Erica Barker

Sometimes I wonder if I am doing my best as a mother. 

There are times when I question myself, as I am sure many parents do, about my ability to parent, but I wonder if at times we expect too much of ourselves. Did I volunteer enough as a room mother? Did I attend every single school function and sporting event to watch my child? Did I coordinate cool playdates, birthday parties and sleepovers? Were my school treats creative enough? (Thank you, Pinterest). 

So much pressure! 

I’m lucky if I put money in my child’s school lunch account on time before the massive amount of reminder texts and emails show up in my inbox. Oh, you need treats by tomorrow? Great. I am the queen of Wal-Mart treat shopping at 9 p.m. on a school night. Feeling the mommy guilt at not being able to keep up with the Betty Crockers and Martha Stewarts of Timber City, Iowa, I must learn to pause and realize that those moms (and dads) struggle just like me, but in so many different ways. 

I can do this!

Scrapbooks of my children? Yes, I have them. As a first-time mother, I took photos of every waking moment of my now 23-year-old. Every moment was cute. “Wait! Let me get the camera” came out of my mouth hundreds if not thousands of times throughout her childhood. I bet I even missed moments because I couldn’t find said camera in the cluttered mess of a house that apparently I didn’t have time to tidy up while chasing a newly mobile 1-year-old. 

I saved every school paper, art project, and photo I snapped only to be tossed in a plastic tote for “later” when I would have time to make a really cool scrapbook like all the other moms were doing. That scrapbook didn’t get made until she was out of the house and on her own functioning as her own person, making her contribution to the world. 

My sweet youngest daughter, who is now 15, got the short end of the stick. She came when digital photos exploded onto the scene, therefore her scrapbook isn’t quite as hearty. Mommy guilt again. 

Let’s talk about prom. $800 for a prom dress? How much for those shoes? A limo? A “promposal?” What is that? Apparently a promposal is “an elaborately staged request to be someone’s date to a prom.” Whatever happened to “Hey, would you like to go to prom with me? Check yes or no.” 

While other moms spent as much for their daughter’s prom dress as I did on my wedding dress, my daughter ordered hers online from China, did her own hair and makeup, and spent her own money. I felt the mommy guilt on this one, too. I just didn’t feel like I could keep up. 

However, as I harbored the guilt, my daughter looked amazing in her red gown, her makeup flawless and her blond hair perfectly styled to fit her personality. I am positive she had the time of her life. To this day, I don’t complain about how much money I spent, I speak in awe of her confident independence that makes her an amazing young woman. That has to speak for something? Right? But still, it lingers.

My youngest daughter and I were driving home from the YMCA dance recital last week. She is on the high school dance team, which made a special guest appearance and performed that night. 

I turned to her and said, “I am sad that I didn’t get any photos taken tonight.” 

With a smile, she turned to me and replied, “That’s OK, Mom, you lived in the moment.” 

I felt so much joy at the simplicity of that moment. The words slipped out of her mouth so smoothly and naturally, almost as if I was supposed to hear them that night.  

“You have such a good heart,” I said. 

And with that, I realized that no matter what, she knows I am doing the best I can and that I love her deeply.

So, Mama, don’t compare yourself to Suzy Homemaker. Do what you can with what you have. Your children are clothed, clean and fed. They have a roof over their heads and a warm bed to sleep in. Tell them you love them every day. Your kids love you. You are doing a great job.  

Daddy, you had to step in because Mom works a lot or maybe she is gone. Dinner may be on the table late or maybe you had to order takeout. Tell your kids you love them every day. Your kids love you. You are doing a great job.  

“One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” ~ Forest E. Witcraft