We were running late, as usual. Of course. But before I could spend the entire drive berating myself for always running late these days, Dora sang a little song about loving me, and said, "you're the best mommy in the whole world"!
This little comment could not have come at a better time. Between work, photography, trying to keep the house from becoming a complete disaster, and juggling two kids, I haven't felt like a very good mommy at all lately. Some of that is just part of the territory - guilt, self-doubt, negativity - all are normal places in the landscape of motherhood. But some of it stems from being truly, deeply, entirely over-commited, in every sense of the word. I am happy - and blessed - to have the work that I do, but finding some balance between work and home and everything else seems endlessly elusive.
It's pretty easy to feed that negativity with the vast availability of data these days. Someone else's superiority at writing, photography, housekeeping, organization, time management, cake decorating, sex, marriage, child-rearing, cooking, make-up application, fashion sense, or self-care is accessible 24-7 with the click of a button. All we have to do is hop on Facebook, read a blog, check out someone else's photo albums, or - worst of all - visit Pinterest to feel inadequate.
But here's the beauty of what Dora said to me - it's not just that she thinks I'm the best mommy in the world - though that in itself would be a lot. It's that she's such a special, loving, wonderful human being that she thought she should tell me I'm the best mommy in the world. Some of that comes from her inherent wonderfulness, I'm sure, but I think it's ok to take a little credit for it, too. In other words - the fact that Dora knows that much about expressing love is proof of what a good job I'm doing. My little Dora is empathetic enough to know when someone needs to hear loving words and giving enough to share them - and she had to learn that somehow. What a revolution would it be if as mothers we viewed our children with adoration and, in turn, let that adoration reflect back on ourselves, allowed ourselves to take a little credit for these beautiful little human beings we've brought into this world. What if we loved ourselves the way we love our kids?
Of course, taking credit for the good means we have to take credit for the bad, too. When she's stalling at bedtime I know it's partly my fault - if only I'd been stricter earlier on this wouldn't be an issue. When she's rough with her brother, I know it's partly just because we haven't been doing a good enough job of spreading out the attention more evenly between the two of them. When she struggles with her temper, I know it's not just my freakishly long second toe she's inherited.
I'm essentially juggling two jobs right now, and though I often try to convince myself it's an investment in our future, and it won't always be this challenging, it is also a great source of guilt. I often wonder if, in 5 years, I will look back on this crazy time where I work all day and then am up late at night editing photos and feel like it was all a big mistake. I love photography so much, it feels a little like I'm being selfish spending so much time on it. After all - I have a job. I don't have to do this. But I want to anyway. I have felt most fulfilled in my life when I've had some kind of creative outlet - a writing project, a blog, knitting, crafting, cooking, photography. Creativity lets something out of me that needs to get out, and it also lets something in - gives me some return of energy like nothing else. It's like breathing - it's value (and necessity) is as much in the exhale as it is the inhale. And it does something so vital for me, I think it makes me a better mother, too. Maybe that's a little revolutionary as well - finding that which fulfills us and indulging in it, even when it doesn't necessarily give us more time with our kids.