I always imagined, God willing, I would have 2-3 kids. I guess I hadn’t thought much past that until motherhood was a reality. You can read all the What To Expect books and still not know or anticipate everything. The thing these books can’t prepare you for is the guilt and fear you feel when your second baby is on the way, and subsequently a third. All-consuming thoughts of, “How will I find time for each of them?“; Will they feel as though they are being replaced?; “Will they think I love them less because I can’t give them as much attention as before?” I know, of course, these are very irrational thoughts, but the feelings are real. And if I’m being completely honest, even as they grow older and need me in different ways, I continue to struggle with these feelings.
In a dual-parent household, when the second child comes along, you naturally divide and conquer. The dad/partner manages the older child while the mom attends to the baby. You can try and carve out time for the original three amigos (mom, dad/partner, firstborn) and act as if nothing ever changed, but it’s never the same. For our story, we took it even one step further and added a third to the mix for shits and giggles (cue circus music).
I have a full-time career in addition to being a mom. The insecurity that I don’t measure up on the mom-ometer is exhausting. Ladies, why do we put these undue pressures on ourselves? It’s easy for me to emotionally spiral to a very dark place of self-doubt and pity, and ask, “Why, O poor me, did I even become a mom if I don’t have the time to give?” Pause. I need a second to tell myself to “snap out of it.”
Reality: I AM very intentional to be present with my kiddos. I AM very involved, attentive, and compassionate with my kids. Do I do this perfectly all the time, or is it even humanly possible? Wait for it…ah, hell no. But I can say I AM a good mom. I’ll repeat that because personally, I need the constant reminder, and I invite you to say it aloud with me, “I AM A GOOD MOM.” The feelings of inadequacy will happen. Deep down, I know I can’t be everything to everyone, and that is ok. I offer these words of encouragement to all mamas (and dads too who might need to hear it): shove the guilt aside, and be present for your kids, when and as often as you can.
My mommy heart explodes when I hear one of my kiddos mention a particular memory we all spent together, like camping or a road trip to ‘Mountain Rushmore’, as my boys used to say. However, as life happens and the kids grow up and get more involved with things, and my hubby and I keep ourselves busy with adult stuff, it is challenging to carve out 1:1 time with each of my kids. Who even has time for that? Well, I recently made time, and I want to share with you how I did it.
Spring Break 2021. Still in a pandemic, so no plans for this fam to go anywhere. So now what? I scheduled a stay-cation of sorts. Here is what I did: I reserved a local Airbnb ‘guest house’ for three nights about 25 minutes away. This close distance was intentional to allow me to go back and forth. I made plans with each of my kids to take them 1:1 for 24 hours for some ‘forced’ mom time. Ha! Thankfully, for the most part, my kids like spending time with me (even my 15 yr old), so I wasn’t forcing them against their will to come with me.
In preparation for each day, I told them to think about what they wanted to do. I packed our bikes and a bunch of board games but other than that, it was up to them. We stopped at the store to grab their choice of snacks, and for meals, they picked where we grabbed food.
The result: I got to go for a bike ride with each of my kiddos. With my 11yr old son, we threw around a football, played the board game Labyrinth, and binge-watched Criminal Minds while we munched on popcorn in bed. (In my defense, I did let them make the choices, and he chose Criminal Minds. Yes, I am fully aware it is probably not the best choice for an 11 yr old. Whatever. It’s fine). Now let me continue. With my 15yr old we discovered the game Phase 10, and then I introduced him to the movie SWAT. Our 8yr old daughter, of course, had tons of ideas that would never possibly fit into 24 hours. We enjoyed dominos and a handful of other games; she jumped on the bed (which doesn’t happen at home), and after eating, we settled in for Annie. Total side note: We watched the version of Annie with Jamie Foxx. I refused to watch it for the longest time because I am a die-hard Annie devotee. I’ll admit, and this is a big deal for me to say, but I do enjoy it. Hard to go wrong with Jamie Foxx, am I right?
I laughed and cuddled with each of my children and was able to give them my undivided attention. It was glorious! I’ll admit I was a little nervous about my time with my 15 yr old just because, well, he is 15. It’s my first-time navigating reality with a teenager. I have to remind myself, “don’t talk too much; he will eventually engage, and let him lead the conversation.” I’ll tell you, this approach works and is SO worth it. For an hour, we actually said nothing while I read a magazine, and he did whatever teenage boys do on their phones. It was just what he needed from me in that moment. That was magical in and of itself. Lastly, and he would kill me if he knew I shared this, but he cuddled right up next to his mommy as we watched a movie. Somebody pinch me.
Quality time and memories. Check and check. I am so excited to start planning for next year.
Do feelings of guilt and fear still creep up? Do I wish I could carve out more 1:1 time for my kiddos? Do I wish I could pause time on their growing up? All the time, and I’m pretty sure I will probably always struggle with this. On the flip side, I am raising pretty cool kids. I try my best every day to make sure they know I adore them. And for at least 3 days a year, I deserve the Mom of the Year title. I AM a good mom. That’s what I know, and I’m sticking to it.
About the author:
Amy Countryman is a wife, mother of 3, and non-profit professional who is always trying to make herself and the community around her better. Married for 20 years and a mother for 14, Amy is consistently reinventing how to find balance between personal and professional priorities. Her motto is ‘every day is a new day to show and receive kindness’. Amy currently works for the American Cancer Society, lives in Eagan, MN and is a contributor to SheTaxi.