Motherhood does not come naturally to me. It is something I have to work at every day. It takes a conscious effort. Some days Skylar watches way too much TV. And some days the most I can bring myself to do is read a bedtime story. I consider playing a game a small victory and I count the moment as precious.
Precious. Now that’s an interesting way of approaching the situation. Most days I get down on myself for not being more involved. For not being the energizer bunny. For not fixing cute afternoon snacks or scheduling playdates or planning craft time or setting up a sprinkler to run around in. For dreading going to the pool or working in a sleepover. I feel like a horrible person. A failure as a parent. A “bad mom.”
But I’ve gotta say it makes those moments when we do read a story or play a game or head to the pool a little bit more precious to me. They are treasured moments. And maybe that’s sad, but I’ll take each one as a tiny victory. A reminder that parenthood is a privilege and a responsibility to be honored. Each one is a gift. A memory I am handing down to my daughter. And hopefully they’re precious to her as well.
Being a parent is hard work and most days I’m not very good at it. The days that I feel the worst? Birthday parties. I HATE birthday parties. And let me tell you why:
- I don’t like driving to unfamiliar places. It gives me anxiety.
- I worry about being able to find a parking spot. It gives me anxiety.
- I wonder if my kid will behave. It gives me anxiety.
- I wonder if I’ll know anyone there. It gives me anxiety.
- What will I talk about? It gives me anxiety.
- How much do I spend on a present? It gives me anxiety.
- How do I make my exit? It gives me anxiety.
Get the picture? In short, there’s a lot of anxiety. Which makes me exhausted before we even leave the house.
(I am a master at finding things to be anxious about. I even get anxious about not being anxious. After all, there must be SOMETHING to worry about.)
Yesterday was the epitome of an anxiety provoking day. I was in for a 3 hour birthday party. At a pool. Full of people I’d never met.
3 hours is a long time. Especially when you don’t know anyone. And pools terrify me. I’m recovering from an eating disorder and they say poor body image is the last thing to go. Putting on a bathing suit is the definition of vulnerability. It means accepting your body as it is and being confident enough to show it in front of others. It means putting self-consciousness aside and having fun anyway.
Well I don’t know about having fun, but I did it. I did…
- …find my way to the party while only missing one turn.
- …find a parking spot.
- …let my kid be a kid and swim her little heart out.
- …know a few people there.
- …hold a conversation or two without completely embarrassing myself.
- …let my mom take Skylar gift shopping.
- …leave when they said the party was over. Along with everyone else.
I even got in the pool for a few minutes. It was stinking hot outside and Skylar begged me, so I got in. And I was the only adult to do it. I walked around in my bikini and threw my hair up in a messy bun. Because it was hot. And my daughter wanted me to. And I wanted to be a good example.
A good example. You know, on days when I’m not feeling up to parenting or recovery, that’s what keeps me going. I want to be a good example. I want Skylar to see what love looks like. I want to exemplify how to love others and how to love yourself. And that second one’s gotta be the hardest thing to do. For me, at least.
Learning to love myself is a process. I say “is”, not “was” because it’s something I’m still working on. Some days I do it better than others. Some days I’m super critical and some days I’m more accepting. Some days I cry and some days I laugh. Some days I let anxiety dominate and some days I say “no.” Some days the eating disorder thoughts still control me and some days recovery wins. Some days I hide in baggy clothes and some days I wear something super cute. Love myself. Accept myself. Value myself. Some days I do it better than others.
But I do it. If I can’t do it for myself, then I do it for Skylar. I want her to see that it’s ok to love yourself. That you SHOULD love yourself. That you are worthy of love. The you deserve love.
That there are lots of ways to love yourself. You can nourish your body, you can read your favorite books, you can have fun, you can swim, you can play, you can make new friends, you can listen to music, you can learn new things, and you can spend time with the people you care about the most. Golly day, even watching TV can be a way to love yourself. Anything that doesn’t harm you is an expression of self-love. And those things are good. Loving yourself is good. I want her to see that. And it starts with me. Even on days I don’t want it to, it does. It’s up to me to be a good example. It pushes me to be better. To love myself more. To be kind to my body. To ask for help when I need it. To treat myself the way I treat others.
Motherhood does not come naturally, but loving my daughter does. Please don’t doubt that for a minute. I love my daughter with every fiber of my being. She is one cool kid. She makes me smile. She makes me laugh. And she gives the best hugs ever. I mean, she even has to ask if you’re ready for a hug, because her hugs are just that powerful. “Are you ready for this, mommy?” she asks. “Always.” I reply.
Yesterday I got the chance to love both Skylar and myself at the same time. I got to wear my bikini. I didn’t *have* to. No one else did. It was a choice that I made. Because she wanted me to and because I wanted to show her I could. That I wasn’t ashamed of who I am.
And yes, I have a wicked sunburn. I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot about the whole sunscreen thing. My bad. I’ve been branded with what feels like will be an eternal bikini line across my back and side. But I like to think I’ve been branded with love. Sometimes love hurts. But there’s nothing else I’d rather wear on my sleeves than an expression of love. Self or selfless. And who says it can’t be both?