Tuesday, May 11, 2010

yo' mama

It’s no secret that my relationship with my mother is rocky at best.  I don’t want to talk about her, but this week I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mom.  I would like to preface this by saying this post is not about anyone in particular.  If you would like to get offended by what I say here, go ahead, but it won’t be because I was talking about YOU.  Whomever you are.
First I would like to say that I think mother’s day is a sham.  I mean, I’m a mother every single day out of the year and I don’t need one silly day for people to kiss my ass. How come people don’t feel like that stuff is important on other days? I will not say who I think came up with mother’s day, because it has offended my husband, but I just think the entire day is ridiculous. I find it offensive that there is only one day out of the year that we call our moms and say thank you. Shouldn’t that happen more often? I mean, really.
So, this mother’s day, my husband told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. I chose to go shopping all by myself.  Any of you with children know what a special gift that is.  I even went to the grocery store ALL by myself – no little hands putting extra things in the basket, no one throwing her body on the floor because I chose the wrong kind of fruit snacks.  It was a little piece of heaven – and yet, most of this week I’ve gotten the stink eye from other moms when I tell them about my day.  I don’t really know why it’s caused such reaction, but maybe I should say that it’s the one upside of having a shitty mother – I don’t have an obligation to spend time with her one Sunday in May.  The downside? I don’t have a mother. Want to trade?
Here’s the thing about myself as a mother: I believe the only thing that matters is that my children are healthy and happy and mostly well behaved.  I didn’t have children to fulfill some empty place in my life – frankly, I had kids so I could see who they’d look like – me or Steve.  I wanted children because I love my husband so much that I wanted to make a human being with him, not because I needed something to do with my time.  My children are my soul, but they do not define ME.  Inside, I am still the same person I was before I had them – and I still need time to myself.  Actually, I covet time to myself.  And while the quantity of that time is wayyyyyyyy less than it was before the girls came along, it is still very important to my mental state and I make time for me every week.  I MUST, or I will lose my mind.
I don’t know how my children will look at me when we are all older – will they remember playing Candyland and laughing at old MGM cartoons until we thought we might wet our pants? Will they remember that I read Goodnight Moon every single night of their lives thus far? Or will they remember me as that lady who never cleaned her bedroom until their daddy threw a fit, and who sometimes made breakfast for dinner because she was just too damn lazy to do anything more?  I don’t know. But I do know this: my own mother did all the things that moms were “supposed” to do back in the day, she stayed home with us, made all the meals, did all the laundry, served on the PTA and the church committees. Where did it get her? She was miserable and still is, and we don’t have a relationship at all.  Clearly, I don’t know what particular qualities make a good mother. I only know how to be me, and I know that sometimes “me” doesn’t quite fit the traditional mold.  If I teach my girls anything, I hope they learn that they don’t have to fit into any particular category, and that just being who they are is always better than forsaking themselves to fit in.
This week on CBS Sunday Morning, they aired a great piece on the writer Erma Bombeck.   I remember my grandmother having her books, but I wanted to know more about her so I did some digging.  While she raised her children and wrote about those trials in a much different time, much of what she wrote hit close to home for me.  Especially these words about a different kind of mother: “She wanted children too, but for another reason.  They fulfilled a strong desire to love, raise, and leave as a legacy another human being. But they didn’t fulfill her ambitions, her struggle for individuality, or her need to make a contribution to this life, no matter how small.”  I wish more moms would think about these words and spend less time catering to other people and more time worrying about themselves. What a place that would be – a different world for ourselves and for our children.


  1. What a WONDERFUL post. The last two years I've asked to A) sleep in B) not have to empty the DW and C) spend the day ALONE (or with other momfriends) going to a movie or sitting at B&N reading. Both years my mom has said in response to that "OH Anne, that is HORRIBLE!" To which I replied - I eat sleep & BREATHE those damn kids all but the roughly 18 hours a week that Davis is away from me, and the 9 hours a week Ellery is away from me. And all this sleepless shit? These last 2 years of HELL? I'd STILL choose this any day over working at that corporate job that wrecked my soul & killed my spirit (as a 20-something...that says a LOT).

    So yeah, it's Mother's Day. And while I like to celebrate my mom (I do actually tell her often how much she means & how much I enjoy her friendship...and I am well aware how lucky that makes me), I mostly want to celebrate ME. Because for me personally - me with the EXTREME GUILT GENE - it's the one day a year I can say to Jon "YOU DO IT." and not feel guilty. So that is the only reason I enjoy Mother's Day. I get 24 hours to request things like I should have but never did when I was pregnant (oooh, can you fill up my water?)

    I think it's splendid that you spent the day by yourself. If you got the stink eye from me it's only b/c I thought Steve's parents were in town & it simply surprised me they weren't. I reserve my judgement on you for when I am eating 31 Flavors with my ankle biters as you walk by on your way to Avenue's BY YOURSeLF :)

    I also know that you'd probably give anything to have had the kind of relationship with your mom that necissitated spending a day with her in May. It's something I am aware of & know made your day hard. I'm so sorry.

    That being said, I think many of us could do well to let go of the normal benchmarks that stereotypically define a successful mother. For some reason, I've always been OK with not living up to them. My mother in law has been KEY in my early acceptance of this. She wanted me to do all the things she did (same stuff as your mom) and even though she gave her heart & soul happily & willingly to those kids, NONE of them are close to her. Even my wonderful husband... I still have to tell him to call. His relastionship with them is just casual & I know she longs for any morsel he doles out to them. And it's not b/c he has a bad relationship, he's just busy. And he's a guy. So long ago I knew this & thought "all that work, and still they're no closer than kids who's parents were NOT involved." I decided to give my kids the best parts of me (dance parties in the kitchen, holiday traditions that they love, even if they aren't the "norm", bedtime rituals that calm them & give me quiet moments with them, goofy games, and mostly spending time with them) while hoping that they'll overlook the "not best" parts of me. My family will never have many hot meals awaiting them, as I hate to cook. I only feel guilty about this when I think how much time & expense went into our kitchen... But despite the fact I'm a shit cook, I do eat with my kids every single night. We talk. I will never be head of the PTA. But I'll be there for every recital or concert or game. I will never be the "together mom" with trendy outfits or shoes... But I'll be there. And hopefully this will count when they're 35 and reflecting back.

    Thanks for a wonderful post. And I have several of Ms. Bombeck's books if you;d like to borrow them. HOnoring our individuality & doing something to make a contribution to this life is often looked upon as being selfish, but I stand by what my dear friend Anna says "If momma ain't happy, the kids ain't happy." Do what makes you happy, as a mom AND as a woman.

  2. I haven't seen you in person for quite some time, but from what I see on Facebook, you are with your kids everyday and do a wonderful job raising them. They look healthy, happy and seem very intelligent. You expose them to many things and allow them to take from it what they do...you don't pressure them to think, feel, or do any certain thing...you are teaching them morals, to be aware of more than just themselves, and to make their own decisions. You and Steve are giving them a wonderful life.

    No mom that I know gets enough time for themselves, and like you said, being a mom is a part of you, a huge part, but it's not ALL of you. You decided to have a day for yourself, and yet, you went grocery shopping for your family. Even though you got to go out on your own, you still were thinking of your kiddos and your hubby. I'm pretty sure that shows a good mommy and wife! Even if you'd asked for a day at the spa, you'd have deserved it.

    You do spend the majority of your time in the wife and mom role and yet there still is a YOU there, and if you were to lose that part of you, you wouldn't be any good to anyone else. You'd spend your time thinking about what you'd given up instead of what you'd gained. There has to be a balance. When you marry and have kids you don't change into someone else, you are adding something to the life you already had.

    I don't know exactly what happened between you and your mom, but, you are aware now that she was living a life she wasn't happy with and you've seen what that led to. In keeping true to yourself while being a wife and a mom you are setting yourself up for a much better outcome with your kids. Yeah, you!

    I've somewhat felt that Mom's Day and Dad's Day are similar to Valentine's Day...another way for the card companies to sell cards. It is said, however, that it's a day in which we are to celebrate our moms and tell them, even more than other days, how much we appreciate them. What better way to do that then give our moms the choice of what they wish to do?

    This year I decided to take my kids camping over Mom's Day weekend. We all enjoy it, they have plenty of things to do to keep them busy, and aside from making them meals, I can pretty much sit back and relax. I was there to celebrate with Sam when he caught 12 fish in one day, and to tell Chloe what a beautiful "wedding bouquet" she'd made, but what I enjoyed the most was watching them have fun with their cousins, talking with other adults, and taking pictures...it was finally a year where I could do what I wanted to do, and it just happened that the kids enjoyed it to. I'm sure Steve and the girls got along just fine without you for a couple of hours and it was a good way for them to get some bonding time in, too :)

  3. wow, ladies! thanks. Anne, you don't have to justify a stink eye - you were NOT nearly the only one I got it from - it was certainly not about you :) and I appreciate the sweet words from both of you. xo

  4. "not NEARLY the only one?" Hmmm...

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  6. thanks, Candy. yet another reason I don't send my mom a card anymore - they don't make the one that says, "you suck" :) you are an amazing mom, and have always amazed me with your strength!