I was awakened by the sound of my doorbell, whose harmonious chimes sounded particularly celestial that morning, as if the LA Philharmonic was performing live in my home. I just knew a heavenly delivery awaited me, and the suspense was killing me. I threw on my robe and nearly flew down the stairs. I flung open my front door and there it stood before me- a golden box guarding the most sacred of all treasures a mother could desire. I couldn’t believe it was finally here. With whom should I share the magical secrets the gift entails? It was everything I dreamed of and so desperately couldn’t live without. I
cut upon the box, ripped off all the wrapping paper and there it was: a huge 12x12, platinum plated, thousand page, ancient book. After a few moments of breathing in the book’s delectable aroma, I looked up and read the title, “The Ultimate Parenting Bible- Everything Rona Needs to Know to be the Best Mom in the World.”
I read the first page with eager anticipation, “Dear Rona, this book was designed specifically for you and all the daily challenges pertaining to your unique life. In this book, you will find EVERY SINGLE answer to EVERY SINGLE parenting question imaginable. We hope you read each word very carefully and meditate on its deep meaning. We apologize, for there is no toll free number on which to dial us, nor is there an email address where we can be reached. However, we are certain, should you heed to the advice in this book, you will thoroughly succeed. Sincerely, Your Guardian Angels from up Above.”
The best mom in the world? At last, did I have the tools and answers to be the mom of my dreams? Can I finally raise my children in confidence and kick to the curb Second Guessing Rona, who cleverly finds a way to poke her critical head out just when I feel I’m doing great? Can I finally flush Guilty Conscious Rona down the drain, you know, the one that makes me feel as though any decision I make to tend to my own needs is a completely selfish one? Can I finally run over Worry Bee Rona for all the times she jumps out in front of me, warning me that somehow everything I am doing will forever scar my children?
If I had all the answers I ever needed right here in this one book, can I finally stop trying so hard and over-thinking it all? Can I finally just be me, the calm, fun Rona that I know is somewhere in here, under layers of self-judgment and insecurity? It was as if I had died and gone to Mommy heaven- I must have been dreaming. Somebody, please pinch me. Would I never again have to read fifteen completely contradicting books to figure out how to get my baby to sleep through the night? Would I never again have to call endless child development therapists to figure out how to get through the rough milestones? Would I never again have to TiVo another episode of Dr. Phil to learn all the proper parenting communication strategies? Would I never again have to stay up all night scribbling yet another “Pros vs Cons” list in deciding if I should go back to work? All the answers lay here in the palm of my hands and I just knew life would never be the same again.
I flipped through the pages, eager to start learning it all. I was ready, determined and swore to the heavens I would follow each and every word of advice. I vowed to be a sponge and let it all just soak right in. But to my dismay, the pages were all blank. Page after page, chapter after chapter, nothing but blank pages appeared before me. I darted to the trash can and tried to reassemble the golden box to see if perhaps something had fallen out- but nothing was there. I was sure I was missing something. I was frantic- running up and down my street to see if possibly another box was to be delivered and dropped on its way. I went back to the book, thinking maybe I was too excited and didn’t notice the words on the pages. I checked each page, slowly. I kept flipping more pages, nothing after nothing and then more nothing. Finally, on the absolute very last page of my thousand page book, I found a few seemingly worthless words, “Laugh it off, dance it through, there’s nothing else you have to do. You are the best mom in the world simply by being you.”
Wait a minute- where are all the answers? What happened to all the advice I was promised? If I wanted a cute fortune cookie I would’ve gone to the Chinese noodle shop down the street. Suddenly, it was as though my fairytale moment turned into a devastating nightmare. Mommy heaven quickly turned into Mommy hell and I wanted to run away fast. Out of breath, drenched in sweat- I woke up. It was all a dream.
The more I socialize with other moms the more relevant my dream becomes. Not a day goes by without hearing another mom belittle herself by saying, “I’m the worst mom in the world.” It’s as though we moms have been plagued with Worst Mom in the World Disease, a disease as contagious as that coughing, runny nose kid who so kindly shares the flu with your child’s entire nursery class. Pay closer attention and you’ll see it everywhere. Warning: once you listen for it, its vast prevalence will suffocate you. Moms are battling this illness at work, at home, at the park, at the store, even in the malls; the victims are multiplying in spades. Should we work, should we stay at home? Should we give our children sweets, should we not accustom them to the taste? Should we allow TV, should we ban it for life?
Oddly enough, I find that no matter which side of the spectrum moms around me choose to be, we often feel like we are on the wrong side- we are the WORST MOM IN THE WORLD. If we choose to work, we feel we should be with the kids. If we are with the kids, we feel we should work. We have all felt the painful symptoms of the Worst Mom Disease at some point: If we gave our kids too much junk food, suddenly we feel we are the worst mom in the world. If they watched an extra show on the iPad, we automatically assign ourselves the role as worst mom in the world. If they were with the nanny for an extra two hours so that we could get to our errands, we are instantly back to being the worst mom in the world. If we had a deadline at work and weren’t home in time to put them to sleep, undeniably we just know we are the worst mom in the world. If, heaven forbid, we fed them boxed Mac’n Cheese for dinner, lock us up Officer, because we must be the worst mom in the world.
What is this dangerous epidemic? No matter how much we do, why do we feel it isn’t enough? No matter how hard we try, why do we still feel so lost? While I am no mental health expert, my years of observation tell me this is a disease we must stop in its tracks. For if we do nothing about it, if we don’t stop its destruction today, it will continue to spread and will ultimately break us moms at our core.
How about we take a lesson from my dream? Let us unveil the key that will empower us and see us through to recovery. While we are excessively consumed by this thing called parenthood, we are missing the best part of it all: how to just dance and laugh with our kids. While we’ve buried our heads in volume after volume of parenting guides, looking for all the answers on what to do, how to do it and when to do it, we are missing our fleeting chance to just be it- be the best mom we NATURALLY can be.
We think we know nothing unless five experts can verify its validity for us. What if it’s easier than we think? What if there is truth to my dream? What if we all stopped thinking so much and just focused on having more playful fun with our children and allowing them to have playful fun with us? What if our only goal is to make sure they feel, from their ten tiny toes, up to their gorgeous bright eyes, that home is a place where magic happens: where music is for blasting, hands are for clapping, feet are for dancing and giggles are mandatory year round?
How about we change the narrative in our minds and create a new standard of what the best mom in the world looks like? Here’s my own stab at- my list of what an amazing mom looks like:
How about if you have ever…
- Read books to your children making silly voices to act out the characters, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Blasted a song loud in your car, holding your pretend mic and singing at the top of your lungs with your kids, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Let your kids go crazy with finger paint, encouraging them test their creative limits, even though you knew the clean up would be dreadful, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Poured extra bubble soap in the bath just to see their excitement as the bubbles overflowed the tub, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Made your child feel as though a very simple concept they shared with you was the best idea you had ever heard in your entire life, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Told them they are the most important person in the world to you, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Taken a few moments, while they played outside, to point out and teach them something new about nature, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Grabbed your kids hands and jumped up and down with them just to hear their incessant laughter, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Held your baby tight in your embrace and waltzed with them across your kitchen floor, cheek to cheek YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (ad nausea) while doing that funky thing with your fingers over and over again until you were sure your fingers would fall off, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Swept your child off their feet after a bad fall, kissing their booboo and holding them in your arms until they no longer felt the pain, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
- Slept on the floor in their room, night after night, until the “scary monster” under their bed ran away, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD
To spare exposing any more personal and potentially embarrassing moments with my kids, I’ll stop this list here! There are clearly endless examples such as these that one can write, and I encourage you to make your own list. Let your list be your reminder that it is indeed the small things that matter most. Each time you feel you just gave your kid an extra ounce of joy, excitement or love- you remember that you gave them the universe. You are THEIR “Best Mom in the World”.
And finally, for all the important decisions we must make each day, I say step into my dream with me and open up your own empty parenting book. Fill the thousands of blank pages with whatever words feel right to YOU. Fill your chapters with the journeys that best suit YOU and YOUR FAMILY. But more important than anything, regardless of the unique parenting choices we each make, let us moms all share the absolute very last page of our books, “Laugh it off, dance it through, there’s nothing else you have to do. You are the best mom in the world simply by being you.”
Happy Mother’s Day