There seems to be the idea out there that the perfect mom spends every waking moment caring for her home and her children. These moms do lots of crafts with their kids, cook with them, take them places and read many stories to them every night. On top of this, they keep their houses clean, prepare healthy and creative meals for their family and also be an attentive and wonderful wife. On top of this, they take care of their church responsibilities. I've admired many moms I know who seem to do all this and more. From the outside looking in, they seem to have it all.
I’ve never been that kind of mom. When my children were younger, I worked two jobs to make ends meet, so I wasn't home very often. When I was home, I didn't want their friends over and I didn't have the energy or inclination to do crafts or play games with the kids. Sometimes we read stories but never more than one or two, and not always at bedtime. Don't get me wrong, I've made my fair share of play dough, played countless games and read books to my kids until I'm blue in the face (including The Hobbit and Shakespeare, and I don't even like reading out loud.
When I was first married, someone dear to me walked away from a family she spent years creating. Those around her couldn't understand why she left what seemed so perfect. I asked her once, and she said “I feel like I lost myself.” After so many years of being the “perfect” homemaker she was a shell. All the play dough, crafts, reading aloud, and clean house left her with good kids, who were well adjusted and perfectly capable of functioning in the real world. But at what cost? As her kids began to leave home, she was left with an emptiness she didn't know how to fix. Her advice to me was to make sure I took care of myself.
I’ve thought long and hard about this conversation. Very few woman can meet the ideal of what a perfect mother is, and the “ideal” mother may only be ideal for certain children. (Who decided what the ideal was anyway?) Some kids may love the crafts and the organized activities, but for other children that may be stifling. Some mothers may love all the planning and spending lots of time doing things with the kids; other mothers may find it suffocating. In my home, we've never done a lot of “crafts” together. I don't like huge messes and I don't have the time to come up with and organize interesting activities. So why do I feel inadequate when other mothers talk about all the fun things they do with their kids? I do what works in our home and I shouldn’t try to be like every one else.
What I’ve given my children over the years, is the ability to come up with their own ideas and to use their own imaginations to entertain themselves. I provide all sorts of materials for them to create with, I just don’t always create with them. I didn’t like to cook with my children when they were little, but they have all learned how to cook anyway. I didn’t make lots of little crafts with them, but all three children can operate a sewing machine, sew on a button, and cross stitch. And even though I didn’t read to them as often as I could have, they are all avid readers.
Lately, this has been brought to my attention more as I am pursuing my dream and compulsion to write. People have commented on how it seems a little frivolous and they are too busy with their children to waste time on hobbies right now. I actually feel sorry for them. I’m pursuing a dream. The dream includes my children, but it also includes me as a well-rounded individual. The house may not always be spic-n-span, but we’re all healthy and it’s clean enough. They don’t go hungry even if dinner is a little late some nights. My children may not have the perfect mother, but they love me the way I am. In fact they cheer me on and love to hear about the progress I make in my writing. And if I were to give up myself to be someone else’s ideal, what kind of mother would I really be giving them anyway?