent lunch.
Mom of the year, I am not.
But guess what? Neither are you. Was that too harsh? I didn’t meant for it to be, but it’s true. “Mom of the Year” is a myth. “Mom of the Year” doesn’t exist. There is no one way to be a mom and no mom is perfect. Even moms who seem to have it all together make mistakes.
I had a friend share with me recently that it really bothers her when a mom forgets something or misses something or in some way feels like she didn’t measure up as a mom and she criticizes herself by saying (derogatorily) “mom of the year” or “mom fail.” I’m right there with her.
Mamas … cut yourself some slack.
You are not a failure because you make a mistake. And making a mistake doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re human.
Motherhood is hard enough; we have got to stop beating ourselves up over every little thing! We are going to make mistakes. We are going to slip up. We are going to forget. We are going to miss things. We are going to turn our backs for a second. We are going to lose track of time. We are going to mess up!
What we do after we make a mistake is truly what defines us as a mother and as a human.
Do we admit that we made a mistake? Do we apologize sincerely? Do we try to make amends?
My latest “not” mom fail was forgetting about my son’s fourth-grade parent lunch. I had to work that day but my husband was planning to go. It was all settled, except that I didn’t write it down and neither did my husband. I totally forgot about it until another mom posted a picture with her child at the lunch (hours later). Oh my gosh, did I feel terrible.
When my son walked through the door, the first thing my husband and I both did was stop him and scoop him into a great big hug. We could tell he was disappointed, but he also took it in stride. We apologized to him profusely. My husband even took him out for ice cream — just the two of them — later that day. As he was eating his giant ice cream, he told my husband, “I think this might have actually worked out in my favor!”
Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. More often than not what we see as a complete failure is just a tiny blip for them. They might feel disappointed (and no mom wants to disappoint her child), but it’s okay for them to feel that way every now and then. Sometimes what we see as a mom fail is really an opportunity for our children to grow in character or resolve something on their own.
And showing them that we are human, and we make mistakes is a perfect way to teach them that they are human and they will make mistakes. What sets our kids up for actual failure is when we try to portray ourselves as perfect and we never acknowledge or admit to our mistakes.
At the end of the day, did you do the very best you could to take care of your child? Did you hug him and give him kisses and tell him you love him? Did you help her study for her spelling test or take her to volleyball practice? Did you make his favorite dinner? Did you read her a bedtime story? Did you offer encouragement or praise? Did you have a dance party in the living room? Did you do puzzles or play a game? Did you hang up her artwork on the fridge? Did you listen to a (possibly long) story?
Do you love your child with every fiber of your being?
Then you know what? There may be a “Mom of the Year” after all. And you know who it is? It’s you. It’s me. It’s every mom out there who works tirelessly to make her child’s life an amazing one. Congratulations! Go give your child a hug, tell him you love him, and then go celebrate your success knowing no mistake or failure will rob you of your title.
Copyright 2018 Leanne Willen