Why Does it Feel Like We’re Always Doing it Wrong?

Why Does It Feel Like We're Always Doing it Wrong? - SavvyMom

August makes me anxious.

By mid-month I’m beyond over the “lazy, carefree” days of summer (said no parent ever) and anxious to get back to routine. And when I think about the new school year I start thinking about the new habits and routines I surely must develop to help me be organized and efficient.

September feels more like the start of a new year than January so August is when I lie awake thinking of all the ways I could (but probably won’t) become a better mother, teacher, writer, pet parent, human being, etc.

And the natural conclusion to that train of thought is that, right now, I’m doing it all wrong.

Most of the time I’m happy with my decision to be a working parent. For me, the positives have always outweighed the negatives but as I think about grade six and grade three, about my kids getting older and seeking more independence and spending more time away from my watchful eye I start panicking: should I be home every day after school? Should I be more involved in the day-to-day of their education and extracurriculars? Should I get a home alarm system? Should I bake? What about lice and pedophiles and sex education?

Everyone wants moms of littles to soak up every minute because, as people love to tell us, “they’re gone before you know it”, so how do I square that with choosing to (and loving) being out of the house, even part-time?

This is not a new dilemma but one that rears its ugly head every year at this time.

And then there’s the whole “free range” kids thing. I try to let my daughters learn, discover, fall down, get hurt, etc. without hovering too much but this summer after one was in a car accident and the other landed in a ditch after being thrown from a golf cart I’m starting to question myself. Neither incident was a result of my parenting style but they did make me think about stopping to refocus, about keeping my girls a little closer and encouraging them to take fewer risks, to live smaller lives.

Was this the universe telling me to pay closer attention? Am I doing free-range parenting wrong too?

I’m no domestic Goddess either, so as the dust bunnies swirl around my feet, the recycling piles up and the cat decides he will only take his meals on the kitchen counter, I’ve started looking around my house and thinking, “Shit. How did this happen?”

When my kids ask why they need to brush their hair or wear clean clothes when we leave the house I talk about respect and explain that being clean and tidy is one way we respect our bodies and ourselves.

Showing up to Grandma’s in a food-stained shirt with dead squirrel breath and birds living in our hair is not respectful to us and it’s not respectful to Grandma. And yet my house feels like it’s always a mess. I can’t tell you it “got away from me” because I never had it in the first place.

Will my kids hate me because I didn’t teach them to make their beds every day or how to use an iron? Will they get kicked out of their first shared accommodations because I haven’t taught them how to keep their living spaces tidy? Never mind that they are eight and 11 because it never seems too early to start worrying about these things.

Most days I don’t stress about this too much. My mom never obsessed about a clean house and I went on to lead a relatively productive life. On the upside, my kids have really strong immune systems, the kind you can only get from repeatedly licking a subway pole, so that’s something.

Winding down the summer and ramping up the anxiety is something I go through every year, and I always think I’m going to get better at it. I think, “Next year will be different because I will have figured out how to X.” But the truth is, the worries just change. The anxiety about new teachers, new friends, new expectations, new routines never goes away.

As parents, we need to find ways to make peace with the way things are, the way we are. We need to isolate what we can change, what we want to change and forget about the things we can’t.

I might be doing it all wrong, or some of it wrong, but I know I can’t address it all at once. And a panicked, anxious state is no state in which to be making decisions.

I have a bracelet inscribed with the word “BREATHE”, which I bought to remind myself that not everything can be understood, dealt with, or fixed immediately. And some things don’t need to be changed at all because they’re just how we choose to do things.

Sometimes we have to stop and breathe, and figure out the difference.

Social media makes it horribly easy to fall victim to the parenting equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses. I didn’t take my kids camping this summer, I don’t buy organic, the iPad is our babysitter … There are a million ways to feel less-than, and we might spend our entire “careers” wondering if we did it all wrong.

But when I look at my kids, I see two little girls who are happy, confident, carefree, kind and sorta clean. And if that’s not the most important measure of parenting success I don’t know what is.

So as September approaches parents, remember to breathe and just take this new year as it comes. You’ve got this.


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