Yesterday I got into bed and told my husband, “Today I was the kind of mom I wish I was every day.” It was an amazing day – I realized – because I was not distracted; a perfect Sunday without the looming rush of the work week. There was no grocery shopping, putting food away, making lunches, washing dishes, prepping dinner in between loads of laundry and giving baths. Instead, with no work in the week ahead (we are having a stay-cation) we spent our time finger painting, putting together puzzles, reading stacks of books, taking a lengthy bubble bath, swimming like a mermaid and watching a movie snuggled in mom’s bed. Who could ask for anything more?
The other thing I noticed on this relaxing and fun family day was how affectionate my daughter was. All full of unsolicited hugs and kisses and “I love you” throughout the day and we reciprocated every single one. She radiated love and excitement at just having our attention. I saw what a difference the slowed pace made. I felt the childlike joy of lying in bed and giggling together and then I heard the four words that changed everything. My daughter, smiling and ecstatic said, “Mommy, you’re not mad!”
I am not usually mad at my daughter, but I knew what she meant. She meant I was not rushing her. I wasn’t saying things like, “Hurry or we’ll be late” or “We’ll do that later, we have to do this now.” I wasn’t telling her, “In a minute” or the dreaded “I’m going to count to three…” It was like being hit by a semi-truck. I was stricken. How could I not have seen this? How could I ever make my sweet girl feel like I was mad at her? I was devastated. I said, “Honey, do you think mommy is mad at you sometimes?” She got quiet, wondering I’m sure what I wanted her to say and finally replied, “You’re not mad mom.”
I immediately stopped the movie. I sat face to face with her, looked her in the eye and tried to explain that Mommy is not mad at her when we have to hurry. Mommy is not mad when we have to do a not so fun thing instead of playing. Most importantly, mommy is sorry she felt that way.
There is no doubt that like most families, we lead a busy life. Still, with two working parents and all the trimmings I thought we were doing OK. We take time every day to play together and we involve her in the things we need do too, like making dinner. We make time before bed to lie together and cuddle, read books and pray. Yes, we rush sometimes. Yes, our weekdays are busy. I can’t change that. We need to work, we need to make dinner each night, we need to do laundry and dishes and give baths. What I don’t need to do is make my toddler think I am mad at her.
So lying there, I re-evaluated how we go about our day to day. I wondered how I could keep being the kind of mom I want to be even when we were back to work.
I can try my best to eliminate “hurry” and “not now” from my vocabulary and replace them with things like, “Mommy sure wishes we could do that right now. Since we need to go, do you think we could do that together when we get home?”
I can take the time to slow down myself and see things from her perspective. I could probably use a little more “kid” in my life any way!
Then I made an important decision. I am not going to continue to beat myself up over it. It hurt, that’s true. I regret it, that’s certainly not my first or last mistake. Self-loathing won’t change it or make it better. Crying didn’t do it either. So, I accept that I screwed up. I accept that I am not a perfect mom. Who is? Thankfully she’s not permanently damaged and thankfully I recognize the opportunity to change it, and that’s where I can be a better mom.