People will remember how you made them feel.

Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

Maya Angelou quote

Going by the book, I haven’t been a very good mom lately.

I’ve traveled a lot more than usual, and when I’ve been home, work and some personal stuff has had me pretty distracted. I’ve become sloppy about tracking school work, lazy with dinners (don’t even ask about home-packed lunches) and forgetful about keeping some promises I’ve made. The laundry has piled up, the kids seem to have permanent bed-head, and I don’t even remember the last time I clipped Clara’s fingernails. 

No, I’m not entering the call-the-authorities neglect stage, but going by my (admittedly pretty relaxed) parenting standards, I haven’t exactly been knocking this mothering thing out of the park over the last week or so.

I say this not to beat myself up, but just to be real with all of you. Everybody falls off the wagon sometimes. Whether you’re in a run-of-the-mill mom funk, overwhelmed by the details of life, or dealing with some emotional upheaval, maybe you’re having an “off” week, too. Or maybe you just got past one. Or maybe, for you, it’s still lurking around the corner.

Like so many others, I was saddened earlier this week to learn about the death of poet and author Maya Angelou. But it was quite lovely to watch as my Facebook feed filled with her quotes, particularly one that I hadn’t thought about in some time that felt particularly well-timed:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

It spoke so perfectly to where I am right now, and reminded me to keep my eye on what really matters. After all, what are these “good mother” jobs I’ve been falling down on? Details, mostly. The papers I was supposed to sign. The playdate I kept saying I’d set up, but never got around to. The fact that I told Owen I would bring the dog in for a classroom visit, and there are now three days left of the school year and it’s highly unlikely to happen. 

I’m not saying details don’t matter. Organizing paperwork and schedules and food and personal hygiene are all parts of my job as a mom. But what I am saying is, sometimes other things matter more. The apology when you fail to keep a promise. Having a long, heartfelt conversation with your spouse when you could be doing the dishes. Listening to a friend who’s going through a hard time. Offering a hug, a snuggle, a hand to hold. The way you make people feel.

We all disappoint the people we love sometimes. None of us can be 100% “on” every single day. This is truth. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can realize that the “on” days and the “off” days are both a part of life, and that we are not lesser, and are not “bad” parents, partners, workers, friends, because we are human.

But I choose to believe Ms. Angelou, too. At the end of the day, at the end of the decade, at the end of my life and beyond, my kids are a lot less likely to remember if I volunteered to chaperone Field Day (I didn’t) than they are that I gave them a hug when they showed me their ribbons, or listened with empathy when they told me about a disappointing finish in the sack race. Truthfully, they probably won’t actually remember the conversation, either, but I believe all those hugs, all those I-love-you’s, all the times I apologized or forgave or laughed instead of scolded, will compound to become something much more memorable than all the details of my “job.” What I did or didn’t do. What I said or failed to say.

Some days, we can handle both the feelings and the functions. We can manage the hugs and the housework, the listening and the laundry, the discussions and the deadlines.

But other days, on those “off” days or weeks, when we just can’t manage all of it, we have to make choices.

And while it’s tempting to invest our limited energy in the things that look good on the surface – keeping things clean, pretty, and ready for the public – I submit that it’s the stuff that happens in the quieter, private moments, the things nobody outside of our inner circles can see, that make the biggest difference in the end.

People will remember how you made them feel. Your kids. Your partner. Your friends. Your family. The people matter more than the job. The feelings matter more than the to-do lists. 

So right now, as I work my way out of a funk, I’m keeping my sights on the things that matter. My house may fall apart a little, and that garden I’d planned is still just a Pinterest board. My work life might get a little disorganized. And I’m certainly not going to win any awards for my end-of-school-year mothering performance. But I can still speak the words that soothe sore feelings and scraped knees, I can still respond to a friend who needs advice, I can still make sure to hold a hand or scratch a back or give a smile.

The rest of it, the details, will come. For now, I’m investing in what matters the most.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with me! If you’ve missed them, you can catch up on more Sunday Morning Tea posts right here.

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