Mother’s Day Guilt

Mother’s Day is uncomfortable for me. It’s not because I’ve lost my mother. No, she is very much alive forwarding me emails with “cute” videos she’ll think I’ll enjoy or texting me messages meant for my father and wondering why he hasn’t responded. I have no problems praising her for putting up with me and my childhood shenanigans or my ever-present sarcasm. She’s an awesome mom, worthy of recognition.

Mother’s Day is uncomfortable for me as the mom.

When I married my husband, at 25, I became an instant mother to two, pre-teen boys. They were kind and sweet; I remember getting a fist full of dandelions wrapped in a box, a letter encouraging me to try out for American Idol because “I just know you’ll win” and the most beautiful ring a boy can buy with 100 tickets at the arcade. I had been a step-mom for only 7 months before Mother’s Day came. I remember having mixed emotions about what that day represented. I was partly excited because I felt I now belonged to this special group of women. On the other hand, I was aware I wasn’t their real mother. Although the boys lived with my husband and me, their mother was still in their lives and their grandmother (my husband’s mom) was also a huge part of their lives. I knew these women were the “Moms.” I was certain that any recognition I received was probably encouraged by my husband and, perhaps, not instinctively felt by my new sons. I also had other people look at me like I wasn’t a “real” mother. Case in point, someone (probably well-intentioned) asked me when I was going to start having kids. When I replied I already had two their response was “Yes, but they’re not really yours.” Ouch. (I wonder if they would have said that if I had adopted a child.)

Anyway, here I was trying to at least act like a parent with very little on the job training. Being a blended family isn’t easy. Personalities, traditions and habits are already formed. Marriage, itself, is enough of an adjustment but now all four of us had to adjust our way of life to become a family unit. A well-functioning family unit. I’d like to think I did some things well in those short 6-8 years before the boys left for college. Yet, I know I made plenty of mistakes as well.

After two “Step-Mother’s Days” I had my first daughter. My husband and I didn’t want to know what we were having. I felt like this pregnancy was a gift and who opens a gift early? When Freckles was born my husband was jumping up and down, fists raised in the air, tears running down his cheeks, shouting, “It’s a girl!” Oh, how that picture is burned in my brain. It makes me smile every. single. time. I remember thinking, when they placed her in my arms, I had just done the greatest thing I could ever do. I carried this little, goopy-eyed, raisin inside me while God was working His awesome magic. Then, to push her out through screams of pain only to see my husband’s joyous cheer, what could possibly top that? Nothing, I was certain. Well, except for act two with Smiley 22 months later.

I’m a mom and a step-mom and, unfortunately, there are no instructions for being either one. My sister-in-law said one time, “I don’t want to just survive motherhood, I want to do it well.”

Yes! I agree with this 100%. I want to be intentional with how I parent my kids, not just merely co-existing with them.  I heard someone say,

“The depth of our love can be measured by how much we’re willing to be inconvenienced.”

I think any parent can attest to the fact that sometimes the job of a parent is inconvenient to what we want as an individual.  Sometimes, that means making tough decisions. Sometimes, it means saying ‘No.’ Sometimes, it means not giving in even though if they’ve asked a millions times and I think I’m going to go crazy if I have to hear one more word about it. Sometimes, it means spending more quality time with them. Sometimes, it means putting the cell phone down and listening.  Like, really listening. Have I failed at all these things? Yes and more. Way more.

This is why Mother’s Day is uncomfortable for me. When my sweet-faced girls are giving me hand-drawn cards and telling me I’m the best mommy in the world, all I can think about is how many mistakes I’ve made. When my, now grown, sons call me to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day all on their own, all I think about is how I could have done things better. The job of a mother is hard.  It brings joy and pain.  It brings pride and guilt.

Ugh, such guilt! Does anyone else feel this way? Does every mom, I wonder? Are there Hallmark cards for the guilty mom? I know everyone is imperfect. We all make mistakes. However, I find the mistakes I make as a mother weigh more on me than the ones I make as an individual. Being a mom is my favorite job. It brings me so much joy and yet on the one day where this job is officially praised, I find myself feeling so unworthy. I’m not sure that will ever go away seeing as I’ve felt it for the past 14 years.  However, in an attempt to not let guilt steal the show this year, I’ve decided to turn things around. I decided I would like to say thanks to my kids…all four of them… for giving me my most favorite job in the first place.

Hipster, before I was rocking a baby or changing diapers, I was parenting a teenager. I think we both deserve something for making it through that. 😉  However, from the first box of dandelions to “it’s not chemical science” you have made me smile. I know I could have done many things differently. Thank you for not turning into a crazy person as I was learning my way. You made me a mom and I love you.

Wisecracker, we share laughs. You are kind, thoughtful, hard-working, always early and quick with a joke – all things I admire, respect and enjoy. You were my singing partner and baby helper. You, too, made me a mom. I couldn’t have picked better sons. I love you.

Freckles, my first baby girl. Such joy you have given me. You are like your father in so many ways. Such a Daddy’s girl. It’s fun to watch you grow and come out of your shell bit by bit. I love the quality time we spend together and the secrets we share. The sound of your laughter brings a smile to my face. You are so precious to me. I love you.

Smiley, you are a gift. God knew our home wasn’t complete without you. You are funny and tender-hearted. You come with endless hugs and kisses. As I’ve said often, you are my kindred spirit. It is my greatest joy to be your mom. I love you.

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To all of you, Happy ‘Thank you for making me a Mom’ Day.

♥♥ Mama ♥♥

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