Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rewarding motherhood

DH and I were having a conversation last night about the 'rewards' of parenting and how I've been feeling lately. "Real" jobs give you concrete rewards. Each day you look at your stack of paperwork accomplished, or number of sales made, or whatever measure of success your job uses, and you know how much you did successfully today. You can leave satisfied that you did a great job without anyone telling you or patting you on the back and saying you rock.

Kids don't work that way. Each day you could count the number of diapers changed, (perhaps I should time myself and be proud of my efficiency per diaper change or something?) noses wiped, tantrums ignored or whatever, but what makes you feel like you were a brilliant mom at the end of the day? The husband thinks the fact that my kids are brilliant and generally happy should be enough. I think that on a day to day basis, where at any random time some kids are happy and some are not, I can't take credit for the happy kids and ignore the unhappiness. I can't say that just because A learned a new word today that makes ME a great mom. Maybe she learned it from Elmo? Who knows?

So how, at the end of a day, do I feel brilliant about the job I'm doing? I've had a history of jobs at which I did excellent work and knew daily that I was a success. Mothering? Not so much. Each day I have failures. Failure of discipline, failure of handling a crisis, misunderstanding a kid, yelling too much, almost crying with frustration and so on. How do you overcome all that 'failure' with just saying "oh, well the kids seem happy usually so I must be a fantastic mom?"

Perhaps they were just born happy? Maybe I have unusually brilliant kids genetically? Maybe it's grandma who makes them so happy, not me? Where do I get my daily affirmation that I am doing a great job?

DH just can't fathom this issue. He feels proud just because they are great kids. That's all it took over the 4 days he cared for them. But you know what? He gets to go back to his job where he is brilliant. He doesn't have an endless string of days and months of the same every day crap the kids pull to drag him down from his self esteem of previous days. I used to know I was brilliant at about anything I tried to do. Now? I'm not so sure. Am I a good mom? And if no one tells me that I am, can I believe it about myself somehow? And even if people tell me I am, how do I not discount their opinion due to them not seeing how I parent when I'm alone (when I'm generally more yelly and frustrated)?

I need me some Dr. Phil or something. Someone to tell me that it's as plain as the nose on my face that I rock as a mom. I can't wait 30 years for one of my kids to turn around and say that I did ok. I just can't.


  1. You are a good mom! and I'm just not saying it because you want to hear it; the rewards of motherhood don't play themselves out for years to come; that's just the truth and you might never actually hear it from the kids' lips but you'll know you did good when you start seeing yourself modeled by them; your traits, your kindness, compassion, etc. but it is a thankless job a lot of the times and the hardest job you will ever do

    you are a good mom because you care for your kids, you are concerned for their safety, you clean up after them, cook for them, play with them, spend time with them, worry about them, love them.

    I think a lot of moms feel the same way you do.....


  2. You know what? It gets better when they're 4-5 years old. I found ages 1-2 especially frustrating. (And am finding it again as my second daughter is about to turn 2 years old and frankly, she sucks.) Just breathe. This time in life does seem to drag and often it's impossible to spot successes because we're stuck with the same office mates day after day, no room for job growth and we're working on long-term projects.

    But the successes will come. And when they do, they will overwhelm you and make you cry. (The good tears.)

    Be of good cheer, Mira, you're doing a great job and you're not alone in how you're feeling!

  3. Hey Mira, remember back in the dark days of those first few months when we considered ourselves a success because all three babies were still alive at the end of the day? I'm finding myself returning to that measuring stick more and more these days. Yup, sometimes you gotta set your expectations astoundlingly low and then pat yourself on your own damn back for meeting them.

  4. Oh, I so get this! I felt (and sometimes still feel) the same exact way. There are no raises in motherhood. No promotions. Crap, I barely get a pat on the back. Which is why we need to cherish those rare moments when we do see the fruits of our labor, because they are worth so much more than a raise or a promotion!