Let’s face it. No one is perfect.
I might look like I have it all together. But really, I don’t. I’m a veritable mommy mess, and now the world knows. I didn’t wash the dishes or fold the laundry, I haven’t showered in three days, and I just ate a jar of Nutella with a spoon. You heard it here first, people.
Since I became a parent, I started to cut myself some slack. My previously perfectly-put-together self would have never tolerated a messy house, multiple loads of unfolded laundry, greasy and messy hair, or binge eating Nutella. Oh, no. Those things were unacceptable to pre-kid me. But now, I’m okay with it. Well, I’m at least no longer beating myself up.
Now, let’s be clear. There are two definitive types of faults. The first, the kind we should embrace and let our kids see (mommy isn’t perfect, and that’s A-OK). And then the second, the kind we should throw into the trash bin and never show our kids (mommy is showing you behavior that can only screw you up). I’d like to avoid screwing up my kids, and I’m sure they’d appreciate that too.
As we all know, parenthood gives you a whole new perspective. All of a sudden, I’m responsible for these little helpless people. My job now is to make sure that these little humans grow up to be good people? People who care for others, give back, work hard, and [insert positive quality here]? Hello, responsibility. I eat cereal for dinner.
So in the spirit of embracing my faults, here is a list I like to call 10 Things I Hate About Me. After over three decades, I am finally self-aware enough to put these thoughts down on paper and to share them with the world. I’m trying my best to model good behavior for my kids. I am the adult, after all (though I’m not quite sure when that happened).
1. I hated my body and had an unhealthy relationship with food. I never felt comfortable in my own skin, compulsively watched what I ate, exercised too much, and controlled my stress through food. After 30 years of this nonsense, I’ve put it behind me. No negative body talk in front of my kids. We have a positive relationship with food in our house. We eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full, we eat healthy meals but have our share of snacks, and we sit together and talk while we eat. We discuss constructive and effective ways to deal with our emotions (take a walk, dance it out, or write in a journal, to name a few).
I’ve even told Grammy to not discuss her “thunder thighs” or “chicken wings” in front of the kids. I want my children, especially my daughter in today’s society, to be strong, confident, and self-aware. It starts at home. No body shaming here, of anyone else, even ourselves. Food and our own bodies are not our enemies. How can I expect my kids to love themselves if I don’t love myself?
2. I bottled emotions up and refuse to talk about my feelings. No longer. We lay it out on the table in our house. I recently cried in front of my daughter, and when she came to comfort me, I was honest, telling her that mommy was sad, needed to cry about it, and it’s okay to cry if you need to. If my daughter is upset about something, no matter how small, I acknowledge her feelings and help her talk through the tears. I used to bury my upset because I thought no one would understand. So now when I’m upset, I talk about it. I hope that our house of open emotions teaches them the valuable life skills of openness and honesty.
3. I’m a perfectionist, to the extreme. In all honesty, I will always be a perfectionist, but I’m trying to find a happy (and less compulsive) medium. I’m saying goodbye to the days of scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. I’m also trying to keep my compulsions to myself and not force them, even if inadvertently, upon my kids. Do you ever watch your kids do art, glitter and paint going all over the place, and want to just scream? If so, then I can relate. I might be crying on the inside, but on the outside I’m all relaxed and groovy.
4. I compared myself to others. Thankfully, I am on the recovering end of this terrible habit. Why am I not as pretty, as smart, or as rich as she is? News flash to the old me: there will always be someone who has it “better” than you do. When I’m an old lady, sitting in a rocking chair and reminiscing about my life, only one thing will really matter: how much kindness and love did I share with and pass onto others?
Comparing yourself to others serves no purpose unless you are trying to find a constructive way to better yourself (a la, she gives a lot back to her community; that seems like a good thing to start dedicating my time to). Let’s start looking up to people for the right reasons and stop looking down on ourselves for the wrong reasons. Our kids will follow suit and do the same.
5. I’m anxious and probably always will be. I have very anxious parents (they wouldn’t dispute this, so I’m not offending anyone). I wasn’t allowed to stand near windows when I was a kid (ones that were closed and locked, just so we’re clear). You can imagine how learning to drive was for me. As a result, everything makes me nervous. My husband often asks me, “How do you live like this?” Frankly, I don’t know.
I’ve always been anxious. So I now ask myself two questions every time something makes me nervous: “Is there a constructive purpose to worrying about this? Is this something my children need to know about?” I’ve learned to file away the nonsense (the binding of the book needs to face outward!) and focus on the real stuff (don’t run with the colored pencil!).
6. I am too apologetic, often for no reason at all. When I was growing up, my dad used to tell my mom to stop apologizing for herself. Now that I’m an adult, I realize what he was talking about and that I’ve inherited that trait. A few ridiculous examples: I’m sorry, but could you pass the potatoes? I’m sorry that you bumped into me so rudely. I’m sorry for being sorry.
When my daughter started to apologize for things that didn’t warrant apologies (ugh!), I realized I had a bad habit that I really had to kick. And as a mama who wants to raise a strong and independent daughter, it’s time to save my apologies for situations that actually require apologies.
7. I always put myself last. Many moons ago, my mom told me to not be like her. Kudos to my mom for being honest enough to share this with me. What did she mean? It’s good to be selfless, to an extent. Go out of your way for others, take time to give back, and sacrifice your time to show you care for those you love.
But draw a line in the sand and know when you’ve neglected yourself. Take a few extra minutes to put on some makeup, go exercise, treat yourself to something new, make your significant other watch the kids on the weekend so you can have some alone time, and speak up for yourself if something isn’t working. I used to think self care was a luxury. Now I know that self care is essential, and I can’t parent effectively if I’m miserable.
8. I am not good at delegating duties and sharing responsibilities. Perhaps we can file this under the Type-A and perfectionist category. Remember group assignments in school? I despised those. Why? Because I had to give up control and entrust other people to do a good job (eek!). So imagine my transition into adulthood, the workforce, and then parenthood. I can do it all! Well, at some point after having my second kid, I realized that no, I cannot do it all.
I now have to delegate some duties to other people if I want any chance of getting things done and keeping myself sane. I also just have to let some things go. My kids love to do things on their own. When they need help, they don’t want to take it. I can relate. So I’m trying to teach them now, when they are just wee babes, that it is okay to hand over the reigns sometimes. Though I’ll add a provison that proofreading (literally or figuratively) someone else’s work if your butt is on the line is perfectly fine.
9. I almost always see the glass half empty instead of half full. Perhaps this is the cynical New Yorker side of me (you know, the one who thinks a grey t-shirt is a pop of color). I used to never, ever look at the bright side. I had a doomsday perspective, as they say. My husband, Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, cannot stand this. I suppose it’s true that opposites attract (or perhaps in my case they tolerate one another…). I’ll never be Susie Sunshine, that’s for sure.
But maybe I can perk it up a bit and be Partly Cloudy Patty? Yes, I just made that up. I want my kids to be practical and rational, of course. But I also want them to dream big, think outside of the box, and have positive perspectives. Actions speak louder than words. So this mama is keeping her chin up now.
10. I lacked confidence and self worth. The “popular” (a/k/a mean) kids made fun of me in middle school. I used to go home every day and cry and wonder what was wrong with me. I realize now that I wasn’t the problem at all. It was you, not me. My kids are still little, but I worry daily about whether they will be bullies or the ones being bullied. I fear both alternatives.
So I’m constantly trying to teach them to be kind to others and to be strong and confident in themselves. I do now what I was too afraid to do when I was a kid – I let my freak flag fly. If my kids see me being confident in expressing all parts of myself, and we let them express all parts of themselves, then hopefully they will grow up knowing that “weirdness” is actually uniqueness, which is the ultimate strength.