Technically the Lunar New Year began Monday, the year of the Dragon. But not for moi. Instead, I am launching the Lunar New Year of I Am Awesome to untangle the web of parenting self-flagellation. Borrowing from my hero, Miss Piggy, and her effervescently self-confident outlook, I've decided the quest for parenting perfection is so... snore... boring.
So last year. Messiness, rolling with the unexpected, and confidence are interesting and real. So very 2012. It's time for parents, mothers in particular, to refocus on all they do that makes them awesome. The Chinese have a tradition of dismissing old grudges at the start of a Lunar New Year, as it is a time of reconciliation. I believe it's a time of reconciliation with ourselves and the ideal time to go forth with confidence in moi... and vous. No better time than now to dismiss our internal grudges, you know, the ones that waken us at 2 a.m. In honor of this New Year's declaration, I offer you the oui/non list for living a full year of I Am Awesome.
#1: Say "Non" to Mommy Guilt and a Loud "Oui" to Moi Loves Moi.
Whether you are newly pregnant or dozens of years into parenting, can we all agree that mommy guilt is just so boring? And more to the point, unnecessary. What, exactly, is it that we all feel such collective guilt over? Not spending enough time with our kids? Not making enough dinners from scratch? Not spending enough time working on flash cards and problem solving with our kids? Please. Snore. Here's what mommy guilt does: Sucks up your energy, ties your stomach in knots and keeps you awake at night while your husband is drooling all over the pillows, fretting about nothing. Let's stop boring ourselves and our brains with our shortcomings and just admit we are awesome. We do our best. Our best is good enough. Your skin and tired eyes will thank you. Repeat after me: Moi loves moi. I am awesome.
#2: Say "Non" to Others and "Oui" to Boundaries
As kids, we were encouraged to practice, practice, practice and we could excel whether it be tennis, debate team, piano or soccer. We weren't trying to excel at everything, just one or two things. Why did we lose this perspective? Along the path of parenthood, we instead embraced saying yes to everything believing somehow it is a public manifesto to our commitment to our kids and everyone else in our lives. Need someone to sit on the board of the preschool? Sure, sign me up. Need someone to make cupcakes for Boy Scouts next weekend? Absolutely, I'll do it, they'll be home-made. Need someone to fly to Dallas tonight to present to the clients? Okay, great, I'm on it. Oui?
Non. Part of being awesome means saying "non" (and not feeling guilty about it, see resolution #1). Let someone else make the cupcakes, let someone else sit on the board, or maybe let someone else take the driver's seat at work. This idea of doing it all, achieving it all, leads to doing very little right and feeling terrible along the way. Moi loves moi means being able to confidently say "non" to others and living by those boundaries. This includes confidently being a "non" mom to our children.
#3: Say "Non" to Diets and "Oui" to Muffin Tops
We bombard our brains with images of women who are thinner than us, beginning with pregnancy. For this, I partly blame the media and cultural worship of all celebrities, including little known reality "stars," who are paraded on magazine covers for returning to their "pre-baby body" in record time. Like it or not, we are apt to putting the unrealistic pressure on our non-airbrushed selves. I think we have blinders on and see only the pregnant woman who is smaller than us and yet is further along. We then have the baby and see only the woman who has returned to her regular pre-baby size within weeks instead of the months (ahem, years) it takes others. All of this is compounded by the drone of the shrinking new-mom celebrity playing out online and in print.
There isn't enough time in the day or room in our brains to fret over body image. Especially because mothers have a powerful influence over their kids' own body images. Of course, it goes without saying that making healthy food choices and finding time to exercise is a critical part of internalizing moi loves moi. But also important is this: Use your peripheral vision and recognize that one size doesn't fit all and along with imperfect parenting can come imperfect bodies. The time suck that is babies and children does this to even the most disciplined among us. No one does imperfection better than Piggy.
#4: Say "Non" to Facebook Parenting Braggarts and "Oui" to Reality
When's the last time you saw a new mother post this on Facebook: I cry every day in the shower. Unfortunately, the brutal reality of parenthood is too often cloaked behind generic and distorted status updates. That lady who loves everything her 3-year-old does while yours just ate someone else's chewed and discarded gum off the restaurant floor while you were talking? She's lying (and yes, my kid just did that on Saturday night). Universally, we mentally "unlike" those status updates. Don't let idle chatter crowd your brain and confuse your feelings. It goes without saying: Children are a gift. But the truth is, I know I'm not alone when I say I cried in the shower for weeks after my first was born.
I often am counting down the minutes until my husband gets home, and plenty of times I pretend I don't hear my kids talking to me while I read the paper in the morning. Sometimes, I just need a moment. Let's post reality on Facebook more often. On bad days, I've wondered if toddlers are a form of cruel and unusual punishment, inflicted upon us as payback for our past sins. No one loves parenthood every day. And please, there is no shame in admitting it. We always love our children, but it doesn't mean we always like them or parenting them.
#5: Say "Non" to Judgment and "Oui" to Karma
I'm not afraid to admit I often reflect back on past-moi. She had so many pre-conceived notions of the ease of parenthood. The trick about past-moi is she still lurks around in my brain. Here's the reality of parenting: Every time you are judging another parent, it will come back to you and probably worse than you think. This still surprises me six years in, which is absurd. As recently as last year, I used to look at some kids on picture day at school and wonder why in the world their parents couldn't brush their hair, clean off their face and dress them properly for one day in the school year. Just one day. What was wrong with those parents? Did they not take pride in their kids? Could they not be bothered to come up with a decent outfit and a hairbrush just once in the 10 months of school?
Imagine the shock of moi when this fall, I asked my daughter's teacher when picture day was, because you know, I'm that good. She remarked "It was last Friday."
Time froze for moi. My blood turned to ice in my veins. I racked my half-rotted brain because it was her first year in school and her first-ever picture day and I had no idea. What was she wearing last Friday? When had I last washed her hair? Did I wipe off her face that day after breakfast, I wondered as I dug deep into the bowels of my memory and came up with nothing.
The only thing I knew for certain was her hair was super crusty by the end of that week and I washed it in honor of the weekend, which meant, hours after her picture was taken. I deserved this. Life repeatedly sneaks up on you in parenthood and #fail is the only thing that comes to mind. So, in the quest to remember that moi loves moi, 2012 is the year we judge less and recognize it will happen to us more. Instead of #fail, we remember #moilovesmoi.
In review, Happy Lunar New Year. I challenge you to internalize these five tenets of I Am Awesome because moi loves moi. And by all means, add more to the list. Moi loves more reasons to love moi.
Follow Monica Gallagher Sakala on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wired_momma