The Measure of a Mom

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I wonder if there is any greater pressure in life than to be a good mother.  As a mom, it can feel like pretty much everything you do is measured by how good, or bad, you are at this job.  And the standard of how good or bad you are…well that changes constantly and there are a million variables that go in to figuring that out.  But the measure seems to be mostly dependent on who is administering the test (aka judging you).  When you think about how many interactions you have in a single day, week, month…that’s a whole lotta judging going on.  And that means a whole lotta pressure to be good at, well, everything.

If that’s not enough,  you’re also judged on the behavior of your kids and how good they are at everything.  If your child has a tantrum at the grocery store, that’s a forgivable offense for them, but you’re docked double points in the mom category, because first of all why is your child such a little monster? And second, why can’t you control them when they decide to have a melt down in aisle five?

As a pretty imperfect mom myself, I’d love to say that I’m not guilty of this unfair judging.  But that would be a lie.  When I see a child misbehaving, I have perfected “the look” that I give to my own kids as we walk past the uncontrollable brat.  And after many years of this look, I don’t even need to say a word, the kids say it for  me. “I know, you would kill us if we ever did that.” Yep.  I sure would.  Because I have enough trouble earning good mom points on my own, I don’t need you lowering my score.

I don’t really want to measured by whether or not I attend every baseball game or PTO meeting.  I don’t want to be scored by how well behaved my children are, how smart they are or how old they are when they started walking/talking/potty training…etc.  What level they read at when they’re 6 years old shouldn’t be a factor and it shouldn’t matter how many activities or sports they participate in.

I can’t imagine any other area in life where we are judged almost solely based on someone else’s performance.  Besides, I know some really great moms whose kids just aren’t there yet and may never be. What I’ve realized as my kids have grown into adulthood is that I can only do what I can do,  but ultimately their choices are up to them. And truly,  their behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of how well I’ve done as a mom.

So what is the measure of a mom? How do I know if I’ve done my job and done it well?  I’ve decided on these few things as a measuring stick for myself.  This list might change or be added to over the years, and it might not be a standard for anyone else, but this is how I’ll be measuring myself.

  • Do my kids know that I love them? Now, I’ve learned that just loving a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a good mom, even really bad moms often love their kids.  I want my kids to know that I love them with the kind of unconditional,  selfless, I’d do anything for you…but your “happiness” is not my main concern…kind of love.
  • Do my kids know that God loves them even more than I do?  For me this is a big one.  Because I will fail my kids.  Often.  And I want them to know and to understand that I am not their ultimate authority.  Only by understanding the depth of God’s love, will they be able to extend the same kind of love to others.  And for me, that’ll be a big win.
  • Do my kids know that there are consequences to their actions?  As a mom, our natural response to our kids getting in trouble is to bail them out.  This often means that when our kids do something really stupid that deserves to be punished, we rush to their defense and don’t let them face the consequences that they’ve got coming to them.  If my kids realize that good choices equal good consequences and bad choices equal bad consequences, and that sometimes those bad consequences really hurt, I’ll be doing alright.
  • Do my kids understand the value of working hard?  My kids don’t own their own computer or ipad, they were never given a car and I’ve never paid for a spring break trip.  Why?  Because that stuff is expensive and they can’t afford it.  I supply my kids with their basic necessities.  If they want the extras, they have to work for it.  Giving them a handout now does not teach them the importance of hard work, which they will eventually have to learn. ( Unless of course, you plan to allow them to live in your basement and play video games their whole life, in which case, better you than me.)  I want my kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize that dollars don’t grow on trees.  I also want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with working for something and then obtaining it.  They will never get the same sense of satisfaction from a handout.  

And maybe most importantly,

  • Do my kids know the importance of character?  I’m a huge fan of good old honest Abe, who once said “Reputation is the shadow, character is the tree”.  I want my kids to know that their character will reflect who they are.  And that who they are, especially when nobody’s looking, is really important.  And I want them to know that things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always admirable traits to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doughnut Bottoms and Muffin Tops

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I had the rare opportunity this morning to stop at the mall with no children in tow.  I could barely contain my excitement as I was walking in.  Actually, I might have frightened the little old lady walking out who decided to hold the door for me.  “OH MY GOSH!!! Door service, THANK YOU SO MUCH!  WOW, THIS DAY JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER.  That was so nice of you to hold the door for me, really, you didn’t need to do that, but thank you!  You have a great day now!”  I probably should’ve just said thanks, she looked pretty confused and a little afraid.

I wanted to wander the store aimlessly, possibly trying on one of everything in my size.  But I was on a mission and since I’m pretty much broke, I decided that I’d better get in and get out.  I needed to pick up a new pair of shoes for Little B who has decided that his tennis shoes make a great set of brakes while he’s riding his scooter.  I got the shoes and headed out…well, started to head out at least. But I decided that I’d better check out the new styles for summer before I left.

Now, admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve shopped.  But I did not realize how out of the loop I am on today’s fashion.

What the heck are these?

doughnut pants

They look to be pants covered in doughnuts, right?  (For those of you that don’t have a sweet tooth, they also have cheeseburgers and pizza print available.)

Please tell me I’m missing something and that these pants are not really trending.  Or better yet, if you see someone wearing these…please send me a picture, it would really make my day.

Guess I no longer need to be embarrassed about being a child of the 80’s.  Our style’s got nothing on doughnut print leggings.

 

 

Confessions of a Not-Quite-Perfect Mother

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Today has been one of those days.  Not a good day or a bad day…just a day.  But a day that seems like it’s been going on for years.  It’s 7:15 p.m.  I just put little B down for bed.  It’s 45 minutes before his normal bedtime but thankfully he doesn’t know the difference.  He’s been tired and fussy since I picked him up from childcare which is the worst because I miss him all day and then I finally get to him…and ugh. And then he yells and cries all the way home, no manners at all. “Use your inside voice” I say, forgetting that he’s only a year old and has no idea what I mean.  So he refuses to listen, and I turn up the radio hoping to drown out the crying and in the end I get a headache from Miley Cyrus instead of BenJovi.

But today didn’t start out this way. This morning while I was driving Corey to school, he told me that I should write about being a perfect mom.  I laughed and told him that’s silly, because nobody’s perfect.  To which he replied, “I know you’re not a perfect person…but you’re a perfect mom”.   I thanked him for thinking so, but assured him that I’m nowhere near perfect.  And he looked at me, unconvinced and as serious as could be and said “Maybe you don’t think so, but you don’t get to decide because I’m the kid and I decided that you’re a perfect mom”.  Well, alright then. Who am I to argue with his nine year old logic?

How can it be that he thinks I’m perfect, or even good, when right now I’m sitting here with a sink full of dishes, bath toys still in the tub and I’ve put the baby to bed early just to catch a break.  My sleeve is still soaking wet from giving Ben a bath because I can’t even manage to control a toddler and keep him from splashing.  My kids ate sandwiches for dinner since I didn’t have time to cook when I got home from work because we had to rush out of the house for play rehearsal and Jiu Jitsu class. The laundry that I started this morning is still sitting in the washing machine and the 87 loads that still need to be done are clearly not getting done today. Toys are still covering the floor which hasn’t been vacuumed and I should be packing lunches for tomorrow, but I still have to go back out to pick up kids again and all I really want to do is go to bed.

And then it occurred to me that my kids couldn’t care less about all of those things that I haven’t gotten done today. Nobody does. All of the expectations I had for myself today that I didn’t accomplish, I’m the only one disappointed by them.  All of the crazy pressure I feel to juggle everything perfectly, never dropping the ball on anything…I’m the one that’s putting it there…and it’s okay if I stop doing that to myself.  It’s probably actually even good for me to stop it.

My kids love me simply because I love them and they know it. And today is just that…a day. It’s one day which is just a tiny little dot in the big picture. It’s going to be over shortly and tomorrow I’ll get to start all over again.  Being a not-quite-perfect but not-all-that-terrible-either mom.

My 39

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I just had a birthday which officially launched me into the last year of my 30’s.  It’s only been a week, so I think I’m still adjusting to this reality.  I’m not happy about it, but not quite sad either…just can’t decide if I should celebrate or mourn the impending death of my third decade in this crazy world.

To be perfectly honest the 30’s didn’t treat me all that well, with the last year being especially unkind.  I don’t intend to take up space here in my new cyber home with negative junk, but a brief synopsis of the last six months may be in order.  Let’s see, my marriage hit a big ol’ Michigan pothole that tore the tires right off of it and sent my husband and I in opposite directions.  A few weeks after he left, I got a late night call telling me that my sister had been arrested and I was asked  “do you want to come pick up her baby or should we give him to the state?”  Off I headed for my first ever encounter with the police to pick up my one year old nephew.  As I drove home with a scared little B in my backseat, I laughed and cried at the irony of that day.  It was my oldest son’s 19th birthday and I had just been thinking about how my days of child rearing were nearing an end.  God sure has a funny sense of humor.

So, here I am.  39.  Divorced.  Now working full-time.  Mother of 6 (including 3 teens, 2 still fairly well-behaved younger kids and my newly acquired 1  year old.)

I don’t like the feeling of my life spiraling out of control.  Not one bit.  So after about a week of feeling sorry for myself and my crappy situation,  I decided that if my life was going to spiral, it was not going to go downwards.  Nope.  I will not become the bitter-middle-aged woman that hates men and life and everything in general.    I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Some might argue that it’s harder to spiral upward, and with that I would agree.  My life is not about to get easier any time soon.  I have kids in elementary, middle and high school and now I drop a toddler off at day care before heading in to my own full day of work.  My days start earlier now and end later and I have more laundry to do than probably all of my neighbors combined.  I have the upcoming expenses of a high school graduation, a party and senior pictures and the cost of child care on my sole income (which is not nearly enough to cover those).  These things are my new reality.  So, I can either lay down and cry about it or stand up and persevere.  I’ve decided to do the latter.

The first thing that I had to do was simple.  I had to stop thinking about those things.  I am not trying to make it sound simplistic.  I know that it’s hard not to think about crap when you’re in the midst of chaos.  But I’m finding that the more time I spend not thinking about that stuff, the more time I have to think about things that are not those things.  Duh.

I spend a lot of time now thinking about how fortunate I am.  I have great kids…I mean, like REALLY GREAT kids.  They are funny and thoughtful, smart and helpful, kind and compassionate and a hundred other really awesome adjectives.  And I have not one or two, but SIX of these incredible people in my house! (Yes, I’m counting little B, who I’m sure will become these things too:)  How blessed am I?!

I have a job that I LOVE.  Seriously, it might be the best job in the world…and it’s mine!  I don’t wake up thinking “ugh, I have to go to work today”.  Sure, sometimes I’m tired in the morning, but it is an honor for me to get to do what I do and get paid for it.  And when I really spend time thinking about my job, sometimes I am honestly moved to tears because I love it so much.

My friends.  The best group of people you can imagine…yep, they’re in my life, up close and personal.  I can call them anytime and they are willing to listen, to talk, to set me straight and call me out when I’m being stupid.  Everyone needs some friends like mine.

So, yeah it’s been a rough few months.  But in the big scheme of things, it’s just that: a rough few months.  I have so much to be thankful for and I am certain that the future holds much more for me than my human mind could even begin to imagine.  In the mean time, I am going to stay focused on this reminder from Romans 5:2-5  “Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”

So as I move forward towards 40, I’m sure that I will mourn the loss of some things that I once held dear.  But more often this year, I will celebrate the things that I still have, the things that I have yet to receive and the promise that in the end I will have developed character by enduring through my sufferings.  And I will spend my 39 in an upward spiral.