Dear Me, 10 Years Ago (When My Two Oldest Sons Were 2-and-a-half and 7 months old):
If you try to look forward ten years into the future, what do you see? Do you dream that you will love your life, enjoy your children, laugh often?
Can you imagine that you will one day somehow manage to function amid the noise and the mess and the milk and the diapers, that you will love your husband, build a career, even welcome more children — a houseful of children in all — with genuine happiness?
It's really true.
You've been through a lot. The death of a parent, financial struggles, a host of marital issues, unexpected pregnancies, breastfeeding problems, a move to a new state. New motherhood is difficult under the best of circumstances. You've experienced it under some of the worst. And more big challenges lie ahead.
But you will be okay.
I know there's nothing more maddening than hearing "this too shall pass" from somebody for whom the event in question has already passed. Even if that person is some future version of you. (You. Me. This 'letter to myself' stuff is getting confusing.) And I know that the struggle you're experiencing now — the free-floating anxiety, the guilt, the inertia — is so real and so thick it's hard to imagine yourself crawling out of it.
But you will. And the boys will be fine despite your screw-ups, large, small and simply imagined. I want you to know that right now. The year you've spent sucked into the bowels of the Internet where the magical formula for perfect parenting is, you imagine, always just one more click away –the guru whose example you can follow, the trick to keeping your breast milk more pure and your dinners more organic and your children's tender psyches more whole and unspoiled by the fast, cruel world — is not as lost as you think. You fed those little boys, you held them, you nurtured them, you kissed their boo-boos, you took them to the playground. You didn't always enjoy it, but you did it, even if you didn't do as much of it as you thought you should have.
It was enough for them. But I wish it had been better for you.
Soon you will be able to crawl out of the cocoon you created for yourself, shake off the unattainable goal of the perfect all-organic earth mother, and embrace a new life. One that's messy and imperfect and real and fun and happy. I promise.
For now, though, I wish I had a real time machine so I could tell you how to enjoy your life more. I wish you knew how much a routine and some structure could give you more energy, help you get past the inertia you are mired in. I wish you knew the parenting idols you look up to are as imperfect as you, whether they're willing to admit it or not. I wish you'd kept in better touch with Mom rather than keeping her at arm's length because her parenting ideas seemed so out-dated, so out of touch with what you thought you believed to be the One Parenting Truth.
She may not have understood breastfeeding, but she got being a mother.
I wish you'd known that every day is a chance to start fresh. I wish you'd understood that children are not as fragile as they seem and that each single decision need not be fraught with drama and angst. I wish you'd known that your needs matter, that the world will not come to an end if you take an afternoon or a night to yourself or ignore the kids while you read a book once in a while. I wish you'd taken just a fraction of the energy you are pouring into researching parenting and instead put it into enjoying parenting.
Soon you'll understand that the best gift you can give the kids is a happy mom. In the meanwhile, just keep plugging away Mama. You'll get there one day.
Love and happiness,
Meagan Francis is an author and mother of five. She blogs at www.thehappiestmom.com and is currently working on a book about being a happier mother, to be published in 2011.