Saturday night was my daughter’s 8th birthday party. Since my ex isn’t exactly the party-planning type, it was left to me to make it all happen, even though because of space issues, the party was held at his house.
When I was a stay-at-home mom with more time for such things, I planned extravagant parties for my girls. I threw a teddy-bear themed party, a ladybug party, a pirate party, a castle party, a butterfly garden party, and even a purple spider party. I slaved over making invitations and decorations and finding just the right items for loot bags. I researched and created birthday cakes — in the days before Pinterest! — and generally worked my fingers to the bone for weeks leading up to the party.
And every year, I felt disappointed with something. The cake wasn’t “just right”. The invitations weren’t as I wanted them to be. I wasn’t able to organize just one more party game. There was always one thing or another that left me feeling let down.
Of course, never mind the fact that I was creating these extra special parties for my daughters as early as their first birthdays — much too young to appreciate or even really enjoy the effort that I had made. In fact, most of these parties that I did for them have long since been forgotten.
Back then, my identity and self-worth were completely wrapped up in being a mom. My life contained little else. These parties were my once-a-year opportunity to prove — to myself and to others — what a great mother I was. Which is why I always felt so empty. Because let me be the first to tell you — if you have crappy self-esteem, even a perfectly executed child’s birthday party isn’t going to make you feel good about yourself. Go figure, right? I worked and worked, hoping that maybe if everything went perfectly this time, I would finally believe that I was a good enough mom.
Since ending my marriage and no longer being a stay at home mom, the birthday parties have taken a different turn. I’ve gone for “easy” — planning simple swim parties at the local pool, a party at a paint-your-own pottery place, stuff like that. Last year my girls had simple sleepovers at their dad’s house that I stayed over for as well. I didn’t have the time, the energy, or even the desire to create elaborate blow-out parties for them. Other things took priority.
This year, however, my daughter requested a theme party. At first I hesitated, knowing the amount of work that would be involved in pulling this kind of thing off. But the more I thought about it, the more the creative juices started flowing, and the more I warmed up to the idea. So I agreed. I googled and consulted pinterest and looked high and low all over the internet. I designed invitations. I made decorations. I scored some deals on awesome loot bag stuff. I baked and decorated cupcakes and came up with themed party games.
The party was awesome. And at the same time, it was definitely not perfect. There were plenty of little imperfections and things that I probably could have done better if I’d had the time to do it. But instead of allowing all of this to drag my down, I chose instead to focus on my daughter’s delight at helping me decorate loot bags and put together invitations. I heard her happy squeals as her friends arrived and smiled as they all dove into the candy buffet I’d laid out for them.
I did a good job. And this time, “good” was good enough. I have evolved enough as a mom to know that my value isn’t determined by finding the perfect loot bag items or exact matching decorations. I am good mom because I love my girls the best that I can. Because they can count on me when they need me. Because I am able to learn from the past and continually evolve into something better.
Just like I did this time. Living and learning, folks, it’s what this motherhood thing is all about.