Maybe it’s the influence of Christmas and the whole naughty-and-nice theme, but I found myself reflecting on the things I felt I had done wrong – as a person, a wife, a parent. Whenever I’m feeling particularly down on myself, I need to be reminded of the wisdom of my children and two wonderful conversations I had with them one day.
Having been a working mom, I’ve always carried a huge burden of guilt and regret. When my boys were young, I was an ambitious professional with a stressful job. I worked long hours as I tried to build my reputation and career. I worked weekends, I worked evenings, in fact it seems like I was always working.
Over the years, I’ve had many moments when “The Regrets” would kick in and I would begin the ‘what-ifs’ in my head. ‘What if’ I had been a stay-at-home mom? ‘What if’ I had focused less on my career?
One day, when I was feeling particularly introspective and melancholy, I shared my feelings of being a “bad mother” with my oldest son – now an adult. He expressed surprise. Apparently his childhood memories did not include me “working all the time”. In his words, “obviously you were there when it really mattered and it counted most”.
I’m not a totally naive person. I know that kids often tell their parents what they want, or need, to hear. Either way – whether he meant it or not – in that moment, if it had been possible to love him any more than I already did, I would have.
… but then, I was reminded that I was there every morning when my boys got up and every night when they went to bed. We had meals together everyday. We read books and watched movies together. Homework was done and games were played. My memories were of constant chaos and juggling responsibilities. His memories were not.
My youngest son once said to me that it wasn’t the ‘big events’ – the parties and special occasions – that were the most important to him. They were nice, but what mattered most in life were the ‘small moments’ that happen in the normal course of a day and appear insignificant at the time – the simple time just being together talking and laughing.
These memories remind me that we are often hardest on ourselves. Our internal critic can be quite mean and unkind – as if the stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis isn’t enough.
These memories remind me that maybe I wasn’t a ‘bad mom’ after all. If I had been, why would I now have two amazing sons who are both wise and kind beyond their years?