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.
u are more than fine, Teresa. Did you know that really good moms are the only ones who worry about being good moms? Think about it :)
That’s absolutely true Susan! ?
You’re piecing together a quilt. Each block may not be pretty by itself but at the other end, laid out together, is going to be one beautiful blanket of memories. And those pictures? You don’t need one every day. For all of the thousands that I have taken over Robert’s 21 years, there is a much smaller collection that captures the essence of his childhood. And for every picture you haven’t taken, trust me that the memories of what are precious will continue to play over and over in your mind when you close your eyes or capture a scent on the wind or pass by a place where you played. And when you ask CeCe twenty years from now what she remembers, it’s not going to be all the stuff you stress about because you think it isn’t perfect. It’s going to be those moments that you were together, even if that moment only lasts a few minutes or a few seconds. I’ve watched you and trust me, you’ve got this. It’s all about the love and hugs and kisses. She instinctively knows that and will forgive you for whatever your foibles long before you ever do.
I have felt that every day of my life since I had my first son. Twenty years! It’s a long time..but I realized while watching my 17 and 20 year olds associate with other people that they are just what I wanted. They hold doors for ladies, they yes sir and no sir…they still have anxiety and stressors, but all in all they are good. Make the most of the time you have and remember how blessed you are to have a little Ray of sunshine! She is beautiful and I can see she will be a great teenager because you and your husband are great people!! We will be fine <3
This resonates in so many ways. While I am way past the toddler years, my son will be 19 in August I felt tears well up because in those almost 19 years I have felt exactly how you feel and even now I have moments that I just didn’t do this right….However I look at him and he is a good kid, really good and he is self sufficient I mean yeah some things he still looks to me or his dad but he really is good and I look forward to the man he is becoming. Thank you, for putting into words what I have felt from time go time. I agree we will be fine.
I have had these thoughts since the day my pumpkin was born. She is 13 now and full of troubles that break my heart and test my strength. I feel I am always failing her no matter how much I try to hold her up and teach her to be independent and to know this in her heart everyday. You are a good mom, we all are. We overdo ourselves daily for our families, always tired and always trying harder. Know in your heart Teresa you’ve got this. <3 From one mom to another. Stay strong.
Teresa you are a beautiful, amazing and talented woman!! Your words touch me and hit so close to home!! My son is 22 now, and I’m still a stressful mess….but that’s okay…. :)