That is not how anyone would describe me or how I would describe myself and to some degree that makes me sad. I read blogs by some mothers who paint a vastly different picture of motherhood. Their posts never indicate that they have a hard day, are bored by the daily monotony of lather, rinse, repeat, or are frustrated by their kids’ behavior, raise their voices or resort to threats to take away this or that to get their child to behave. Shes warmly and compassionately embraces her crying child when he’s hysterical over a paper cut (and posts the picture to prove it), makes home cooked meals for the family most of the time (and posts the recipes and picture of the finished product), makes baby food from scratch (and grows some of the ingredients in the back yard), is always the first to offer to have a play date and it is elaborate with place cards and homemade favors and costumes and coordinating organic snacks, and shes somehow manages to create the perception that her house is in order (or quips that she doesn’t care than it’s not because she is busy creating the childhood of her children’s dreams). She is a gentle mother.
She is with her children. She is the proud stay at home mom who puts being with her children ahead of the myriad chores that keep her home running because she tends to those when her children are napping or go to bed for the night. She enjoys being with them, throwing glitter into the air, going on a walk just to look for butterflies, pulling out every pot and pan in the drawer and banging on them just because it is fun, finger painting without a care for where the paint ends up.
She makes lunches the night before and lays out her children’s clothes just so she can have more time with them in the morning before school. She does what they want to do just because they want to do it and children should be children, after all. She pulls together her own cute outfits and manages a shower, a hair style, and make-up. She plans events and activities, just because. Her Pinterest board runneth over so that you, too, can plan the prefect tea party or Star Wars play date.
She is compassionate toward her working outside the home husband, feeling she has it abundantly better because she gets to be with their children while he must be away. And, because of that, she quite happily picks up all the slack at home, you know, when the kids are at school or the baby is asleep. Sure, she gets tired or maybe overwhelmed, but she checks it because neither is as important to her as the well being of her children.
She is, of course, a figment. I do believe that there are mothers who have the innate desire and ability to just.be.with.their.children. Where everything is an adventure, something to be gained or learned, if only the wonder of it all. The mother who prioritizes her children and family ahead of herself and ahead of the tasks of running a household and holds no resentment. Perhaps, even, her husband shoulders some of that responsibility even though he is tired from his long day at work, because he is so appreciative of how she is busy raising and caring for their children all day.
I am not her but I aspire to be my best mom self. It is going to require some rewiring of my hard wiring. I am a loving and affectionate mother even though I wasn’t raised by one, yet so much about how I was raised affects the mother that I am. I am tough but fair, use inflection to get my point across, am affectionate when feelings are hurt or scrapes, bumps, wounds are significant but can practically ignore sobs when tears are over the tiniest nick or Lego that won’t come apart, say no sometimes more than I say yes, rush my son when he is doddling, admonish him loudly for leaving his Legos strewn across his bedroom floor, threaten to take toys or privileges away when he is defiant or mean or talks back, send him to his room when he’s used up his chances to adjust his attitude.
And, now that I know many mothers, I know that the one who is dressed in this season’s must have boots with the ‘it’ bag and always has full makeup and hairstyle by morning drop-off is going through a divorce because her husband cheated on her with a Brazilian stripper, and that the one who volunteers to chair every committee does so so that she can be away from her emotionally distant husband, and the one who is always early to everything is the CEO of a corporation and feels guilty that the board room calls more often than the lunch room, and the one who seems flighty and disconnected just lost her own mom to suicide, and the one who seems aloof and distant doesn’t want anyone to know that she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and elected to have a double mastectomy and is awaiting reconstruction.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? We all have our lives, with its baggage and complexities and blemishes and, yes, in some cases, secrets. And, we all have this big job of parenting our children in the best ways we know how and guiding them to become their best selves. If we could learn to embrace ourselves, know that we are enough, know that our choices may be different from another mother’s choices and that only makes us different and not better then we could lift each other up, make the days easier on each other, find time to notice and champion each other and in the process feel a lot less mompetition and a lot more compassion. And, couldn’t we all benefit from that?
And, so, I’ll start. I am trying to be the best mother I know how to be. And, I know that you are, too.