Comparison has always and forever will be a thief of joy. Of all the people we compare ourselves to, comparing ourselves to our own mothers is probably the biggest trap of them all, yet so many of us fall into it. At least I did.
In the early months of motherhood, I found myself getting bent out of shape over piles of laundry that never got put away, dirty dishes all over the place, sheets that desperately needed to be changed, really the list could go on, but you get it.
We were in survival mode like everyone else with a newborn, but I needed to be thriving. I needed to have it all together and it had to look effortless. That’s what my mom did, so I knew I could. That was my expectation for myself.
I wondered how my house looked like a war zone when my home growing up was always magazine-ready.
I wondered how clothes not only got cleaned but folded AND put away. My mom never had laundry around. My clothes were always in the drawers and closet, waiting for me to put them on.
I wondered who had the time or energy to cook a full meal from scratch for their family every day, besides my mom of course. She did it all and had infant, identical twins and a toddler 15 months apart to care for on top of high school and college-aged children to check in with.
We have the same genes more or less, right? Am I not measuring up because I’m less motivated to be a great mom? Why can’t I keep it together like my mom?!
The answer is: She didn’t always have it together either. I’m sure there were days she sat on her bed for a moment of silence and wondered how she could ever compare to her mother, my Nana. I’m sure she was disgusted by the dog hair on the carpet, dishes piled out of the sink, and clutter on the countertops, but she just didn’t have the time or energy to get to it. I’m sure there were days she never unloaded the dryer or guiltily moved the pile to be folded to the library and off her bed so she could crawl into it after an exhausting day. She would get to it tomorrow; out of sight, out of mind.
We never knew. And we never noticed the clutter or filth because we were too busy getting help on our homework and projects, watching TV together as a family, getting ready before bed, or taxied to and from all of our events.
We didn’t notice the laundry piles hidden away, because we always had clean clothes to wear to school.
We never thought, I can’t believe mom didn’t make us dinner, because we were all super excited about cereal or takeout instead.
The six of us didn’t notice our mother’s self-perceived inadequacies because, to us, she never had them. We were, and still are, loved so deeply by our parents. We were the center of their world. All of our needs were met every day. We made it to every practice, every game, every appointment, and every school day on time with a kiss goodbye. We came first and we knew it—the rest never mattered.
It’s time to stop holding ourselves to the impossible standards of the image we’ve created of our mothers. Because she isn’t real. She was everything we ever needed and more because all kids need is some semblance of structure to feel safe and loved.
My kids don’t want perfectly cooked meals, color-coordinated closets, or a farmhouse chic living space channeling Joanna Gaines. They want my attention and affection. That’s what they will remember about us.
I’m going to focus on what I can do today. I’m reading them another story, letting them have an ice cream cone for dinner, moving the laundry off of our bed so they can snuggle next to me and tell me how their day went, even, even if it’s past bedtime and they smell like Fritos.
Stop stressing about your to-dos and keep making those memories, mamas. Those are the things they will remember.