We live in a digital age. Most of us have at our fingertips technology that our grandparents’ generation didn’t dream of. The world has gotten smaller and smaller as technology expands to something everyone has instead of an oddity select few opt into. With the growth of cellphones, laptops, tablets, smart TVs, and even “smart enabled” kid tech, it is easy to feel like the world is in our hands. For every question we have, we can ask Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Bixby, or Google. So why, as a mom in the face of all of this, can the world seem so small? Sometimes it feels as small as a rocking chair, as small as a nursery, as small as a house that feels like a prison because you can’t take the baby out without needing to bring 5000 other things with you, so it’s easier to stay home. Maybe I’m the only mom that has ever felt this way, but I don’t think I am. I was shocked by the feelings of isolation. I was indignant that this world I had fought tooth and nail to become a part of was making me so resentful of the very people I loved and wanted with me the most. I think maybe others feel the same way too. Social media does little to quell the idea that others are happier, better off, having more fun, or simply loving their families more than you do. I have been caught in the fear of missing out, comparing myself to all of the other “perfect” looking mommies on Instagram. Hashtags like #coolmom or #blessed followed by a sweet picture of a family wearing matching outfits could wreck my day. I felt like a failure — and a frumpy, ungrateful failure at that. But you know what I’m learning? Most people feel like that. So let’s make our own hashtag. #WeAreMoms
What should you tag? The picture of your kid destroying the whole dang house. You know who will feel that in her very soul? Another mom. Did you wake up, barely get the kids to school on time, and realize you forgot it was a special-theme day your kid isn’t prepared for? *Raises hand.* Who else might feel like that? Probably a whole squad of moms who also forgot today was dress-like-a-turtle day or whatever the current nonsense is. If you’re feeling like you are all alone and no one can understand your struggle? Other moms feel the same way sometimes. Heck, mothers of preschool kids feel like this a lot of the time. Do not believe the lie that everyone else’s kids wear matching Abercrombie jeans, white button-downs, cool sneakers, and will sit still on the beach happily so mom can take a picture. Have you ever tried to take a picture with kids? I have had to literally bribe my children to simply smile for a picture. Even my adorable, photogenic littles clam up when the good camera comes out. My ordinarily outgoing, beautiful child turns into a derpy, shy mess when I ask her to smile. And you know who understands this? Other moms. So, share your struggles. Because #wearemoms. We wear dirty clothes with holes in them sometimes, but our kids got completely unnecessary Easter dresses. We left the house with a coffee stain on my shirt, my hair in a messy bun, barefoot, while all three of my girls had their hair done, cute bows, faces washed, all cute for the day. Why does this happen? Because #WeAreMoms.
Hey you. I see you back there. You’re reading this and thinking, well, not me. Maybe you’re a stepmom whose stepkids don’t like to acknowledge you. Maybe you’re a foster mom without a current placement. Maybe you miscarried. Maybe you are “only a _____” in your mind. You know what? #WeAreMoms and you are too. You care about a little person so much it drives you to distraction. You worry about your big kid who is married and has a family, but you’re still pretty sure he’s only seven and shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Empty nesters? Foster moms? A mom who placed her baby for adoption? #WeAreMoms and you are too. Say it. Even if you don’t say it to anyone else, say it to yourself. You’re a mom. You’re a real mom, and no one can take that reality away from you. Even if no one else will acknowledge it or be grateful for it, you matter. Go buy yourself some chocolate. Fill your own vase with roses in your favorite color. Sit on a hammock and sip your favorite drink. You deserve a celebration, even if it is only a little one you get to have by yourself or with your spouse. Being in an “in-between” place is weird. I remember feeling like I wasn’t a real mom to my kids when we were “just” foster parents, but in retrospect, I was every bit a mom to them. They needed someone to tie their shoes and wipe their forehead with a cool rag when they had a fever. They needed someone to rock them to sleep and wake at all hours to comfort them. If you’ve held a child in your hands or your heart, you are a mom.
So, what can we do? What can we do in a world that celebrates motherhood once a year in an explosion of pink but doesn’t celebrate them the rest of the year? What can we do with the feelings of inadequacy when our kid isn’t reading as fast as the neighbor’s kid? What can we say to the inner voice that insists you’re not cut out for this job? That you should pick a child over a career or a career over a child? #WeAreMoms
We are moms to our very marrow. And it doesn’t matter if our kid does something goofy because all kids do goofy things. It doesn’t matter if the house isn’t perfectly clean. You’re a mom, not a housekeeper. It doesn’t matter if every meal isn’t a perfect vegan, organic, paleo Instagramable perfection. In fact, if it is, I bet the kids don’t eat it anyway since it isn’t Easy Mac or a hotdog. #WeAreMoms because we feed our kids the best we can. #WeAreMoms because we love with a strength that doesn’t quit. #WeAreMoms because we do what we feel is the best for our kids, even if that means letting them fall on their faces so they can learn for themselves.
Even when it feels like it is all falling apart and you’re the biggest failure that has ever lived. #WeAreMoms and we are stronger together than we ever will be separated out into our little houses, in our little suburbs, in our little towns far away from everyone and anything that reminds us what we are facing is actually normal. Actually, that is a lie. Because nothing is “normal.” There is a baseline for what is acceptable, but beyond that, kids are stinking weird.
My girls like to watch cartoons upside down. My son likes to eat cold chili straight out of a can. My daughters routinely flood the bathroom floor because they are pretending to be dolphins breaching the waves in the bathtub. It does not matter how many times I correct this behavior; it still happens about once a month. When my girls were three, three, and four, they would dump everything in the pantry if I wasn’t looking. For instance, if I thought they were napping and went to the bathroom, I’d often come out to find a giant pile of oatmeal, cocoa powder, and sugar with little girls stomping delightedly in the mess. When I conveyed my alarm to my pediatrician at the next well check, she laughed and explained that was a perfectly normal thing for kids to do.
Why didn’t I know? Could it be that other parents are afraid to share their perceived failures in a world of false perfection? I think so. Or, at least, I think that is part of it. So let’s push back. I will start. #WeAreMoms means sometimes we leave the house with no shoes and in our pajamas for the drop-off line and pray we don’t need to get out of the car for anything. #WeAreMoms and we sometimes wonder if the kids will ever go to sleep and then tear up when they are asleep and look so beautiful. #WeAreMoms and we have survived whole seasons of life on toddler-food leavings—crusts, chunks of cheese, cheerios, fruit mush—because we can’t stop what we are doing to get a proper meal. #WeAreMoms and we stay up too late watching stupid TV shows or playing on our phones because we need a few minutes that belong just to us.
#WeAreMoms and we feel exhausted by meal planning, ultimately giving in and feeding the kids pizza because thinking about food is too much today. #WeAreMoms and we holler from the bathroom, “I’m POOPING,“ and the kid still wanders in to ask about math. #WeAreMoms and though we have never gotten used to this, we feel strange when it finally stops happening. #WeAreMoms and we are all up in our feelings when Doc McStuffins’ family adopted a baby and when Daniel Tiger sang his new baby sister a song. We tried to hide our tears from our kids but failed miserably, especially during Inside Out. The first time your kid wiped their own poop, you cheered (maybe in your head, maybe out loud). The first time they rode a bike, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders had nothing on your enthusiasm. On their first day of school, you cried more than they did. Their first words, first steps, first everything is stored in your memory as an important event you’ll never forget. We all do it. To some degree or another, these weird little people worm their ways into our hearts in ways we never imagined. My youngest daughter can absolutely take my breath away by stopping what she is doing and running to tell me she loves me. My oldest daughter can bring tears to my eyes when she calls me mommy and asks me to see her new front flip. My middle daughter plays tough like she doesn’t need me but will curl up in my lap like a kitten if she thinks I’m not paying attention. (How does she think I don’t know this is happening? She isn’t kitten-sized. I know.)
We get yelled at, stepped on, woken up, cried on. We get noses blown on our shirts and throw up in our hands. We spit-clean donut from their faces and root them on from the sidelines at every event, even if we would rather be doing something else. We cook meals, wash clothes, set appointments. We cry when they win, cry when they lose, cry when we miss them. Sometimes the only thing we want in the whole world is five minutes of peace, but once we get it, our minds drift off to what our kids might be doing, and we need them back as soon as possible. #WeAreMoms.
Foster, adoptive, surrogate, birth, step, kinship, and everything in between, #WeAreMoms, and even if you don’t believe it today, remember that you matter more than you will ever know. Even if they don’t realize it or deny it, you are the parent of a person who would be lost without your existence. It is difficult to do this job even if we are acknowledged, and it is even harder if we are denied. No words can sting me like, “You’re not my real mom,” no matter how hard I try to not let it bother me. There is no one in the world that can take your place. There may be people who fill in along the way where you can’t, or your child won’t allow you to be but you matter. We matter. #WeAreMoms.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.