I am the standard

11 May 2018

On the occasion of June’s second birthday, I finished a draft of a post but never sent it out into the world. Though I knew what I what trying to say, I couldn’t find the right combination of words to express myself, and I didn’t want to be misunderstood.

That draft began with the sentence “Being June’s mama has felt like the easiest thing in the world.” Here’s a bit more from that never-posted post:

Being her mama has felt like the easiest thing in the world, the easiest role to slip on, because it’s me. I am just myself. Being her mama is who I am, who I was created to be – not in the sense that it is my ultimate purpose, but in the sense that when I was created, I was given everything this little girl would need in a mama. She needs ME – my attention, my presence, my gaze, my arms – and that, I can give her.

That’s not to say I haven’t acquired skills and grown as a mother along the way, or that June doesn’t need anything from anyone else (I have, and she most certainly does). What I meant was that I don’t need to do or be anything special to be a good mama to her – in fact, it usually looks like me doing a whole lot less. Sitting and watching. Reading. Playing. Laughing into her eyes. Inviting her into my chores. Walking beside each other.

Traci Huffman

Photo by my friend Traci Huffman

I hesitated on this post in part because it’s so different than the narrative I usually hear — which is that the most important things are always the most challenging, and that motherhood is the hardest but best work there is (similar to marriage).

Of course, there are moments in motherhood I find quite trying, and others when I second-guess myself. I’m not perfect. But I also don’t expect myself to be, and perhaps that’s the key difference. Right now, if I show June that I love her, if I keep her safe, if I do something to help her grow… I consider the day and myself an unqualified success. Full stop.

That’s kind of where I ended my original draft, but I still felt unsatisfied, like I hadn’t quite captured what I was trying to say. But then, in a re-read of one of my favorite books, I stumbled upon a passage that so perfectly encapsulated my thoughts I nearly leaped out of bed. I’m including the bulk of it here, even though it’s long:

parenting excerpt

YES! I am the standard!

This may be an obvious point, but I think one important reason being a parent seems easy to me is that I’m not measuring myself against an unreasonable “other,” a polished amalgamation of social media highlights or anything else. Being a “good enough” mother — my standard — isn’t about aiming lower or doing less. It’s about making sure that everything I do or don’t do, everything I try to learn or get better at, comes from my own sense of what’s right for my child, my family, and my unique situation. And remembering that if I’m living up to my own standards, there isn’t anything more to want.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. I hope you’re able to give and receive love from the ladies who’ve meant the most to you this weekend!

P.S. I loved this post so much, too.

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May 11, 2018 8:26 am

I absolutely LOVE this. The notion of balance in a family in ‘Bringing up Bebe’ is probably one of the strongest influencers on my parenting, and this really reflects that.

May 11, 2018 8:29 am

Yes! This puts into words how I’ve felt about being a mom (my little one is just a few weeks younger than June). I didn’t feel nervous about becoming a mom (mostly b/c I was raised by a super mom and am the oldest of 5 – babies were not foreign!) and I have never felt I wasn’t doing a good enough job mentally. The only thing that has been taxing from time to time has been physical things – like not enough sleep or pain from breastfeeding or the exhaustion that was pumping. But I knew if I was making the right choices for me, they were the right choices for my girl too, which included going back to a job I love just as my husband has, while she goes to school at a place full of fun kids and caring teachers.

Kelly Strawberry
May 11, 2018 11:14 am

I loved All Joy and No Fun! Thanks for recommending that a while back. Also, I totally agree with your post. My parenting philosophy has always been “More is Caught than Taught.” It’s so freeing knowing that if I’m satisfied with the way I’m living, my child will probably turn out OK…with a lot of prayers to God thrown in the mix. :)

May 11, 2018 2:47 pm

I am so glad you pressed ‘publish’ on this post! I have not yet entered a season of motherhood, but I find myself wondering what it will be like as I watch those around me become mothers in ways that are unmistakenly beautiful – but not how I necessarily see myself approaching that season of life. This post is such an encouragement to let go of outside pressures and to embrace the beautiful dynamic of mother/father and child in your own home, as it works best for your family. I just love this!

May 11, 2018 8:59 pm

Yes, I agree! It’s much easier to just honor myself. For me, that actually means giving up free time while my husband goes out, just as described in the excerpt. I realize that I COULD go out alone and leave the baby, but I simply don’t want to and that’s my standard! When I decided to honor that instead of challenging myself, I was indeed able to breathe.

May 14, 2018 9:56 am

Amen to this my friend.
I have struggled a little with this notion of living up to standards often as a mama – I am a perfectionist but up to my own standards and expectations, not to social media or society. I strive to be the best mama I can be.
This is often condemned in society for trying to “have it all together” or “being THAT mom” x

May 15, 2018 9:35 am

Such an eloquent and wonderfully reflective post, Em. Your confidence and unapologetic nature inspires me as always. And sweet June is adorable in that photo. Those toddlers hugs are everything. Xo

May 17, 2018 3:20 pm

I love this! Thanks for sharing. It is good to be reminded of the fact that we are the standard. And we are equipped with everything we need to raise our children. There are definitely some days when I feel I had to say sorry a lot more than my kids. But yes, that’s part of it. We’re not perfect, the world isn’t either. And asking for forgiveness and forgiving each other is so so important to learn.
Oh, and I also always love your book recommendations! Keep them coming – I know you will :-)

May 18, 2018 3:31 pm

Hi Em – yes, thank you for sharing. Whenever I’m rushing my son to get to an activity, I think of how you said something along the lines of “what’s the rush!?” and to go at your child’s pace and delight in them. We were rushing to singalong the other day and I stopped and thought – okay, so we might miss it… but in rushing we might also miss that extra cuddle, looking at an ant, discussing some random observation of his… that “in-between time” IS the main event! So easy to forget this, especially when we’re pushing our own adult agendas…

this is kind of a tangent from what you posted about, but just wanted to let you know your words are very much appreciated.