Last night, I went to Michael’s to get craft supplies for a school project for my oldest son. And all was well until I looked at my phone to realize how late it was. There were still two more people in front of me in the checkout line. I looked down at my yawning baby in my arms and felt guilty that I had him out so late. I also felt like a failure for forgetting my son had a project due the next day.
And that’s when I saw you walk in.
You had two preschool-aged children and you were so nonchalant about it. You weren’t holding their hands as they walked in next to you. Instead, you just trusted them to stay by your side in the store. Without grabbing a cart for them to sit in, you began looking around the first aisle leisurely with no speedy intent or purpose. If anything, you seemed like you showed up to shop for fun. At 8:20 p.m. With two small children. And I didn’t understand how you could be so peaceful, so I kept staring.
But as I stared, you continued smiling as your children picked up one little knick-knack after another and slowly went to the next. You didn’t seem to care that it was late. You didn’t seem to feel like anyone might be judging you despite it appearing that both of your children were under three. Instead, you looked relaxed, chill, and carefree. And at that moment, my self-degrading mom talk was gone. And all I could think was:
I want to be more like her because she’s doing something right.
So today, dear mom in Michael’s, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, I commend you. And today, I encourage other moms reading this to take note of what you did that night that I think we could all benefit from. Because I know that, as moms, we are riddled with parenting advice (often unsolicited) no matter which way we turn. And we need to recognize that if we don’t take a moment to stop and smell the roses, we may be missing out on the things that matter most.
So here are four lessons we can all take from you:
1. There is more than one way to be a good mom.
It’s easy to feel that there is a specific formula for being a good mom. But sometimes, being a good mom can look different than expected. Good moms don’t all put their children to bed at 7:30 p.m. Good moms don’t always make their children ride in a shopping cart. And some good moms even let their children eat a candy bar at 8:30 at night when checking out. If we don’t believe these things can be true, we will never break free from the outside pressures we feel to strive to be something we’re not.
2. Do what works best for your family instead of doing what you think is “correct.”
As I watched that mom in Michael’s, I could tell she was not concerned about what anyone thought of her. She was doing what worked for herself and her children. As moms, we have to recognize that our family’s needs are not the same as our neighbors’ family’s needs. Some kids can stay up late because they sleep in the next day and don’t have any engagements. Likewise, some moms need to put their kids to bed at 6:30 p.m. because they wake them up at 5:30 a.m. to get them to daycare before work. You know what your family needs better than anyone else does. Embrace that and make decisions from that place of knowledge.
3. If we moms can’t find moments to stop and appreciate things, we miss the point.
Have you ever noticed there are days when you are so caught up in running from one thing to the next that you don’t feel like finding time to enjoy your children? For example, if I had stopped putting pressure on myself that night in the store, I may have been in a better mindset to enjoy doing the project planning with my son. But I couldn’t enjoy myself in the present moment because I was focused on why I should have done something differently. And that’s sad. As moms, we must break free from letting stress or unrecognized pressure to be perfect stop us from enjoying the little moments. Because, as they say, life is not made up of the big moments but the little moments strung together.
4. Give up the notion that perfection in motherhood is a reality.
We cannot continue to believe that we can make all organic meals and have perfectly behaved kids who sleep 14 hours a night and read at age two. We will be sorely disappointed when we realize that accomplishing all these things is impossible. And never will be. We all say we can’t be perfect, but we make decisions as though we are striving for it so much of the time. That night in the store, that mom did not seem to care if she looked like the picture of perfection. But she looked SO happy. And what an impact that made on me. So much so that I am writing about it months after the fact.
So, thanks to all the moms who have broken the cage of feeling like every little detail has to be perfect and planned. To the ones who let their kids crawl across the floor at Chick-fil-A. Or those who let their kid’s Valentine box look like a piece of tornado debris. And to the moms who allow their children to walk into school with kinks in their hair because they fixed it themselves. I raise my tiny metaphorical sippy cup to you! May we all strive to have at least a few moments a day where we don’t take ourselves too seriously.