I saw another meme with this message: “You are exactly what your child needs. Don’t ever doubt that for a second. Not even through a quarantine.”
When I read it, I cringed, and then melted. I didn’t cringe in a “oh-how-stupid” way or in a “oh-I-am-so-much-more-enlighted-than-you” way. It’s more of a heartbreaking, “no, don’t-go-that-way” feeling. I mean, I’ve read this mantra a thousand times. It’s a prevailing notion in modern motherhood. It’s best friends with the “I am enough” message.
And I get it. It’s meant to be a balm for the self-doubt, the second guessing, the worries about all work and no reward. It wants to know the answer: Will our kids be okay? Am I doing right by my children? Am I doing more good than I am damage? It quiets the insecurities and that nagging, sometimes raging, voice in your mind that berates and highlights your failures. But the balm is temporary, and the quiet doesn’t last.
In my opinion, there isn’t a more damaging message to moms out there than this. For a woman who’s dedicated the last five years of her life to creating a space for all moms and doing her best not to share a personal opinion publicly about baby-wearing, when kids should get cell phones, and if it’s acceptable for your 10 year old to sleep in your bed, this is a bold — and for me, scary — assertion. I’m asserting my opinion here like a red flag blowing in the wind. Because if there was a time to rally the mothers and say something that sparks hope and freedom, then I am for it. Because if there was ever a time to say words that support moms, that speak truthfully and practically, the time is now.
Mothers are parenting in uncharted waters of a global pandemic, navigating the day-to-day demands of feeding multiple meals and household tasks coupled with the mirky waters of decoding outbursts and big feelings and scared feelings and . . . crisis schooling and working from home, and it can’t even be put into words what is happening right now in our homes and in our hearts.
The LAST thing you need to hear is “you are enough” when you know damn straight you aren’t.
I think the “you are enough” message means to say you are valuable, you deserve dignity, what you’re doing matters in ways we can’t even fathom. That is all 100% true. But are you enough for your kids? Are you just what they need? Probably not. They need more than you. You were never meant to be everything. You were never meant to be the all in all . . . all the good doesn’t point back to you, and neither does all the bad. It’s a mixed bag.
I don’t know when or where the notion appeared in modern motherhood that mothers were to be the end all be all for our kids, but that notion is killing our moms’ hearts and minds.
Our kids need other family members. They need friends. They need teachers. They need enemies for Pete’s sake. They need neighbors and piano teachers and coaches and pastors and priests and . . . you get the idea.
And that’s what makes this pandemic even harder. Our kids are missing what they need, and what we need. And so we want to bandage that hurt with words like “you are enough” and “you’re just what your kids need.” Those bandages, though, are temporary fixes.
There is more healing in the truth — hard as it is — than trying to suture together some hope with shaky claims.
It is good to ask these questions: Am I doing right by my kids? How can I love them better? But when you want to ask “am I enough,” respond with this freeing truth: I don’t have to be. You don’t have to be enough. You don’t have to be everything your kids needs. You can’t. You never were meant to be.
Doing the absolute best you can on some days and the most mediocre on other days and being honest about that with your kids and yourself will do more to model healthy parenting and living we can probably grasp.
Your deposits into your kids’ daily moment have more value and weight than you will know — and yes, for the good and for the bad.
We have to let go of our idol of balance and perfect. COVID-19 is doing that for us. Our kids will not be well-balanced or perfectly loved with each need met, but they will survive — and that may pay in dividends far beyond the benefits of soccer practice or a perfect mother.