Monday, 11 February 2008

The Ideal Mom

Over the last few days I’ve read several posts by mothers who are frustrated at their inability to be the perfect mom. Been there - done that.

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?


Noble M Standing said...


Anonymous said...

Writing is frivolous? I'm glad I haven't run into those kinds of people yet.

Now that I've entered motherhood, I've had this kind of conversation with my mom a few times. We both agree - you need to find a balance between taking care of your kids and taking care of yourself. And I've found that taking care of myself includes writing. It brings me so much joy, I'm a better person for it.

Marcia Mickelson said...

Thanks for your post. It was great to read. I was very grateful for the World Leadership training where they emphasized that homemaking is not about baking bread and cleaning the house. I think it's about making it a happy place where children feel safe and loved and learn the important things of life. We all do that in different ways. Some mothers do it by cooking with their kids. Not me. I've finally gotten to the point that I know I will never like to cook or be a good cook, and that's okay. They get fed. They might never know what homemade biscuits taste like, but what's wrong with Pillsbury biscuits? I really like the flaky ones.

For me, it's making them feel like they're being listend to, so I try to spend very little time on the phone. I hardly ever talk to friends on the phone because I want to give them that time. For someone else it's different. Maybe they need to talk on the phone to have their needs met and then spend time doing crafts with their kids instead. There's nothing wrong with that either. As long as we find a good balance. If I didn't spend time writing or reading, I wouldn't be happy and what good is an unhappy mom to her kids?

Keep writing. We, as moms, have to have our needs met too so that we are fulfilled enough to make a happy home for our families. As for me, I'll keep making Campbell's soup instead of making soup from scratch. I hate spending time cooking; I'd rather be spending the time with my kids. For someone else, maybe they enjoy cooking and they feel that is their way to show love for their kids.

We can't do it all perfectly, so I just pick which things I want to do better than others. Cooking always loses, and that's okay with me. Hope I'm not rambling too much.

Joe said...

Hello Stephanie!

Just dropping in to see what you've been up to.

From a male standpoint, this post really touched me. My wife is a newly stay-at-home mom and I love having her around as I work from home full time.

I'm glad you wrote this post and said "I am pursuing my dream and compulsion to write." My blog has been light lately and so have my writings. But I've come up with new ideas and I'm still not giving up. Just fell off the wagon for a bit.

I know what you must be going through. I work all day (again, at home for my employer) and then went I'm done, I do my best to help my wife as she's been a mom all day to our 7 week old. By the time he's down, we are both so exhausted it's hard to find the inspiration to write or little else.

So I applaud you. Keep writing, keep blogging. You may not realize that you are inspiring others to follow their dreams as well!

Karlene said...

Stephanie, I need to "talk" to you ASAP. Could you e-mail me as soon as you see this?

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