My favorite question asked of me as a parent when meeting new people has become “wow…how many kids do you have?” To which I always reply, “just one…why do you ask?” The answer is always some version of the same statement, “You don’t act like a first-time mom.”

I always want to ask “Really, how does a first-mom act” but I never do. Am I supposed to be a helicopter parent? There to make sure my child never falls, never fails, never makes a mistake, never eats dog food or dirt? Am I supposed to be a dress size 4? Spending 3 or more hours a day at the gym, depriving myself of foods I want to eat, all just to lose and keep off my baby weight? Am I supposed to spend hours cleaning my house every day, just in case you want to stop by unannounced to say hi? Am I supposed to schedule my child in countless activities to give him the opportunity to figure out what he is best at? Am I supposed to fit in a weekly playgroup as well so we can compare whose kid is more developed in one area or another to justify that I’m doing it right? The list can go on for days…I say screw all that.

I’m not a helicopter parent and I’m certainly not the picture perfect mom or housewife many strive to be. More importantly, I never will be. I don’t have time for that. On the contrary, I’m the best 39 year old mom to an energetic 2 year old boy and wife of 8 years that I can possibly be. I’m a full-time active duty C-130 pilot and Air Force Officer.

I’ve missed out on a lot of things with my family due to the service of my country. It’s a sacrifice we make together as a family, along with many other families, when we swore to support and defend our nation and it’s citizens. And I’m okay with it. It’s a matter of perspective…

As I’m about to miss out on the third of three Halloweens, I don’t feel bad that there may be a layer of dust on my furniture when you stop by; a little dirt never hurt anyone. I don’t care if my kid eats food off the ground from time to time; it strengthens his immune system. I don’t care that he’s not potty-trained; he’ll get there on his own time. I certainly don’t care if you whisper about me when I don’t show up at mommy-and-me events dressed like a princess. I don’t care that I even spoil my kid from time to time (or even more than that); because he doesn’t act like he’s spoiled. Is it great that he knows his ABCs, can count to 20, knows his colors and shapes among a whole host of other things; absolutely and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

But what I really care about, and ultimately is all that should matter to any of us, is that my child knows he is loved. That I will always be there for him, even if being there means watching him blow out birthday candles via Skype or FaceTime. I care that he has the opportunity to act like a two-year old; he’ll grow up fast enough. I care that he is polite, well-mannered, kind, caring, loving, and knows the difference between right and wrong… at the developmental level of a two-year old. Because that is what he is.

As for me, as a mom, I will not apologize for the way I parent and I will not compare or compete. And if you find yourself competing or trying to be a mom that you are not, trying to keep up with the “Jones’s”; I challenge you to find your own truth. And own it.