I am not a perfect mother, but, then again, no one is. I learned that the hard way (finally) when I was two (or maybe even three) kids deep. There is no right or wrong way to parent little humans. There is no “one size fits all”. I have made peace with the fact that parenting perfection isn’t ever going to happen. It even changed my life a little bit when I was able to stop holding myself to that impossible standard.
But, recently, I started wondering if I was going a little too easy on myself. I mean, sure, I’m not a perfect mom, but those don’t exist so that’s ok. But, am I a good mom? Good moms exist. Am I a present mom? Am I parenting my kids in a healthy way? Am I doing what is right for my family? Am I doing my personal best? Just because perfection isn’t attainable doesn’t mean I am off the hook completely. Parenting is not an all or nothing sport. Just because I cannot be perfect doesn’t mean I can’t be good.
All of that questioning lead me to a surprising conclusion: I do not love myself. What does that have to do with my parenting? Give me a minute, I’ll get there. So, I do not love myself. I do not love the real me–the inside person. I think I even might hate her.
I do not love how vocal or animated or opinionated or loud I am. I wish I could be a watered down version of myself. I often feel like I am too much for people. I can even feel myself being too much but I cannot stop myself because I wasn’t born with that thing that other people seem to have. You know what thing I’m talking about, that thing that makes them quiet (or, even better, silent) in awkward. I just dig in when awkward comes along.
I cannot tell the difference (except in retrospect when it’s too late) between what should be shared and what should be kept private. I am not a private person and I would be willing to bet that most people who know me, even if they only know me a little, feel like they know the whole me. They feel like they know the real me, the inside person–that person that most people are smart enough to hide or edit (at least until they feel really, really safe). And, you know what? They’re probably right. They probably do know the whole me. I am the whole me all the time, even when I maybe shouldn’t be.
I am selfish, more so than other people tend to be. I have a very low tolerance for frustration and I treat the people who are closest to me the worst. I verbalize any discomfort or pain I feel immediately upon feeling it. I would never keep a complaint to myself, the people that are able to do that baffle me. Does not compute.
And, so, because I am so keenly aware of my flaws and shortcomings, I am able to recognize those same flaws in one of my children. One of my kids is a lot like me and because I hate me, I hate the me in my kid.
Here’s the worst part: I think this kid is starting to realize that there are parts of them I do not like. They don’t know why, of course. They don’t know it’s really my own issue and I don’t think the why even matters here. If I don’t manage to make a change somewhere then eventually my kid will learn that they should hate theirself (because, hey, mommy does) and hating yourself isn’t good. It comes with nasty side effects. You lash out anytime someone holds a mirror up to you and reminds you who you are. You stay in toxic relationships. You are incapable of recognizing and appreciating the good qualities you have–not the things you’re good at, those are easy to see. I’m talking about the heart stuff. If you hate yourself you cannot accurately see the parts about you that are really, really lovely.
If I am holding a mirror up to my kid and teaching them that their reflection is ugly I am doing my kid an injustice and that needs to change because that means I am not doing my personal best. I am not parenting healthily. And, even though perfection isn’t attainable, healthy parenting is attainable, right? God, I hope so.
So, after recognizing all of this, I did what any clueless mother does: I googled. And, this time, google did not let me down! I stumbled upon “The Love Styles” (not to be confused with The Five Love Languages) and I learned that I am a vacillator. Here are a few things (taken from the website) about vacillators :
- Vacillators have a tendency to be in an “all good” or “all bad” mood.
- Vacillators can quickly feel “all bad” and are filled with shame. This is a miserable feeling that makes them feel flawed and unwanted. They get rid of this feeling by getting angry and making others “all bad”.
- At their core, in quiet moments, they believe they are a bother and a nuisance. They use anger and blame to cover and escape this feeling because it’s so painful.
- Vacillator parents give sporadic, inconsistent attention based on parents needs and moods. Unpredictable. More about parent’s needs than child’s needs.
- Vacillators may alternate between being too indulgent with their kids and too harsh and angry. This is confusing for the kids who are never sure where they stand or what to expect.
You can take the quiz (and discover your love style) here. So, what did I do with this information? I ordered the Yerkovich’s book and read and highlighted and took notes and hoped that I would be cured. I wasn’t cured.
The book was good. I learned a few things, but the issue still remains. I am not a nice mother to my kid when they dare to be like me. I can feel myself when I am annoyed with the me in my kid. I can feel myself showing my kid that they are not good enough and I still cannot stop myself. So, what’s the answer here? I don’t know. File this one under “currently learning” as far as this blog is concerned.
I made an appointment with my spiritual director and we are working on it. I’ll keep you guys posted!