Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Facebook at its Finest, or, A Virtual Embrace

There are thousands of online resources for being a parent. Funny mom blogs, sappy mom blogs, how-to-make-crafts-from-toilet-paper-rolls-and-be-a-super-Pinterest-mom blogs, websites promising 5 easy tips for disciplining your toddler, or tricks to get you baby to sleep, or how to make dinner in less than 30 minutes (more accurate without whining kids and a screaming baby). And Facebook gets knocked for being nothing but a time-sucker.

Living outside of the US, in a culture with a different language and different acceptable norms, I have days where I'd give just about anything to sit down with a fellow mom, drink a hot cup of coffee, and spill my guts in my own language.

I'm a spill-my-guts kind of person, so it's extra hard not to have that outlet.

Last night on Facebook I spilled some raw emotional thoughts about being a mom:

People keep telling me I'm doing a good job with three girls, especially when Michael isn't here. But no one knows how I'm doing when they're not there to see. They don't see the yelling and tears and frustration. They don't see me at what actually might be my literal wit's end. So they are still alive. That's all you know for sure. I'd like to be a mom that does more than just keep them alive. But some days, most days lately, we're lucky we have that.

Michael was coming home late from the office, and I was facing another possible night alone with the girls. My tolerance for whining and tantrums goes to zero so quickly. It's hard to use all those calm, talk-it-out discipline methods when you're holding a crying baby who wants to be held, or wants to eat, or wants to sleep, or all three at the same time. I have to try to figure out how to soothe her while trying to rationalize with my 2-year old having a tantrum because she got the wrong pink cup, which is identical to the one she thinks she's entitled to instead. Listen, kid. They're both cups. And they both have the same pink princesses. And they both have water in them. I'm trying, but I'm not understanding your issue here. 

There are good moments in the day. Like when the two youngest are napping and I find I have a few minutes to spend with my oldest to read or play a game together. Or snuggling with my middle child after she's woken up from her nap. Or watching my daughters expand their imaginative play to include each other, or seeing them willingly and voluntarily share with each other, or my favorite, giving each other huge hugs after naps or after school.

Those moments help me get through some days. But there are still what feels like way too many tough moments. Yelling when I could be talking calmly. Automatic time-outs when I could sit down and get to the root of the problem. The tough mom moments when, instead of doing what I've ideally promised myself I'd do, I revert to the survival instincts that seem to belong to a frustrated mother's basic nature.

Last night, in a moment of vulnerability, I shared with my Facebook world a piece of honesty. In a time when I was feeling alone, like I was failing as a mom, my friends on Facebook embraced me. People I know who are moms and dads, who have struggled and battled the same tantrums and the daily grind, reached out to me. I got messages and comments of, "You're not alone," and, "I yell when I don't want to and cry too," and, "You can do it."

I felt embraced. Like I'm not alone in this struggle to parent, and to be human. I could spend all my time reading parenting blogs and know that there are people in Internet-land who also struggle with the day-to-day, but there was something extra helpful to hear from people I'm connected to, people I'm acquainted with and know on a personal level. It helps to know that those people, my friends and family, people whom I respect and love and trust, that those people also have their moments.

I may never use the huge stockpile of toilet paper rolls I've been saving for projects with the girls. I may be using screen time more than I ever thought I would...(who said tv can't be a babysitter? A mom's gotta' shower and make dinner). I may be demonstrating the act of asking for forgiveness to my girls more than I'd like. I may not be Super Mom.

But I'm learning a lot about giving myself grace. And giving grace to my kids. And asking for help and being ok with just getting to bedtime in one piece. And finding a few moments of sanity to remind myself that maybe I'm doing a couple things right. I'm banking on what a few people told me yesterday, that my kids really will forget most of this and just remember feeling loved.

Whether parents or not, we all have a life at home, behind closed doors, where we struggle and cry and can feel alone. Thanks, Facebook, for the virtual hugs, and for reminding me that I'm not alone.