Sarah Bragg is an incredible writer, mom and all-around great person. I love her perspective in this blog. Also, don’t forget to take a look at her wonderful new book, A Mother’s Guide to Raising Herself: What Parenting Taught Me About Life, Faith, and Myself, and visit her website at SarahBragg.com
Showing Up Is Enough
Nothing can reveal our need to be the best mom more than end-of-the-year activities in elementary school. There was no shortage of events and opportunities, and I felt like I had to do them all. In order to win, to be the best, no stone could be left unturned. The end of the school year looked like:
Last-minute presentations (FYI, this was not fun for anybody)
End-of-year honors programs
Parties and celebrations
Final tests and school projects
Why do we cram so much into one month?!
Even though there were eight million events that May, I still felt like I hadn’t done enough. I tried to be present as much as possible, but social media reminded me I had not done a good job tracking our memories and celebrating the milestones (online, at least). My effort in competing for best mom had left me feeling tired both emotionally and physically. Between the last week of elementary school for Sinclair and trying to find a new home, I hadn’t posted about the honors program for either of my daughters. I hadn’t posted about the piano recital and the award won. I hadn’t posted about all the celebrations. And it wasn’t just that I hadn’t posted—I hadn’t even taken pictures to post. Which left me feeling like I’d earned the World’s Most Average Mom Award. I definitely didn’t take first place as Mom of the Year.
I have a feeling you know exactly how I felt. Even though raising kids has revealed that my competitive nature still exists, it has also forced me to grow up my view of winning. Winning in motherhood was labeled as thriving. Everywhere I turned, I was told to thrive, to flourish, to prosper in raising kids. Those moms I saw unmoved by the mess, desiring to be with their kids all the time or unfrazzled by tantrums looked like a perfect picture of thriving. Thriving felt like first place, and I felt like I kept finishing in last place because, so much of the time, I felt like I wasn’t flourishing in this role or prospering in any shape or form.
If ever there was a time when parents should be given permission to lower the bar of parenting excellence, it’s in the middle of a pandemic. But you’d be surprised how many mothers are still competing for first place. Easter arrived just a month into the pandemic, and I thought for sure people would collectively decide that Easter baskets wouldn’t happen this year. But when I looked at Instagram, I was surprised to see how many people still pulled them off. Kids were receiving all sorts of extravagant Easter baskets despite the quarantines in place.
We feel pressure to “thrive” in all we do. But to me, thriving felt like an impossible standard. As I wrestled with the word thrive, I realized I had a mixed view of it. To me, thriving meant achieving perfection, which in turn meant winning. The more I focused on thriving as I defined it, the more I felt like I was losing. That’s when I started to think about what winning really looked like for me in motherhood. And I started to realize I was winning when I simply showed up.
Showing up when I felt tired was winning.
Showing up at any school event was winning.
Showing up at home while missing the school event was also winning.
Getting to the end of the day and choosing to show up again tomorrow was winning.
Being present was winning.
I may not have taken pictures of every experience, but I was present. And that is enough. I am learning that the best I can do today is to show up and be present. If you are looking for what makes you a good parent, a good wife, a good friend, a good person, that is the criteria. You show up. You are present. Being engaged is what counts.