How To Give Yourself A Damn Break

Have I mentioned that being a mother is hard?  I can’t remember…oh, that’s right. I have 5,642 times.

Well, here’s yet another example. Get excited.

My latest case and point of having my maternal act together (that’s sarcasm) is that I cannot, for the life of me, remember to send my children to school with their lunch boxes. All the prep work occurs without fail (making the grocery list, buying the food, planning the meals, packing the lunches, storing them in the fridge over night). However, at least six times in the past few weeks, at least one of the lunch boxes was left behind.

Each time a sad child would call from the school office pleading for my husband or I to save the day, “I forgot my lunch can you pleeeeease bring it to me? I’ll be starving if you don’t.”  The answer to date has been – it depends. Sometimes we take it, sometimes we don’t, sometimes the nanny can, and sometimes she can’t. But that’s not the point.

The question is…why in the hell is this so hard?

How hard is to get this task over the finish line – to simply put an already prepared package of food out on the counter or into a backpack?  According to our track record, apparently it’s the hardest task ever assigned. There are four human beings in our house (myself, my husband, my daughter, my son) that are all personally being inconvenienced and shortchanged by this shortcoming; we all know it’s a problem, and we still can’t manage to get it done.

Despite the fact that we have several Post-It note reminders directly at eye-level.

While I was initially tempted to beat myself up (old habits die hard), I was reminded that we’re going through a lot of firsts at home and it’s ok to give ourselves a break. I’m writing a book for the first time, my husband just started a new job, and the kids are in higher and harder grades in school.

That’s a lot of new.

We fantasize that motherhood gets easier over time and that there’s a cumulative effect to the lessons learned. But, let me just tell you something you already know, but keep forgetting: the learning doesn’t always add up.

If you screw something up with your twelve-year-old daughter, you might yell at yourself by saying, “Geeze, lady, you’ve been a mother for over a decade, why in the world can’t you get this right?”

But let me stop you right there.

Even if you’ve been a mother for twelve years, you’ve only been a mother to a twelve year old for a few months – at best. At the end of the day, there’s very little mothering a twelve-year-old has in common with mothering a two-year-old, so stop beating yourself up as though they’re one in the same.

One of the expectations we need to set as mothers goes far beyond “once a mom, always a mom,” It’s more like, “once a mom, always a first time mom.” Throughout your motherhood experience, you’ll always be faced with firsts. In other words, whether you like it or not, embrace it or not, you’re always going to be a rookie – and rookies don’t get things right the first time.

Maybe you get the hang of being a mother to a baby, but then that child starts going to school, eventually they start dating and driving, and one day they’ll get married and have children and challenges of their own. And because each and every one of these experiences will be new to you, they will be hard for you.

As my friend Kate likes to say, “Being a mother is like climbing a series of mountains. New peaks and valleys appear with every new experience. You’ll never get the mountains to go away, but you do get better at climbing.”

In my house right now, we’ve got two kids in two different schools, in two different sports, and with two different parents learning and growing into new positions at work. While I may not like that we keep forgetting to take the lunches out of the fridge, it makes sense in the world to me that we would.

It’s a miracle this is the only thing we’re screwing up.

I’m not a bad mother. I’m a busy mother with a busy family and we’re doing the best we can. And, for the first time in my life, I refuse to allow myself to classify “doing my best” as failing.

Because it’s not.

What firsts are you going through right now and how can you give yourself a break?

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