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The Playdate That Left Me Reeling

Photograph by Twenty20

I recently came home from a playdate convinced that I was the worst mom ever, or at the very least, failing miserably.

I brought my seven-year-old son to his best friend's house for an afternoon of play. I know his mom from school, but this would be our first chance to have a conversation that lasted longer than a few minutes. And by the end of the hour, through no fault of her own, I would be so painfully aware of my shortcomings it would take weeks to recover.

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When we arrived at their home the first thing that struck me was how incredibly clean it was. I could just see Marie Kondo shaking her head at me saying, “See, I told you it was possible to have children and a tidy home.”

Her son played me a beautiful song on the piano and showed me around the room he had organized, on his own, for the occasion. My son doesn't play an instrument. And he has never once cleaned his room without lots of tears and an inordinate amount of help.

This truly kind and funny mother has three children, two of which she and her husband adopted out of foster care. She holds a full-time job and still manages to get her children to lots of extracurricular activities and herself to the gym.

Did I mention the spotless house?

I don’t want to be the world’s Most OK mom, I really do want to be the best mom I can be.

She looked to me, for all intents and purposes, to be a real live Super Mom.  

I didn't hate her. I hated myself for not being more like her.

I came home on the brink of tears and explained to my husband the many ways I was failing to be like this incredible woman.

Once the envy and self-judgement faded, I was able to learn a few valuable lessons. The first was to admit that I’ve got room for improvement and to allow this mom’s amazing example to be inspiration for me to make positive changes. I don’t want to be the world’s Most OK mom, I really do want to be the best mom I can be.

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The key there is to focus on being the best version of me. Because that’s the other thing I realized: My mothering, no matter how stellar, is never going to look like anyone else’s. If I focus my energies on measuring up to external standards, I will always fall short.

My house may never be that tidy, but my kids and I feel free to make wildly creative messes. My son doesn’t have classes after school, but he does have plenty of free time to ride his bike and climb trees. And with more practice, and more emphasis on playing to my strengths, I might just look like a super mom—perhaps not to anyone else, but hopefully, to my own kids.

And those are the only opinions that matter anyhow.

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