The Problem Isn’t My Kids (or Me), It’s Everybody Else

I am making a barrier with my legs in order to keep my active 2-year-old at bay. Why am I pushing her away? So I can write. Selfish mommy!

When I think of what some other moms/friends/random people on the street would say if they saw me like this — flexing my foot and pressing it firmly but gently against my daughter’s chest while I say, “No, honey. Mommy just needs five more minutes on the computer,” — I cringe. They would totally judge me.

The problem isn’t my child or me in this case. It’s everybody else.

Everybody else in my head is telling me I’m not doing this motherhood thing right. They say I shouldn’t ignore my kid or I’m not feeding/clothing/disciplining her the right way. Or maybe it’s that I’m spending more time on my own pursuits when I should be reading to her more, playing on the floor (which I hate doing by the way), coming up with art projects, or singing songs and playing musical instruments with her. And I should totally be teaching her a second language and introducing her to opera soon. Selfish mommy!

The problem is not my child or me. It’s everyone else. And they’re doing all of it better than me.

Here’s an example. A few times a week I stop after my older daughter’s school drop-off and get my 2-year-old a cookie at our local bakery. I posted the photo above on Facebook once and got a back-handed compliment from a mom friend — “That’s a lot of sugar first thing in the morning!” I promptly deleted her comment. I didn’t want anyone else on my feed to see my mommy failure. And then I considered deleting the photo that announced to the world that yes, at 8:35 on a Tuesday morning, I bought my daughter a chocolate-and-jelly-stuffed sandwich cookie with frosting and sprinkles. I have totally screwed up her teeth/appetite/body image for life. A better mom would have given her a slice of an apple and called it a day.

Let’s go back to school drop-off for my other daughter. She’s 5. She’s in kindergarten now. It’s a big year…and we have been arriving late a lot. I could give you all the excuses (many of them involve my 2-year-old’s poop explosions) but you would still judge me for those times when I give the kids extra TV time or we have that annoying back and forth over what we will eat for breakfast/wear out the door/pack for lunch.

When we do get to school and I watch as she desperately runs to throw her backpack and coat in her cubby while all the other tots get their full 15 minutes of “choice time,” I worry — in this exact order — about what her teacher, the assistant teacher, the principal of the school, my spouse, the other parents, and the other kids will think of me.

The problem isn’t my kid. Or even me. It’s everybody else.

Sure, I will tell myself that being tardy is bad for her, that she isn’t getting what she needs out of those first few minutes of school, and that I’m failing her as a mother as a result. But really, it’s the teacher I’m thinking about first. She gives me that knowing look when we walk in. The other parents casually talking in the hall because they have dropped their kids off yesterday and now have all this time to just hang out and chit chat will look at me like I’m nuts.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think my kids will grow up and look back on childhood and say, “Man, it was all fine, but if I had gotten to school five minutes earlier I could have been the President of the United States.” OR “If I hadn’t gotten all those cookies in the morning as a kid I would probably be an Olympic athlete.” And when my youngest daughter is inevitably in therapy because I messed up so badly, will she say, “Mom was cool and all, but she loved her computer more than me”? At this stage, I think it’s safe to say no.

I remember when both my daughters were powdery little babies. There would be this peace at the end of the day. The nursery would feel like a womb with the noise machine on making ocean sounds. The lights would be dim and I’d be nursing or rocking her (or both). I would smell my baby girl’s head and focus on that for a few seconds, anything to just remain calm and centered. And I would think, if only in those precious few seconds, “Hey kid, you and me, we are figuring this out. We’ve got this.”

Hashtag. Nailed it.

Most days I don’t feel like I’m exactly nailing it as a mom, but hey, that’s up to me and my kids. Not everybody else.

Photo: Getty