Early in my adult life, I had dreams of what it would be like to be a mom. I envisioned forts in the living room, family homeschooling field trips, a house without a TV and happy children. I envisioned close relationships with my kids, listening to their every dream and enjoying watching them grow.
I also knew everything I didn't want to be as a mom. I didn't want to be an inattentive, distant mom. I didn't want to be a mom who yelled or got angry or wanted a break from the stress of it all.
I really just wanted to make my kids the top priority so they knew just how much I loved them.
But early motherhood was far from what I had envisioned. More specifically, I wasn't the mother I expected myself to be.
Shortly into motherhood, the demands of it became very apparent. Before we realized that my son had special needs, I didn't understand why I seemed SO much more stressed out than the other moms around me.
His ADHD made simple tasks SO hard. Going to the grocery store was absolutely draining because of my son's inability to control his impulses. Going to the park required excessive supervision and constant engagement just to keep him safe.
I spent a lot of time trying to keep my son contained for his own safety and a lot more time pretending to ignore the staring and judgmental comments from other moms.
The worst of it was admitting to myself that I really wasn't enjoying motherhood
Don't get me wrong. My children are my world! I absolutely adore them! But I didn't adore myself - or even like myself - as a mom.
I felt exhausted, frustrated, lost, and empty
It wasn't until a friend of a friend offered up some very kind and graceful words that I was able to really step back and take a good look at my life as a mom. She let me know that it was OK to take care of me.
It sounds simple, I know. But for some reason, I needed to hear that. I had spent so much of my life as a mother emptying myself for my kids because I thought that's what would make me a good mom.
Boy, was I wrong.
After some deep soul searching and a LOT of prayer, I realized something. One empty vessel can't fill another. How on Earth am I going to be the kind of mom my kids need if I have nothing left to give? I can't pour anything into their lives if I'm empty. I can't invest in their childhood if I'm physically and emotionally bankrupt.
Not only that, but I had spent so much time being frustrated that I wasn't the kind of mom I wanted to be that I really didn't know what kind of mom they actually needed.
It took some time to let go of my own expectations of motherhood and really embrace my unique circumstances and strengths as a mom, but when I did, things dramatically changed. I started to enjoy my life AS IT IS, not how I wish it would be. That is a HUGE game-changer.
Here are a few things that helped me be OK with the mom I am:
1. I stopped looking at all the ways I think I failed and started looking at the ways I have succeeded
I have always felt SO bad for not having the energy to really engage my kids in the family activities I had envisioned for so many years - like family science projects and exciting adventures outdoors. Half of them my son simply couldn't handle.
But you know what I'm really good at? Snuggling. For real. I LOVE to snuggle with my babies. And guess what? My kids are SUPER snugglers. I could snuggle with them every day all day and never get tired of it.
I'm also good at family parties - a sweet little tradition where I make platters of fun snack foods that we all love and picnic on the living room floor, watching a family movie.
These are the kinds of memories that I was made to make with my kids. And you know what? I'm pretty good at it.
2. I stopped comparing my worst days to someone else's best
There's nothing more damaging to your self-confidence and self-acceptance than to compare yourself with someone else. Seriously. This has been one of my greatest struggles, and I know I'm not alone.
Comparison is a form of self-sabotage. It takes the unique things about you as a mom (or a person!) and distorts them into something else.
Bottom line, we weren't made to be someone else. More importantly, our kids weren't meant to have another mom. We were made for each other - literally!
Discovering and excelling at our own natural strengths ensures we are exactly the mom they were meant to have - and the person we were meant to be.
3. I stopped striving for the ideal and started loving my imperfect life
Life is fleeting. I don't want to waste another minute window-shopping other people's lives and missing out on my own. I have great kids, a great husband, and a safe place to live. Chances are, you have some pretty great things going for you, too!
Don't lose the diamond under the dust. Give it some care, and let it shine like it was meant to!
4. I learned how to laugh at myself
... because life is too short to spend it frustrated and disappointed. Holding on to my disappointments doesn't make me better, it makes me bitter.
It takes far more energy to hold a grudge against yourself than it does to give yourself grace. Laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. Learn from it. Grow. Then, move on. Spending less time living in frustration can free us up to spend more time enjoying motherhood and the metamorphosis that happens as we grow through the journey.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Mom is More. It has been republished here with permission.