My best friend, Carrie, gave me a call on my way home from work. “I read your latest post on Indy Moms Blog,” she said.
She was referring to my post on why I am okay not being the “primary parent.”
“Look,” Carrie said. “You know I don’t hold back. I’m just going to say it: After reading that post, I’m a little worried about you.”
I paused, surprised. “Why is that?”
“Because I feel like I have heard you imply one too many times that you are just an okay mom. That you’re not an amazing mom, and you’re okay with that. The tone of that post was just…not you. You are not the lifeless, dull mom that you described in that post. You are an absolutely incredible mom.”
As she spoke, tears began to form in my eyes. How did she know that I’d been struggling with this issue? Earlier in the week, I’d told my husband I’d had a realization after reading Daring Greatly, Brené Brown’s treatise on the power of vulnerability. In the book, she describes the pervasiveness of shame in our culture, especially among women. Brené pinpoints the difference between guilt and shame as this: Guilt is saying, “I did something bad.” Shame is saying, “I am bad.” In that simple explanation, I saw myself and my life.
Almost every single day, when I feel I’ve fallen short of some theoretical superwoman standard, I tell myself I’m not good enough. That I’m not creative enough or efficient enough or pretty enough, or that I’m lazy and have no patience. My default setting is self-criticism and judgment. Until I read Brené’s book, I had no idea how frequently I was beating myself up. I was swimming in an ocean of shame, one I’d filled myself drop by drop.
In talking with Carrie, I realized I had a deep-seated fear of not being a good enough mom for my daughter. I desperately want to be a role model for her. Then Carrie said something I will never forget.
“You are so critical of yourself and so quick to declare you’re not good enough,” she said. “You’re so worried about screwing up this whole mom thing that you are tearing yourself apart. And you know what? THAT is how you will screw up this whole mom thing. Be a regular human who is flawed and faces challenges and does the best she can anyway. Tearing yourself down, speaking harshly about yourself for not being utterly perfect, and feeling you have nothing left to give is what could potentially screw up your relationship with your daughter. At some point, obsessing about making mistakes actually becomes the mistake.”
Dozens of Facebook friends liked my status linking to that post. Many people commented with words of praise and resonance. Several friends shared the post, and it received similarly positive feedback. All these nice comments, and my best friend saw right through it to the real issue, the one I felt but didn’t say.
All my talk about not being a supermom and not being the primary parent and surviving the struggle days has been spoken in self protection. It’s been some sort of reverse psychology mind game I’m playing with myself. Kind of like saying, “I don’t care if I get that amazing new job. If I don’t care, I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out.”
I DO care. I DO want to be an amazing mom, and I refuse to let my own insecurities stop me from embracing my success. I AM a great, hands-on mom, and it’s time for me to get out of my own way.