I had a realization the other night while having dinner with a friend. Although I’m a good mom, I’m not a great one, a simple yet profound realization for me. All this time I thought that all of my mommy efforts, the hundreds of activities that I’ve done with my children were selfless acts of mommy love and that’s simply not true.
During dinner I confessed to my friend that I’ve been feeling completely unmotivated with my children lately. It’s still cold outside, the days are gray and bounce between rain and snow. This happens at the end of every winter, the boys and I are tired of our usual indoor games and activities. We are ready to be outside enjoying the sunshine, exploring new hiking trails and discovering new playgrounds and parks to play in. However, this year is a little different. Instead of being creative and taking the boys outside I’m finding myself giving in and turning the TV on earlier in the day and keeping it on longer than I care to admit.
The last couple of years I had the kids out every day, rain, sleet or shine. In the winter, we’d bundle up and play in the snow. We’d jump in puddles when it rained and explore hiking trails all summer long. This year I’ve been in a funk and feeling unmotivated because I’ve been comparing myself today with myself of a couple of years ago and feeling like I’m not measuring up.
While talking with my friend, I was reminded that only two years ago our life at home was in complete upheaval. My oldest son with autism was extremely sensitive to his little brother’s cries, so much so that any type of noise or movement that came out of his little brother would result in sensory meltdowns of epic proportions. My days were spent keeping the boys busy and separated as much as possible.
That’s when it hit me, all of those hikes, adventures in the woods and planned activities that took up every minute of our days were not done because of my super mothering skills. They were done as a means of survival. Our days would stretch out before me and I would feel sick with dread. I was afraid to be home alone with both boys for an entire day. A big problem for a stay at home mom. It was impossible for one person to watch both boys for more than a few hours without experiencing one of my son’s horrible meltdowns. There were very few places I could take them. We couldn’t go anywhere the boys would be confined in the same room so I had to get creative. Taking them outside was the only viable option that seemed to help. So we played outside every…single…day.
I had to do it. I had to tire Eli out so he didn’t have enough energy left to fuss or cry and provoke Owen’s meltdowns. I had to tire Owen out in order to use up his manic energy that builds and builds until he’s literally bouncing off of the walls and incapable of sitting still. I had to make sure that he was too tired to escalate into full blown meltdown at the first sound or sight of his little brother. It was survival, plain and simple.
I didn’t know that then. In fact, I’m only just realizing it now. I have to admit it’s been a bit of a blow to my mommy ego. Over the last couple of years I received some very kind compliments from neighbors and even a couple of strangers who would see me out with my boys. They’d tell me how wonderful it was to see a mom so involved in her children’s lives. I’d smile and say thank you, hanging on to their every word. Random parenting compliments are very rare and I so appreciated hearing them. The thing is, after receiving a few of those compliments I started patting myself on the back and feeling pretty superior. I wasn’t like those other mom’s that were too busy with their own lives to spend quality time with their kids. I was rocking this mom job, or so I thought.
Fast forward through a wonderful year of growth and progress in our household. Little by little my boys have become friends. Not only are they able to be in the same room together but they frequently play together and even fight. Something I never thought would happen.
Both boys, both with varying degrees of autism, have required 100% of my attention every minute of every day for so long that I assumed that that was going to be our life. Then seemingly overnight they’ve begun playing by themselves for longer periods of time even seeming to enjoy their new found autonomy. Owen loves his Kindle and playing with his cars in his room. Eli loves watching cartoons and playing with Lego’s. They both could watch TV all day long if I let them and you know what? I’m letting them! Ugh, so much for rocking the mom job.
It was at dinner with my friend when it dawned on me that, a bit humbly, I’m not this amazing, selfless mom who goes above and beyond for her children. I was an exhausted mom that was in survival mode for a couple of years. I was doing what I needed to do to get us through each day. Running the boys ragged and leaving no energy left for meltdowns and manic behaviors worked so that’s what we did.
I love that our family is no longer operating in survival mode. I love that my boys are growing in their independence and capable of playing on their own for longer periods of time. I love that one of my problems today is worrying about how much TV my boys are watching. I love the normalcy of it all.
We are entering a new phase in our home. Things are changing and my old parenting tricks aren’t working like they once did. Some things are easier and some things are harder. All of it is an adventure.
I may never be a great mom but I’m one heck of a good one!