Little fears like spiders, the dark, baby dolls coming to life and smothering us in our sleep (no, just me?) as well as big fears. Big, numbing fears like heights, crossing bridges, small confined spaces and public speaking.
It's natural to have fears, this I know, and it does no good to dwell on one's fears, this I also know, but there's one fear I have, one big, giant, scary kind of fear that always sits tucked in the back of my mind, tugging at my heart at the end of every day.
It's the fear of failing my children. Next to my fear of losing them or leaving them motherless should anything happen to me, it's the greatest fear I harbor as a mother.
As their mother, the only one they'll ever have, God-willing, I am in constant evaluation of myself and can't help but wonder,
"Am I failing them?"
Now, don't be mistaken, I am not paralyzed so much by this fear that I can't function or parent properly and for that I am grateful. It doesn't consume my every thought, but at the end of every day, in the quiet moments before I give in to sleep, I can't help but ask myself, "was I a good mother today?"
Most days the answer is yes, despite whatever small fires may have arisen, but some days, some times, the answer is a staggering "no" and that's when it stings a little. That's when I worry and I can't help but think I'm failing as a mother.
I fear that I'm not doing enough. That I'm not teaching them enough, encouraging them enough, cultivating and engaging their tiny minds enough. Some days, at the end of the day, I fear that I didn't say "I love you" enough.
I fear that I didn't read to them enough, say "yes" instead of "no" enough. That I didn't hug them enough or look them in the eye enough and give them my full undivided attention.
Although I try not to play the comparison game, I look at mothers around me who appear to have it all together, who appear to mother and wife and keep house so seamlessly and without effort and I am in awe. I wonder if they have the same fears as I do. The same fear of making a mistake, one single mistake that is so gigantic and life-altering that it totally sets their children up for failure as adults. That it messes them up so royally that instead of saving for their college fund, we should be saving for their therapy bills.
Oh my god, what if they don't even get into college because we didn't do enough flash cards? See? That's what I mean.
As mothers, I would like to think it's universal to fear that we may be failing our children. After all, motherhood is the hardest, most selfless job in the world and I'd like to think that this fear of failing means that we really do care. That, after all, we really are invested in the success of our children so much that we really can't help but fear failing them. Maybe sometimes too invested, like do-their-preschool-homework-for-them-invested (not like I would know anything about that, ahem), but invested nonetheless.
It's evident that with each fear that I have, take for instance, when pregnant with our second child, the fear that I wouldn't be able to love said second child as much as I did my first, that I really have no reason to be fearful at all.
A normal fear, yes, but a fear so completely unfounded that I can laugh at myself now for ever fearing that. For ever thinking that I couldn't love another child as much as I loved my first.
Looking back, it was more the fear of the unknown, of how we would all adjust and transition to being a family of four that haunted me, more so than whether or not I would be able to love another baby and as we prepare to welcome our third son in just a few short months, I know with every fiber of my being that I can and will love him just as much as I my other two sons.
We both know what they say about hindsight.
In giving ourselves permission to fail, to not always be the perfect mother, I believe that maybe we're actually giving ourselves a certain freedom. A freedom to make mistakes, to not always do and say our best because we know it's not always that easy. A freedom to falter but most importantly, to allow ourselves to learn from those mistakes and missteps and to try again the next day, to be better, to be more patient, more engaging, to sit back, slow down and allow ourselves more grace.
If we look at mothering that way, it doesn't seem so scary after all.
After all, isn't it up to us to lead by example and teach our children not to be afraid of failure? That if they tried their very best, that's all we could have ever hoped for?
Maybe we as Moms just need to step back and take our own advice. In giving ourselves permission to fail, aren't we really succeeding after all?