Recently, not one but two people commented on the parenting choice I was making in a particular split-second of a moment. One I had never spoken to before in my life; the other was an acquaintance. The first comment, from the total stranger, sent me into a tearful breakdown in the car, the second just made me plain mad. Both made me feel completely inadequate as a parent, even though I’m sure they believed they were well meaning.
My kids’ favorite movie right now is The Greatest Showman. The song “Never Enough” pretty much describes how I felt after those comments. Because I feel like I do all.the.mom.things.all.the.time at the expense of my own health, happiness and sometimes sanity. And everything out there — the media, social media posts, blogs, magazines, e-newsletters and Tweets, — all those things tell me how to do it and how to do it better than I do because surely I couldn’t possibly know what I’m doing #knowbetterdobetter. I can’t get away from the constant barrage of information that makes money off every mother’s insecurities.
If everything I do is never enough, where does that leave my kids? You may see my kids acting rambunctiously in the grocery store, climbing something at the playground that may be too tall for what you think a child their size can handle or having a meltdown in a restaurant while we wait for food that should have taken 15 minutes and instead is taking 45. You may see my four-ring circus chasing each other around the front yard and my oldest boy pulling down his pants to pee in the driveway without missing a beat. You may think what you’re seeing is the whole picture and that therefore your unwanted comment makes sense. But there’s so much you don’t know and don’t see in that split second you choose to comment on my parenting decisions.
What you don’t know is that I fed all four a real meal the night before, with a vegetable they actually ate. That I had my son tested because I had a concern, that I spend a small fortune on ballet tights because my daughter lives to dance. That I carry on purposeful conversations with my littlest daughter in the car because her words are still hard to understand and her twin constantly talks over her. That I take each twin one at a time to different things it would be much easier to not drag them to just so they can have more mommy-time. You don’t see how many precious minutes I spend labeling all their school supplies, wiping their bottoms, buying sugar-free Halloween candy, looking for the toothpaste they’ll actually use, hunting down cream for eczema that works and finding something safe (other than peanut butter) for their lunch boxes at their nut-free schools. That I spend nights worrying about the fact they had a complete meltdown on the first day of third grade or that I have been agonizing for years about what school they’ll attend, even though half my kids are still in diapers. Do you care that I carefully think about a birthday that uniquely celebrates who they are, or that I have a spreadsheet to keep presents equal and within budget at Christmas? Do you have any idea how hard twins are? Do you realize I have been up four nights in a row at 2 a.m. because my youngest won’t fall asleep without his mama holding him? Do you know I finished a graduate degree while pregnant and working just so I could give my kids a better life? Do you know I also, by the way, work full time? Do you realize how many parenting articles I pour over when I could have been watching Schitt’s Creek? Do you know I teach Sunday school and read devotionals with my kids every night? Do you know or care about any of this at the moment you open your mouth to tell me I’m doing this whole mom thing wrong?
No, you do not.
Stop commenting on my choices and my children. MY children. They are MY silly monkeys, as my husband and I call them. You don’t know me. You don’t spend every hour with these small people. You don’t know what I know — their personalities and their abilities, how they communicate and what I know they understand, and when they are being willfully disobedient and when they simply don’t get it. You can’t know why I make the decisions I do and why I don’t stress when that one runs ahead of me down the sidewalk. I know these things. I know what they are capable of and how to handle their tantrums and when we can skip a nap and when we need bedtime at 6:30 p.m. I know why that one can’t spend the night out but this one can. I’m their mother. You also don’t know that I am doing the best I can, not only in the particular situation you commented on but in every situation, every day. Even when I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m still trying to do what’s best for them.
So next time, remember before you choose to comment: This is my circus and I love my monkeys. And you have no idea how much.