For as long as I can remember, I was always a great student, striving for success. I was that kid in fourth grade who cried over a B on a report card. I was never very athletic, or talented in other aspects, which is why I loved school: because I was good at it. I loved learning, loved studying, loved working on projects, but I also loved recognition. I loved getting those honor roll certificates, those pats on the back from my teachers. It felt good. It gave me a sense of self-worth.
Graduating from USC with a degree in education (with honors) surely I was supposed to do something great. I was supposed to be successful. Surely I was going to teach young children to love learning like I did. Surely I would get my Master’s Degree and more recognition for all my hard work.
Here I am five years post grad as a stay-at-home mom to two small blessings. Knee-deep in diapers, spit-up, and dirty laundry. Night feedings and temper tantrums. Dark circles under my eyes and my coffee is cold again. Sink full of dishes. Not exactly how I pictured my life as a fresh-from-college graduate.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, and I am thankful for the sacrifices our family makes for it to be possible. I love being there for every milestone. But let’s be real, the work is hard, the pay stinks, and there are no honors or award certificates at the end of it.
After seeing updates of several of my friends and former classmates graduating with various post-grad degrees, jealousy reared its ugly head. All of the “what could’ve been’s” of my college years and career goals fill my thoughts. I could’ve been a successful teacher. I could’ve created new curriculum. I could’ve done so many exciting, great things!
“I’m just a mom” I say to myself. “I wanted to be successful, but I’m just a mom.”
In the midst of exhaustion, a dirty house, and not remembering the last time I washed my hair, I remind myself that greatness is not accolades, and success is not a great career. Sometimes greatness is that first, unprompted, “I love you,” from your daughter. Sometimes success is getting your son to sleep through the night even though you go to bed with spit-up still in your hair. Sometimes it’s getting your crying child to calm down or simply to nurse well. Those things don’t always happen, but neither do those big moments we often see pictured on social media.
The measure of success many people use is not the measure of a mom. The measure of a mom is in the bags under their eyes or the tears they shed that day. The measure of a mom is in the smiles of their children or the moments they clean up without being told. The measure of a mom is sometimes found in things most people, even ourselves, never see, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t success.