A couple night ago I had a dream I was late for a test. I was frantically trying to find the right building to take a test I was not prepared for (luckily, I was fully clothed this time). I found a door and walked in. There were already students sitting at their desks. The room was massive with a high ceiling and the back of the classroom…… was a Macy’s where people were shopping. Go figure, dreams can be crazy.
I’ve been out of school for many years, so how come I am still having dreams about tests? A quick web search says, “To dream of being late for a test represents challenges you were unprepared for or were too distracted to deal with.” In the last year there have been countless challenges for which I was unprepared, so I guess my dream has some truth to it.
Prior to the pandemic, I think parents felt like we should, or could, be prepared for anything. It has never been enough to just handle a situation, you must do it “right” in order to survive the judgment of those around you. I loved writing this blog a few years ago examining how subconsciously we look at motherhood as a test.
“This is Not a Test” was originally posted on February 23, 2014:
In a recent interview, author Anna Quindlen was asked what are 5 things she knew for sure? One of her answers was:
“Motherhood is not a test.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
If motherhood is not a test, then we should spend no time at all worrying about whether we are doing things “right”.
If motherhood is not a test, we should not spend hours scouring the internet for the exact diagnosis and remedy for the sniffles that came home from school.
If motherhood is not a test, it wouldn’t matter if you are a stay-a-home parent or a working parent, we’d all just be parents.
If motherhood is not a test, we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves when something “goes wrong”, we’d see it as an opportunity to grow and do better next time.
The list could go on, you’ve probably thought of a couple more already. In school “passing a test” is validation that we’ve studied hard and earned the right to go to the next grade. In sports “passing a test” earns you a win or sometimes a gold medal. In the workplace “passing a test” earns you a promotion or raise. For many of us these three examples, school, organized sports/activities and career, make up a large part of our childhood and early adulthood. It is easy to see how we can develop a perception that everything in life must be a test.
It’s hard to change your perception, especially when it’s been ingrained in multiple aspects of your life. How can we break the cycle and start thinking of things in a different way? I think that by simply acknowledging it we take the first step. We tell ourselves that there is no “right way”. The way we choose is right for the moment. If things don’t turn out the way we expect, then we go back, try something else and see if that gets us closer to the desired results.
When you think about it, we all know that motherhood can’t be a test because the “right answer” that works one day completely misfires on other days. Motherhood is fluid. It changes and evolves. It’s not a linear path, but a winding journey for which there is no map. This is not something that we are accustomed to – no map? No book? No internet to help me along the way? The tools are there, they’re just different. Relying on your intuition, those around you and the reactions of your children will give you all the direction that you need.
So, the next time you find yourself wondering, “am I doing this right?” remind yourself this is not a test. Choose the answer you think is right and go for it. Unlike a test, you can always go back and change it along the way.
The last twelve months were not a dream. We found ourselves taking a test and were completely unprepared. There was no book we could have studied on “how to survive being locked in your house for days on end with your family, while homeschooling, working, doing laundry and maintaining your sanity.”
We did the only thing we could and took it day by day. No one had ever been through this before. There were no right answers. We lost our ability to plan and were forced to go with the flow.
Now as we shift into this next stage, I’m reminded of a quote from Maya Angelou, “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” Be gentle friends, this is not a test.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.