Have your friends admitted something to you in a hushed whisper? Have they come clean with examples of what they feel are their lowest lows, times of weakness, or proof that they’re failing at life? You know, they tell you their parenting flops without making eye contact or ways they’ve let down their spouses while shaking their heads. Comments are made to couch their confessions. “You won’t believe what I did…” “My kids are going to need a therapist when they’re older…” “I might be the world’s worst wife…” “I’m so disappointed in myself…”
I’ve heard it. Too often.
The self-judgment is clear. The nervous laughter over their worries that you’ll think differently of them might make you pause – not because you do think of them differently, but because you are sad that they feel so badly about being human. Far from their fear that you might balk at their breakdowns, you actually identify with them. You’re worried that your children, friends, parents, spouse, mentors, heroes…everyone is going to find you to be a failure too. Right? At least sometimes.
I don’t know how many times my husband has heard me say, “I don’t know how I’ve got you fooled, but one of these days you’re going to figure out I’m not everything you think I am.” I think he rolls his eyes now. He always responds with something like, “And one of these days you’re going to figure out you are everything I think you are.”
Some days I know he’s right. Some days I don’t. Today I do.
What am I going to do about it? I’m going to spill all our secrets. I’m going to stand up on this imagined table we’re gathered around and tell everyone reading this post the worst things we’ve done – take away the power they have as silent secrets. My hope is that you see them not as moments to be ashamed of, but simply as moments that have passed. Here are those moments – mine and yours, intermingled. No disgrace.
I ate an ice cream sundae while in the bathtub.
I bought a roll of cookie dough and ate it before I got home.
I don’t know the last time I gave my baby a bath.
I screamed at my kids so loudly that I lost my voice for a bit.
I cried in my car in the parking lot with my kids in the back seat.
I rolled over and wouldn’t kiss my husband good night, even though we promised to always kiss good night no matter how angry we were.
I let the kids stay in their pajamas for two or three days – I’m not even sure.
I told my daughter that I was so angry I wanted to hit her.
I told the kids I was sick so I could stay in my room and watch TV all day and ignore them.
I peed in the shower.
I yelled at the kids even though I knew they were just being kids and weren’t doing anything wrong, just annoying me.
I “accidentally” deleted my husband’s favorite show off the DVR because I wanted him to pay more attention to me.
I fed the kids cereal for dinner.
I was attracted to another man.
I fought with my husband until he gave in and I got my way.
There they are. A collection of your confessions and mine. Professed in print. I will tell you that any of these could be a problem if you let it be, but only then. There would be a problem if you follow through with hitting your children. There would be a problem if you ate ice cream, cookie dough, and cereal every night. If you’re doing any of these things all the time, that’s probably a good reason to talk to a counselor or at least your closest confidants for help. But, if you simply needed a break from cooking, parenting, or simply adulting for a few minutes or hours – that’s ok.
It’s perfectly alright to make a mistake, have a lapse of judgment, or even lose your temper. It’s completely fine for you to be human. We all are.
My grandmother had twelve children, who all turned out to be good people. She was kind, patient, and loving. I remember when I only had two kids I was talking to one of my aunts and said, “I don’t know how Grandma did it. I feel like I’m losing it sometimes and she had so much more work to do and so many more people to take care of.” My aunt reminded me that I didn’t know Grandma when she was a young mom with only a few kids. She was probably overwhelmed a time or two as well.
Grandma had already passed away at that point so I’ll never know if she ever slipped up in ways similar to me, but the thought that maybe she could have comforts me none-the-less. Because it’s true that I didn’t know her as a young mother, but I did know her as a mother of adult children. And she was incredible. So, maybe there’s hope for me too – and you.
No matter what valley you feel like you’re in, keep walking. Keep moving forward, even if you need to sit and rest. You can make it past these moments that have you doubting yourself. You can make it through your dark moments and find a way up the next hill, back into the sun. I believe that. I live that.
Life is a series of ups and downs. When you hear your friends are feeling down, support them to get back up. When you’re in a lull, lean on others to help you see the truth – that you are just fine. You are alright. You are not the sum of only the moments you’d rather leave on the cutting room floor. Nor are you only what’s on your highlight reel. You are a complete, flawed, beautiful, caring, wonderful being. Aren’t we all?