Dear fellow under-achieving mama,
Did you accomplish as little as I did today? Did you underachieve as hard? Not that it’s a competition or anything… I’m just scrounging around for some solidarity.
Did you forget it was library day, or show and tell, or that you were supposed to send money for the bake sale? Did you serve Fruit Loops for breakfast and start counting to three when she refused to put her shoes on – even though you weren’t really sure what threat you were going to carry out if she didn’t comply before you got there? Did you drive her to school when she begged you to let her ride her scooter, because you were running late, and did you say “shhh” when she got home because the baby was sleeping and then hate yourself for it right away?
And does she love you anyway?
Did you forget to go to the bank, even though you promised your husband you would? Was the house utter chaos when he walked in this evening and did you serve up chicken nuggets and peas (again) for dinner – his as well as theirs? Did you not realise you’ve been wearing mismatched socks all day until you put your feet up on the coffee table next to his, and that the yoghurt stain on the front of your shirt has been there since breakfast time? Did you fall asleep on the couch again, too exhausted to engage in conversation, wondering how you could be so tired and have so little to show for your day at the same time?
And does he adore you anyway?
Did you let the toddler have the iPad when you knew it was the easy way out, and allow her sleep too long in the afternoon (because, seriously, All The Silence!) and then regret it when she was still bouncing off the walls at 9pm? Did you let her have chocolate when she saw you eating a piece (on the bathroom floor with the lights off), because you couldn’t face a negotiation that you knew you’d lose? Did you say “no” when she asked to get the Play Doh out because you wanted to avoid those little neon crumbs of evilness that get into absolutely everything, and steer her towards her puzzles instead – even though you know how much she loves Play Doh? Did you sigh when she asked you to do “row, row, row your boat” for the eleven thousandth and seventy second time? And then despise yourself, because you know that life really is “like a dream” and in the blink of an eye she’ll be too old to laugh hysterically at “if you see a lion, don’t forget to ROAR!”
And does she call out your name in the night anyway?
Did you actually manage to wash your hair this morning, but then just scoop it into a bun so that it will probably still be damp when you climb into bed tonight? Are you questioning whether or not you brushed your teeth this morning – because a small person was calling for you as you stepped out of the shower and actually, you think you might have forgotten to go back upstairs and finish your morning routine after you put out whatever fire they were calling you about. Is your make-up bag in the bottom drawer of your dresser, long forgotten apart from last weekend when you blew the dust off it on date night (and then had a pounding head in the morning after 2 glasses of wine)? Are you wearing mom jeans? (No? Me neither. Leggings all the way.)
But do they think you’re the most beautiful mama in the world anyway?
Did you realise this morning that you still haven’t replied to your best friend’s message from a week ago? Did you cancel a girls’ dinner because of a fever (or because the babysitter cancelled, or the toddler wouldn’t let go of your leg, or you just couldn’t face a night out after all)? Did you forget to ask your sister how her big meeting went? Did you see the phone ringing but not answer it because the baby was napping and you wanted to go just one hour without hearing any sounds?
And do they keep calling anyway?
Did you not get around to making the beds before 4pm? Is the ironing basket overflowing? Did you forget to pick up the dry cleaning? Are last night’s pans in the sink?
And do any of these things matter when you look into their little faces?
Because, underachieving mama – do you know you’re a genie? Do you know you have accomplished the impossible? You have loved them hard enough that they notice none of your shortcomings. To them, you are perfect.
You make magic happen.
You are the name they call in the night. You are who they reach for when the wind makes whistling noises in the dark or the shadows paint pictures of monsters on the walls.
Your hugs are their protection from fear. Your kisses banish the pain. Your legs are the ones the toddler wraps herself around when she’s shy, and have you noticed how your eldest looks at you and says, “Right mommy?” when she’s telling a story? Or the way she crosses her legs just like you do when she poses for a photo?
You have loved them harder than you love yourself. You turned your world upside down for them (or was it right way up?), and because of that you’re still trying to find your feet. But it’s ok. Because of you, their world turns round, just the way it should.
So mama, I think maybe the best solution now in this moment, when you’re feeling like a total underachiever, is to give yourself a break. Because I promise you this: what looks like underachievement from where you’re sitting – what feels like a day full of things only half accomplished, another day spent just surviving – to them, looks like absolutely everything. You are absolutely everything.