One of the (many) challenges about the holidays is they often mean you’re on your spouse’s turf. Whether staying in the house he grew up, visiting college friends, or smiling through the extended family dinner, you might feel the strain of not doing things your way. Even after 8 years of Christmas visits to the northern part of the US, I still long for the warmer temperatures of Florida, my own friends, and favorite haunts. These longings don’t need long to be fulfilled however, as my husband and I are part of the lucky few: every year we have enough vacation time to subject each other to this cycle. First we see his family, and then mine.
This year the cold, the second child, the jet lag were conspiring to make me particularly grumpy.
Needless to say I counted myself lucky when a friend let me crash her mommies night out. In place of the innocuous, “Oh, you live in the Middle East, that’s far,” comments and then blank stares I often get from people, this was a group of gorgeous, smart women. They all had two (several of them three children) were well within their target weight for their size, dressed fashionably, were wearing makeup, and didn’t interrupt if someone was speaking.
And they were all wondering if they were good mothers.
“I try to be a good mother,” one woman is completing a residency in psychiatry said. She described a seven day week where she cooks homemade meals for her children everyday, alternating her parenting challenges with stories of how people in her profession are routinely killed by their more disturbed patients.
Each of them had a version of this, wondering if they were doing their children justice, critiquing themselves on how they were doing in various areas: challenging the kids in extracurriculars, helping them with homework, doing the right thing in sleep training.
I had an Oprah moment.
“Tomorrow, I want us to wake up and the first thing we say when seeing ourselves in the mirror should be: I am a good mother.”
They looked at me blankly.
“Whatever they’re getting from you, they’re better off than if they didn’t have you in their lives,” I said.
I wanted them to give to themselves what they give to their children and husbands: acceptance. Love. Support.
There are so many cliches around the holidays which still fail to mitigate rampant commercialism.
The best things in life are free is perhaps the most flagrant one.
This Christmas I want to give to all mothers (and fathers, though I rarely hear men talk about their fears about parenting) a gift: the gift of confidence.
We are all doing the best we can. And relaxing into that truth make this your best Christmas ever.
I know it will for me.
What’s one gift you’d give someone this year that they really need?