A few months ago, I stood screaming at my kids to get it together so we wouldn’t be late for their spring concert. I wanted to get a good seat and, dammit, I was mad it took so much out of me to get them to leave the house on time. I was a yelling, sweaty mess, but by the time we got to the school, I walked in there all pulled together and shit, wearing my heels and a smile.
An hour later, I was weeping in the fifth row because I was watching my daughter sing on the elementary school stage for the last time. Some of those tears were from the guilt I felt for yelling at my children, looking so adorable in their concert attire. Why can’t I just keep it together for my kids all the time? Why do I lose it so often and then feel horrible about it after? How come on some days not much phases us, while on others the tiniest thing sends us over the edge?
Some days, I am really quick to just say “no,” like before I even have time to think about what my kids are actually asking me. After processing their request, I realize “yes” would have been an entirely appropriate response, but I stick with my “no” anyway. I refuse to budge.
Some days, I do budge. I do change my mind, saying “yes” after I have already said “no.” I know it doesn’t send the right message. I have read all the books and listened to enough parenting seminars about consistency to know better, but I do it anyway because it feels right.
Some days, I handle the messes better than others. I don’t care if I step on the matchbox cars and feel the pain shooting up my foot and leg. I don’t even utter a naughty word. I just enjoy watching them play.
Some days, my kids bring down sacks of Legos and blocks from their room and I am like, “No, not today. Stay up in your room with that mess.” I have no desire to watch them play on those days.
Some days, I cook a feast and don’t care if my kids complain because the enjoyment I get from it is enough. And I realize they have palates of little kids, because they are, in fact, little kids.
Some days, I slam the dishes in the dishwasher because I have given birth to ungrateful little shits who will never know what a balanced, healthy meal can do for them.
Some days, I argue with my husband in front of my kids. They see us get angry, make up and sometimes, start in again.
Some days, I can hold it in until I know they are sound asleep.
Some days, I stare out the window at my children playing outside and think about how lucky I am.
Some days, I tell them to leave me alone, to “just go outside and play,” more times than I can count.
Some days, I take a quick trip to the market and as I am loading the groceries on the conveyor belt, I get a deep longing for them. I have only been gone an hour, but I miss them and can’t wait to get home and give them a big squeeze.
Some days, I take my sweet time because I’m not sure I can keep it together any longer. I need more time to myself. I load my car and sit in the parking lot sucking back a soda and just stare at people because I don’t have the energy to head home yet.
Some days, I feel really social and plan fun activities with other moms.
Some days, I can’t talk to anyone who does not live with me because I need to regroup, stay in my yoga pants, and just breathe.
Some days, I feel really good about the way I mother and the way I handle myself and my children.
Some days, I feel like a complete failure who tries with all her might to bring her best but just can’t. “Not today,” I think to myself, knowing full well tomorrow might not be any better.
We aren’t the same mothers every day. We have mood swings, don’t get enough sleep, and let things slide because we are too excited about a date night with our best girls to care if the baby cries the whole way to the grocery store (because we know we will have a respite later). Some days, those same cries make us feel helpless and indignant.
Motherhood is wonderful chaos. It is unpredictable and damned scary. No, it doesn’t look the same all the time. I don’t parent as consistently as the books tell me I should, and (mostly) I am fine with that.
The one thing that looks the same to all the wonderful mothers I know is the love. God, that love that we have for our kids is unconditional, indescribable. It never changes, and in so many ways, it completes us.
I may not be the same every day and my kids may not be the same every day, but the love exchanged between us always feels the same.
And for me and my tribe, that is enough.