The phrase "Mother of the Year" has been popping up on my Facebook feed and through other social media outlets. It seems more and more moms are using this phrase to bemoan their latest mistakes as mothers. Here's an example:
"So I didn't work out today (do I ever?) I ate garbage (cupcakes and milkshakes for dinner, we have to use up our food, people), I didn't clean my house (my daughter picked up the popcorn she spilt by eating it!) two of my kids fell asleep on the couch past their bedtime, 1 fell asleep and we didn't even know she had gone to bed, and the last one is still reading hoping that we don't notice he's still awake. Yeah, I'm no mother of the year... but it was a good day, everyone survived, and that's all I can ask for!"
What this post doesn't reveal, however, is that this woman has four children and is preparing to sell her house and move to a new state, all while her husband is working out of town. She has many talents and often shares them with others. So if you, like my Facebook friend, are feeling like a failure for feeding your children cereal for dinner, losing your temper or forgetting school picture day, don't despair and don't self-deprecate. You are in the running for the true Mother of the Year for these four reasons.
There is no guilt like mommy guilt. Mothers are often too hard on themselves, but we can't help it because we care. We care what we feed our children and that they are dressed and groomed. We care about keeping them happy and healthy, all while teaching them how to navigate life, develop talents and be successful. If you feel like you are failing at these things, it's OK. You are a good mother because you care.
I've tried hairstyles that fail, healthy meals that are rejected by everyone (including me), and holiday traditions that leave me frustrated and frazzled. But I try. Mothers of the Year try hard to help their families. They wake up sleeping teenagers in time to get to school, drive children to enriching activities, work more than one job so their kids have what they need, and keep the household running. In motherhood, you definitely get points for trying.
Your children love you
I have a photograph I look at often. It was taken in the spring. I am holding hands with my two youngest daughters. Two of us are looking at the camera and smiling, but my 3 year-old is gazing up at me with the most adoring grin on her face. That photo is evidence that I am loved.
Your children love you too, despite the fact you drive them to school in your pajamas and force them to try kale. They love you not because you do their laundry (or teach them to do their own), but because they can feel how much you love them. Even though they don't always show it, your children love you.
No one could take your place
When I leave town and have to give instructions for taking care of the house and kids, even if my husband is in charge, I realize how much I know. I know when the school bus comes, who doesn't like peanut butter, which socks belong to which child and how to keep everyone on track. If your home is cluttered, it's not because you aren't doing your job. It's because your job is a big one. I manage 5 lives, not counting my husband's. Your home would be very different without you.
It's absolutely fine to call yourself "Mother of the Year" when you make a mistake. Adding a little humor and realism to life is refreshing. However, you need to realize that the work you do as a mother is irreplaceable and important. And if there was a "Mother of the Year" contest, we'd all win. Now where do I pick up my tiara?
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.