This morning, I awoke, not to the prancing and pawing on the roof, but to the screaming and crying of my three-year-old, who was devastated when my husband informed her that she would not be going to the babysitter’s today.
All three of my children love going to the babysitter’s, who is actually their great-aunt and lives on the family farm. There is always a pack of kids there and when they are there, they have the free, roaming play-filled childhood that I had always hoped they would have growing up.
Except, it doesn’t exactly happen the same way at our own house.
At our own house, there is fighting and bickering; there are tears and cries of, “Mama, what should I dooo?” with little dejected bodies draped across the office floor where I strive, in vain, to try to get some work done.
I find myself, for the first time ever in my parenting, at a crossroads of sorts, where our oldest daughter started kindergarten in the fall and the younger two seem a bit lost without her, their fearless leader. I’ve wished for this, a time when my middle can fight the stereotypes of her birth order and learn to spread her wings without her sister’s tutelage, but at the same time, when it’s my ears that have grown accustomed to her cries of boredom during the day, I am tempted to give up all together. And then there is my “baby,” the destructive toddler who can’t go more than a minute without inducing heart rates in me previously only reserved for the extremely rare scary movie.
And then I find myself putting on my “mom mask,” forcing a cheerful smile as I rack my brain for things for us to fill our days. What would a “good” mother do?
In my mind, a “good mother” looks like someone who evokes a mixture of roles: a mother who loves arts and crafts, who takes her children on fun-filled and educational excursions around town that enrich their lives culturally; a woman who never misses an event for her children, who is patient with the morning routine that seems to transform otherwise never-still children into sloping statues, a woman who can deliver a Pioneer Woman-worthy meal at dinner and still have energy for her husband at night; a woman who works for herself, but not too much, you see, because that would be unbalanced.
But the further along in this motherhood journey I go, the more I wonder where on earth I came up with this vision of the “ideal” mother. It certainly wasn’t from my own mother, a woman who always worked full-time as a teacher, specialized in spaghetti and “homemade” macaroni and cheese, and brushed off my kindergarten teacher when she called a conference because she was concerned I didn’t know how to cut paper properly.
And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood. I grew up happy, carefree, with all the time in the world to play and read, certainly molding the happy life I now lead as a writer.
But now, I let myself feel some kind of pressure to be the “ideal” mother, the one who crafts once a day or cooks every night or is always content to sit down on the floor and play puzzles.
And I have no idea where this vision even came from.
So I’m wondering if it’s time to relax my standards a bit. To let the vision of what makes me a good mother adapt to what really works best for me and my children. Maybe it’s snuggling in front of the fire and reading books from the library like we did this morning or maybe it’s letting my daughter “bake” completely on her own in the kitchen while I type up a blog post, but either way, I’m starting to realize–
There is more than one way to be a good mother.
And when all else fails?
They do love going to the babysitter’s…