Photo: Heather Thompson

I am at a point in my life where I find myself questioning my parenting abilities daily. (To be honest, it started five years ago when my daughter was born.) But now with a five-year-old and a two-year-old, I find myself going to sleep every night filled with frustration at the way in which I handled things throughout the day. Usually, I’m in tears because I was too hard on my daughter (the five-year-old) or I resent the things I did or didn’t do with my two-year-old son.

Mom-ing is hard. It’s exhausting. It is filled with never-ending worry, battles with myself (and mini versions of myself) and constant thoughts of coulda, woulda, shoulda. And I only have two! You moms with more than two kids are my heroes. Seriously. I would die.

The last few months have been particularly trying for me. My daughter is in kindergarten and at the age where she talks all day. Literally, nonstop. It is mentally exhausting.

Then, there’s my son who does not stop moving from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. His job on this Earth is to make messes and therefore, my job is to clean them up. As I am cleaning up one mess, he is making another. It is physically exhausting. And I’m a personal trainer! I’m used to being active! But this is a whole new level.

A few weeks ago, I was laying in bed with my husband sobbing. I was explaining all the reasons I had failed that day: I yelled way too much, I lost my patience repeatedly, I didn’t get the housework done, etc. I remember saying that I always imagined I would be a good mom—not the version I had become. I would talk things through my kids instead of yell at them, they would never eat junk food, I would play with them all the time, all the things every new mom has the intentions of doing.

Being the good husband that he is, he listened. He told me I am a good mom. Then, he told me to stop thinking about what I did wrong that day and instead, focus on what I did right. So I did. I wrote them down.

I realized that raising kids is just like any other thing in life: it is filled with ups and downs. With good and bad. So I started a list of things I did wrong (my cons) and countered it with things I did right (the pros). I decided that as long as my list broke even, I wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Sure, it would be nice if the pros exceeded the cons, but hey, mom-ing is hard. My list looked something like this:

Con: At 7 p.m., I became so tired I lost my patience and yelled at the kids during bath time. A lot.

Pro: I got up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to exercise, which put me in a great mood. I was happy and energetic when I woke them up and they were happy.

Con: My kids ate microwaved chicken nuggets for dinner and no vegetable because I just didn’t want to fight that battle.

Pro: I made them a pretty good, balanced breakfast and lunch. By good I mean it wasn’t all sugar or microwaved.

Con: They watch too much TV. Today and every day.

Pro: I do homework with my five-year-old daily and quiz her on math and spelling in the car line at school. I practiced numbers and shapes with my toddler. I mean, it was only for the two minutes he would sit still, but I tried.

Con: My two-year-old watched YouTube for an hour while I ran my business from home.

Pro: At least it was about animals so he was learning? This one might be a stretch.

Pro: Tonight, even though I lost my patience and yelled, my daughter told me I was the best mommy in the world. So maybe—just maybe—I am doing something right.

The purpose of my list was to change my focus. To stop concentrating on the bad and start remembering the good. I don’t want to ignore my cons because those are the things I need to work on, but I need to remember the pros, too.

I am not a bad mom. I am a mom trying to figure it out.

I am trying to get through the days and raise good humans. Sure, they watch too much television, eat too much sugar and throw temper tantrums. But on the other hand, they are extremely smart, considerate, funny and strong-willed. They aren’t perfect, but neither am I.

We all have our lists. I can’t cook, but I can clean. I don’t like to play Barbies, but I am always in for a board game or book. I am not crafty, but I can find anything online. I am not the best mom, but I sure do love my kids.

When you are having a bad day, try making your list. Automatically, you will find the cons, but really make an effort to find those pros. They are there. And if you can’t find them, ask your kids. They will tell you—because even when you think you are doing everything wrong, they think you are doing so much right.