When I'm succeeding with my small business, I know about it. I get feedback from customers, and people want to stop by and tell me that my new uploads are gorgeous, or that the rainbows on my line made them smile. I have sales, I can point at the numbers and say, "See, I'm doing well!" I have a big stack of orders and assorted hand dyed yarn, and I can see where I am up to, and where all the hours went, and there is a provable amount of work "done".
Mothering isn't like that. Unschooling isn't like that. Being a stay at home parent isn't like that.
There's no set of easy-to-measure standards. Nothing I can point to as evidence that any work actually got done. Nothing is ever completed. Getting it right is an exactingly high hurdle which even on my best day I catch with a foot on the way over; if there *is* such a thing as a perfect parent I've never met one. I've met a lot of brilliant parents. A lot of people I would call my role models. A lot of people better than me in some areas, and worse in others (if it were a competition, which it isn't).
If I could only say for sure, at the end of each day, that I did enough. Something always gives. Is it better to shout and apologise once or twice, and yet make cupcakes and help with a science experiment and breastfeed on cue and patiently wait out an hour long screaming fit? Or is it better to sink into disengaged, get on with my own thing and not facilitate well but also not yell even once? Or is it better to have a "great day" then melt down the moment another adult comes into view, and potentially have a little one overhear me wail that I can't do it - am not good enough - not cut out for this?
Is there a scale, a degree of "good enough"?
This is where the rubber hits the road, in a life with ideals. When you are faced with choosing - which ideal is more important, what internal resources do you have left at eleven o'clock at night when someone isn't sleeping and someone else comes in to say they had a scary dream? When you want to know, am I done yet? Did I do enough today?
It isn't always like this. It isn't always an uphill climb.
Even when it's beautiful, and gloriously fun, and interesting, (and the light and the love and the peace are always there to be found, somehow) - there is still no end in sight, no way to say, "I KNOW I'm getting it right." Just, on those days, I don't usually ask the question. I can feel it, palpably, in the air, there is a flow - a sense of contentment.
If I take the happiness of my children as my ultimate goal, and my measuring stick, what kind of a mother am I when they are not happy - when life throws them things they would rather not deal with, when they have difficulty coming to an agreement, when they are ill or tired? Am I a failure if they are not happy? What kind of ratio is still within the limits of acceptable mothering? Every other measurement comes with its own drawbacks, and many are even more ephemeral and inconsistent and indefineable than simple happiness.
I would love to finish this rambling with an answer; easy, comforting, maybe a little over-simplified. I would like to comfort myself. My children are bright and busy, curious and usually healthy, mostly happy, learning all the time. I like them. I love them. And some days leave me empty, poured out, spent. The more tired I am, the more low, the more I try to wrap words around this experience - the more I long to understand it, and be understood. The harder I try the more words fall short.
I want to be enough. I want to be enough.
Is that enough?