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How I degrade myself as a mom with this one word

Posted April 28

I sat down with fellow columnist Carmen Rasmusen Herbert in a KSL radio studio a few weeks ago to discuss “the quest for perfection among mothers.”

Of course, I had a lot of thoughts on this topic because it’s something I talk about often in the hopes of getting mothers to be more real with each other and cut out the illusory competition to be Mother of the Year.

But as I prepared for the interview, I found myself falling into the inadequacy trap. The other show panelists both had four children. I just have two.

And in some bizarre way, this quantifiable fact made me feel like less of a mother. Did I really have any right to be talking about motherhood with my clearly inadequate experience? Who was I to tell other mothers with families of eight anything about being a mom?

When it came time for the radio show, I even introduced myself to the host as having “just two kids.”

Just.

What a terrible word to describe myself, but I use it all the time without even thinking.

I am just a mom. I just stay home with my children. I just have two kids.

That one little world diminishes everything I am and do as a mother. But I find myself using it again and again. Why? Maybe to sound humble. Maybe to acknowledge that two kids is below the norm in Utah. Maybe, in some weird way, to convey the message that I know I’m not as good a mom as you, so you don’t need to think it or point it out because I already get it. I’m just not enough.

Whatever the reason, the words simply are not true. I am not just anything. By definition, this usage of the word “just” means “nothing other than.” What a terrible way to describe myself.

Whatever the reason, I was unhappy with myself for feeling this way at the same time I was preparing to talk about how mothers shouldn’t compete with each other but should instead heed the advice that we are doing fine just the way we are.

There’s that word again. Just the way we are. Except this time, it doesn’t make me feel small. It doesn’t make me feel less. In that context, the word gives me permission to be who I am and what I am, and to know that it is enough.

So while I have two children, and I am keenly aware of the fact that other mothers have more experience and more kids in their homes, that doesn’t make me less. My experience is valid and worthy, as are the experiences of mothers who have any number of children with any variety of special needs, differences, personalities and ages. There is no magical scale of motherhood where you earn points based on numbers of babies you’ve carried or trials you’ve overcome. A mother is a mother.

And to our children — whether there are 10 or one — we aren’t just anything. We are Mom. We are everything.

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.

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