I’m not always a great mom. Three and a half years in to this motherhood and I’m usually fighting off this low level anxiety and guilt that feels like an oncoming virus that you know is just one day away from breaking loose. This rumbling, tumbling, “you’re not doing this right” that speaks loudest in my quiet moments and puts me on hyper alert . . . suddenly seeing every counter smudge, broken light fixture, dusty surface, and random discarded pair of paw patrol panties. A grinding, repetitious, “you’re not doing this right, you’re supposed to be better than this, you’re not good enough”.
Some days my frustration mounts, my tone gets sharper, my inability to give my toddler grace and patience to find and put on her own shoes just pulls this invisible rubber band back tighter and tighter until it snaps. “Are you OK? Do you need help?” my husband asks (bless him, he just sensed the change in the momametric pressure). “Yes get in here, I’m about to freak out” is what I think but “no I’m fine” is what I say. I can handle this. I can do this. I will not be overcome by a toddler and her shoes. These are the moments I’ll miss, I tell myself and I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.
We aren’t all doing fine, though, are we? The endless, gnawing, quest for perfection. The inability to phone it in, shrug our shoulders, and say “ehhhhh good enough”. The doubt, the guilt, the failures that stick with us so much longer than the wins. Motherhood is hard.
Somedays its like I’m trapped in an escape room and can’t figure out the puzzles. There is this clock that is always ticking down, adding to my anxiety, letting me know that my daughter is only getting older. Tick – these are the days I will miss. Tock – I’m not doing enough to remember her while she is little. I’m a photographer and there are never enough pictures. I wrote about Feeling Too Fat to Be Photographed and rarely get in the photo. I celebrate families and never have enough time with my own. I’m not always a great mom.
When I’m caught up in trying to keep everything together, and *perfect* the things I want most are pushed to the side. I don’t take enough pictures of our life. I started the year doing a photograph a day but I just couldn’t keep up. I feel so guilty. I’m a _photographer_. A freaking photographer. If I can’t take more pictures, how could any mom? Maybe I would remember the camera if I wasn’t trying to remember where her shoes are. I am beautiful, messy, stressed and so is our life.
When I meet with senior moms about senior portraits I see the same guilt wash over their faces. Almost all of them sheepishly admit that it has been years if not a decade since their last good family photograph. I understand. I know all the reasons why it never happened. I am a photographer without enough photographs, and I am a mom that hears the same ticking clock you hear.
You didn’t take pictures because life was too busy. You were too stressed. Everything was too messy. You were trying not to loose your cool while looking for toddler shoes, or middle school homework, or your high schooler. That voice inside said you aren’t good enough, you aren’t doing it right, you’re supposed to be better than this or look better than this . . . and now like everything else, it feels too late. You feel like you’re not always a great mom and this is just one more way you’ve proved it to yourself. It’s hard to imagine perfect pictures when you’re living a beautiful, messy, stressed out life.
I wanted to write this and tell you I have the answer, but I don’t. I don’t have an answer that doesn’t add to your already growing to do list and guilt. So I just wanted you to know I understand. I’m not always a great mom, and neither are you, but we are in this together. We’re fine. We’re fine. We’re fine.