Approaching Expectations

I am not a perfect mom. There, I said it. The truth is out there and I almost don’t care who knows this. I can’t meet these expectations any more.

To be clear, no one has ever thought that I was a perfect mom. It is rather I have spent many years trying to live up to expectations. I’ve diligently read, listened and watched all the memes, podcasts and Instagram videos. All expounding the magic recipes to be the most Zen, organized, caring and supportive mom. I have done the classes, been to more counseling sessions than even I, an over-sharer by trade, cares to admit. I have attempted to do the working mom/super mom juggle for over a decade. I’ve tried to be at every one of my children’s gymnastic classes while earning enough money to pay for said classes.

The realization that I will never achieve the perfection that I wanted hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. It happened when I finally realized some cold hard truths: my kids don’t read and they don’t play the piano. I have failed as a mom. You can judge me if you want, because I sure do.

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It’s not that playing the piano is something all kids should do. I know that some parents feel that being good at sports or exceeding in all subjects at school is far more important for their child. For me, playing the piano has always been the symbol that I have successfully created well-adjusted, incredibly talented, magnificent children. A sign that they have a mom who has driven them to weekly piano lessons and somehow encouraged them to practice 30 minutes a day. Clearly, my children have not had that mom. Rather, they’ve had a mother who could barely find the time to play two milleseconds of piano a week herself. Even despite over a decade of lessons. If the symbol of my success as a mother was to have my progenies play like Martha Argerich, then I have very clearly failed.

An even more devastating admission is that I haven’t even managed to pass on the wonders of reading to my children. Sure, when they were young, I used to spend hours reading to them everyday. But as they grew older other tasks took up that time. Solo-parenting and making lunches every school night, or helping a child learn their multiplication facts while attempting to make a nutritious dinner, all after a very long day of work, took precedence. I just haven’t had the time or energy to convince my children to read. Because the reality is that despite my best efforts and contrary to my expectations, my children aren’t interesting in reading. So, despite knowing the importance of reading, my kids don’t read. And I can very easily believe that it is all my fault.

Recently, a wise person in my life, my therapist in case anyone is wondering, suggested I kinder to myself. She questioned whether my perception that I had failed as a mother was more a reflection of the current state of our world than my own shortcomings. For a few lucid seconds, I agreed with her. If I look around, I see that my children are not the only human beings to not walk around with a book in hand. In fact, reality presents itself at every bus stop and coffee shop and, gasp, in every high school class.

It made me wonder who really guides my children these days. Clearly, someone is influencing how they spend their time. But I don’t think it is my voice my kids are listening to. I am starting to realize that there is a much more powerful voice out. A voice that has the mega-bucks and the time to advance its causes, something I clearly don’t have.

That’s probably why parenting today feels like fighting against a tidal wave of other influences. Social media has made it very obvious that I am way less knowledgeable about certain topics. And there are influencers who are more keen to sell their ideas than help our children become good human beings. They are not telling our children how cool reading is, though even I have to admit that that would make for very boring videos and memes. Teaching our tweens to twerk to sexually explicit and misogynistic song lyrics is way more entertaining. Cell phones and video games with their bells, rewards and incentives, are all built for one purpose. To provoke a huge upsurge of dopamine in our kids’ brains at levels that no book, piano scale or, for that matter, excellent math test result could ever match.

Perhaps my children’s unwillingness to grab a good book is not a reflection of my failure as a mom. Rather of our society in which billionaires are tirelessly trying to transform our youth into mindless consumers.

In being more lenient with expectations for myself, and recognizing the many influences that vie for our children’s attention today, I need to also be kinder to my children. I am realizing that I should focus on the fact my children are pretty darn okay. Even despite not being voracious readers or concert-level pianists. Recognizing that my kids are very decent humans should help me accept that approaching my expectations as a parent rather than meeting them is perhaps a sign that I am doing a pretty good job after all.

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