Growing up, there was a brief winter or two in my elementary years where I thought I was a brilliant figure skater—and had no shortage of self-confidence. I lived for the red and white badges that were handed out at the completion of each level. The cold air in the rink stung my throat and burned my eyes but it was all worth it. Because I could do a T-stop, I had survived Level 1, and I had a badge to prove it.
I also was an elementary Girl Scout from Brownies right on through to fifth grade. The colorful triangle-shaped badges that were awarded for new skills and adventures were presented with such ceremony. The rainbows, and deer, and nature paths, and sunshine symbols all demonstrated that I was learning how to navigate the world. Looking back now, I can see my mom’s veiled smile showing her pride when I brought home a new badge while also hiding her dread at the thought of having another thing to sew on a vest.
I can’t blame my mom that a lot of the badges didn’t make it onto my puce-colored vest. Seriously… who has time for that?
I honestly couldn’t even tell you where that vest is now… likely pitched while cleaning out a childhood closet.
However, the badges from figure skating and girl scouts and other childhood activities that didn’t make it onto the vest, the ones that were placed in a gallon freezer bag with the best intentions of eventually making it onto a vest, those are still with me today.
As I’ve become a mom I’ve noticed that mothers often appear to be in competition. Not necessarily with one another, but in the sense that they want to make sure they’re doing it “right”. And I’m not sure why a mentality or expectation of being rewarded for actions or tasks that are assumed validating resurfaces when women become mothers.
- No coffee or deli meat during pregnancy – you get a badge.
- Natural childbirth – you get a badge.
- Breastfeeding for a full year… at minimum – you get a badge.
- No pacifiers – you get a badge.
- No processed foods and baby-led weaning – you get a badge.
- Potty-trained by the age of 2 – you get a badge.
- Homeschooling kids – you get a badge.
Let’s be real here.
Motherhood is the ultimate test of skills and survival.
And the thing is, there isn’t just one right way to do it. There is no guidebook you can follow to cross off steps as they are completed to earn a badge.
Everyone’s situation, family, and children are different and what works for one mom and family, might not work for another.
I think that, often, it is the moms who have the best intentions–the ones who take the time to be with their children and miss “checking off” an imagined list of boxes–who are doing it right.
Sure, your kid might have had caffeine while in utero, and you might have gotten an epidural or a c-section, and some nights everyone might be eating Lunchables for dinner–but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
If you feel like you are doing what is best for you and your kids, then that is all that matters.
Everything else can just be put in a bag and set aside until later.