I like to think my ability to “mom” exists on a spectrum — the “mom continuum.” I have days where I feel like I have it all together. Lunches? Prepped. Laundry? Folded and put away. Dinner? Home cooked and delicious.
Other days, to quote a favorite expression of my father, I feel like I am trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. I forget to bring lunch, and the desk drawer designated for emergency snacks is barren. My students aren’t listening to a word any of my staff says, and no behavior plan is working. The preschooler doesn’t want to leave daycare and cries hysterically through the halls as I carry him to the car. The pork tenderloin just doesn’t cook right and we end up eating pizza for dinner at 7:30 p.m. I fall into bed, exhausted, thinking of the thousands of things I didn’t accomplish that day, but I just don’t have any gas left in the tank to do any of it.
I love the days where I feel like super mom. Who doesn’t bask in the glow of productivity and accomplishments? But since we’re in the trust tree here, let’s admit that the “wonder mom” feeling can be fleeting. Very few, if anyone, can be that awesome all the time. And that’s fine. No one should be expected to. We’re people. We make mistakes. We lose track of things — keys, shoes, our minds. But it’s also important to not feel too negatively about ourselves when momming just seems SO hard. So what’s a mom to do when she feels like she can’t pull herself together? How do you laugh in the face of the universe conspiring against your attempts to be all the mom you can be?
The “adult game.”
I’m very fortunate to work alongside my closest mom friend. We share our biggest motherhood and work successes and failures. At some point during a period of struggles for the both of us, we started awarding each other “adult” points. Even the most mundane of tasks had points assigned to it. Get to work early? Plus 25 points. Late to work every day? Minus 50 points. Make dinner every night for a week? Plus 100! We set small goals for ourselves. Shoot to end in the black at the end of the day. Try to finish positive for a whole week. On a mom roll? Finish strong for a whole month.
I once wore two different-sized hoop earrings for a week straight, and I accepted my points loss with grace and dignity. My friend’s inability to notice my mismatched earrings and/or her failure to say anything to me earned her a 10-point loss. She agreed my judgment was fair.
The best part of the game is its ability to be completely customized. You decide what you lose points for, how you earn them, and the values for everything. I find it very difficult to actually do my hair and makeup before I leave for work in the morning, so if I manage to go to work every day with my hair styled and my face put on, I really rack up the points. Are you a coffee junkie? Maybe skipping out on cups three and four of the day deserves a few points. It’s your game — have fun with it!
Warning: Game may seem inappropriate for some moms.
Now I will admit that this game may not be for everyone. Some people may not find this kind of joke funny, and that’s fine. But for my friend and I, laughing at our mistakes and missteps keeps us from feeling too down on ourselves. Maybe I should be mortified at my mismatched hoops or more upset that I can’t cook a pork tenderloin to save my life. But, quite frankly, I live by the motto, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”
Sometimes, I wish I could be the Best Mom I Can Be every single minute of every single day. But I’ve also spent a lot of time and therapy to realize that ain’t in the cards. Accepting our mom fails, whether they be dinner catastrophes, wardrobe malfunctions, or kid tantrums in highly public arenas, is a way to own the idea that maybe our days don’t always go as planned, but at least our mistakes show we tried. There might be undercooked meat and a late takeout dinner one night, but my kid still went to bed with a full belly after a warm meal. Albeit just a little past his bedtime.