Before my twins were born, Ang and I purchased 2 large, beautifully bound journals with the intention of writing letters to the babies over the course of their childhood as a keepsake for when they are older. I purchased fancy bookmarks and pens and carefully inscribed each of their names on the inside cover. I gave Ang instructions on which pens to use in them—NOT ordinary ball point pens—and peppered the pages of my first entries with hand-drawn stars and flowery, elaborate doodles of their names. Over the course of my pregnancy, we wrote about how much we already loved them, how excited we were after finding out they were a boy and a girl, about how much we wanted them and how they came into the world. My plan was that I would write entries frequently as they grew up, filling the pages with stories and photos, hopes and dreams, so that they would ultimately end up with a beautiful record of their life that they could treasure. I told Ang we had to write in it every time something cool happened, and when they reached each developmental milestone.
Hahahahahahahahahaahahahahhahahaha *wipes eyes* Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *holds sides*
There was a greater likelihood of me getting struck by lightning while simultaneously being awarded $1,000,000 by Publisher’s Clearinghouse than having the time, energy, or wherewithal to write in those books after the babies were born. Perhaps if I had ever actually met a mother of infant twins I would have had the good sense to detach from sentimentality ahead of time, but instead I spent the first year of the babies’ lives cursing myself as “Bad Mom” for all the things I didn’t write in their books: first laughs, the day they met so-and-so, reactions to first foods, first time at the beach, moving to Vermont, first steps, first words. I drafted entries of what I wanted to write to them in my head as I washed bottles, scurried through Costco on urgent, chaotic diaper runs, and in other moments where I had more than 5 seconds to think about something other than direct care-giving tasks or sleep. I felt shame and sadness that I was “losing the opportunity to capture their first year” and swore over and over that I would somehow make time and prioritize writing in the journals at least once a week…once a month… “as soon as I can.”
They are 18 months old and I have written exactly one entry to them. I think they were around 4 months old. I did it at work.
I recently read and watched some of Kristin Neff’s work on Self-Compassion (run don’t walk after you’re done with this post. Seriously. All parents need to see her TED talk.) She illustrates practicing self-compassion as treating and talking to yourself as you would talk to a friend or loved one. That concept isn’t new to me—I’m a mental health professional and lead groups and write curriculum on negative self-talk, neuro-plastic approaches to rewiring healthy self-speech, etc. Her work was, however, transformational in that it caused me to reflect (again) on how deeply judgmental I am about my own mothering and how contingent my esteem as a mother is on the utterly unrealistic goal of being superlative at every moment, in every way. I feel like Bad Mom if I am not doing ALL THE THINGS all the time.
Here is what I want to say to myself, as a friend:
You are a good mom, Shauna. You give 100% of yourself to C. and B. and it shows because they are happy, healthy and thriving. It is really, really hard to be working full-time and parenting 2 toddlers and yet you are doing it, day in and day out, keeping all the balls in the air. I know you wanted to write in those journals but really, that’s the small stuff. It’s ok. You are spending your time playing and cuddling and soothing and making healthy meals and keeping the house functioning. It’s ok that you can’t do everything, no one can. You are a good mom. You are a good mom. You are a good mom. (And besides, you have that giant bin that you’ve saved their NICU name signs, every card they have ever been given, artwork and 2 of their infant outfits in so you can make them memory boxes. You know, when you have time…)
What do you need to say to yourself, as a friend?