My First Major Regret as a Mom

My children are 5 and 3 years old respectively. In terms of parenting years I haven't been doing this very long. I have, however, been doing it long enough to have stumbled into my first major regret. It can even  be dubbed a Parenting Fail.

A week ago, I was picking my 5 year old from Extended Day at school. The attendant asked for my child's name as I whisked out proof of my identity to collect him. She suddenly got a big smile on her face. "He's so cute when he gets dropped off in the mornings."  And without missing a beat, as I walked towards the door, I replied: "Too bad he's not as cute when I pick him up at the end the day."

Lucky for me, she didn't hear me. Someone else got her attention as the words carelessly spilled from my lips. And suddenly, I was pierced with embarrassment and conviction.

Let me explain why.

When I became a SAHM Mom a little over 2 years ago, I had no clue what I was in for. I went from a full time working Mom to a full time SAHM with 2 small children overnight. I was expecting pleasant days peppered with boredom. What I got was a crash course in long days, a difficult climb into a routine that worked for all of us, and the deep aching feeling that I was not enough for the job. Within two weeks I felt like I was drowning in the immediate needs of clothing, feeding. cleaning up after, and entertaining my kids. They were 8 months and 2-1/2 years old.

I am an extrovert. My husband at the time was working at a dealership during the hours I needed the most support. He was pulling long hours to provide for us outside the home. I was pulling long hours to make it all work well inside the home. I was no longer able to chat over the water cooler. My personal "me" time was virtually non existent. So I began to cope the best way I knew how: humor laced with good old fashioned honesty.

All the other Moms I saw seemed to make it look easy. I even confessed to another Mom I met how difficult juggling two were, and she looked at me blankly and said she did not have that problem. (Which of course was not what I needed to hear at the time.) I was desperate to know that I was not the only one who felt ill equipped and as if the very essence of who I was had withered away.

But I adapted. I eventually developed a routine set by the pace of my children's needs. My husband found a job with better hours. I started taking time off for refreshment. And my kids began to grow and get older. Their constant need for me, soul and limb, wasn't as necessary.

But by this time, my well ingrained sarcasm and wit about the "truths and honest side of parenting" became habit to be honest. I didn't even think about it anymore. Occasionally when I made my snarky remarks, someone would look at me like I was a jerk. But most other Moms related. They got it. They understood. They acknowledged. They commiserated.

And now my kids are in school. I am working full time. The dynamics have changed. They are maturing and handling life differently. Not only that, but they are always listening. They are understanding way more than I give them credit for.

When I walked out the school office having let a snarky remark about my kid to a perfect stranger, I was pierced with guilt. I thought to myself, "How many times have I done that when my kids were in earshot? Have they heard me? What do they think?"

I work hard to help build up their self worth when we are in private. I make sure to tell them how wonderful and loved they are. I tell them no matter what mistakes they make, it doesn't change the fact that they are great boys. Yet I am beginning to wonder if with my careless remarks, am I just tearing them down in public? I'm not sure if they have heard it. But I felt deep regret and shame if they have.

I once read many years ago some relationship advice. It was something along the lines of "Never embarrass or disrespect your significant other in public, not even in jest."  It stuck with me. I have made sure never to purposely shame my husband in public.

And yet, without thinking or meaning too, I think I began to do that with my children. It was harmless at first. It was a desperate attempt to tell others I was drowning and feeling lost in my parenting dynamics. But now that I'm not so lost, now that I am feeling confident most days and I've grown more into my role- that method of relating is not necessary. Or helpful to my children.

(I want to make an important to note that I am not speaking about venting to a close friend over text or commiserating with a loved one over a cocktail. I am however addressing my responsibility to  build and encourage my child's character in public to others instead of knocking it down because of my exhaustion or experience with them during their bad moments.)

Anyway, I realize I am lucky. They are young. I have plenty of time to adjust and change my behavior. And I have started that process. I have felt deep conviction over this and am still mulling it over. I am also refraining from making snarky remarks and instead saying Thank you to others when they get to see a glimpse of how great my kids can be and are.

But I did think it was interesting. I'm only 5 years into this parenting thing. Short enough to still be on a long and deep learning curve.  But long enough to be able to document my regretful mistakes. And this by far the biggest ones I have caught.

Looks like they're not the only ones doing some growing up.





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