Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mediocre Mother, it's the new black

Frontispiece to Fireside Education, Samuel Gri...

There's a bit of a fray on bad mothering as a trend on the Interwebz, and as we all know, what's on the Interwebz is completely true, always. Some voices I respect have weighed in, and since this is a post I have been meaning to write for while, I finished it up and here is my take.

I grew up as a latchkey kid. From the time I was in the fourth grade I would walk to school, on my own, every morning. The chain that hung around my neck was cold from the early morning air. All day, I harbored a secret. Hidden and tightly nestled against my chest, warm from the proximity of my heart, was a key. I felt like a big kid. I would arrive home to a list of chores and an empty house. It taught me responsibility. And what it was to be lonely.

While my mother worked full-time, I would sit after school with the television as my only friend, caught up in the world of Suburban Advertising Moms. You know the ones: perfectly coiffed, calling for the Kool-aid Man, (not that she needs rescuing), as her kids emerge from the game, hot and thirsty. She, of the Betty Crocker persuasion, apron-clad, spoon in hand, she bakes up heavenly confections for her family. The smell wafting through the air brings the neighborhood kids forth just in time to get warm brownies. And isn't she a good mother? She didn't believe in the fight for feminism, choosing instead to grace the airwaves with her domestic presence. And I wanted to be her. Or, rather, I wanted her to be home with me. I promised myself I would be home for my kids.

That's exactly what I did. Once I had children, I stopped working, and never looked back. Yes, I remain involved in the community as a leader. And I am not indolent, I work from home as a freelance writer. (earnings are not the issue, the definition of work is) I homeschool my children, due to the lack of accommodations for special needs kids from our local school district. And I am generally more busy than not.

But I failed. Don't get me wrong, I am a good enough. But I never quite measured up to that image in my head of the Good Mother. I expected to be That house. The one on the block where all of the kids congregate? For chocolate chip cookies and video games or Lego, or swingset. And, when my kids were littler that did happen, at least for a bit. But I found that they were loud, and I was annoyed and stressed.

To be honest, part of the reason it didn't work out was that I don't particularly like the kids in this neighborhood. There's the girl down the street whose mom invited us over to go swimming. None of my kids knew how to swim and besides do people really just send their kids over to a strange family's home, willy-nilly? Since I didn't know her, I went with them, and she spent all afternoon in her house, on the phone or cleaning or drinking herself into a stupor who knows what, leaving me outside to watch the kids. All of them, hers included.

And to show that I didn't harbor any ill will, when they invited my daughter to pizza a few weeks later, I said yes. And the mother and her husband proceeded to get in a screaming argument complete with the f bomb in front of my then-sixth grader. no one cusses in front of my kids except me. And this was the good family on the block.

There's the kid next door who was on the same soccer team as my son, and made fun of him for being too slow as he ran for the ball. And the kid next door to him who, when he found out my then young son had a special affection for snails, made sure to turn over all the rocks in the flower bed and stomp the snails hiding there, every chance he had. And then he left the evidence smashed across my driveway for my son to find. So, yes, there is a reason I don't have these kids over at my house.

And this was before we realized just how different my kids were.

I find, that despite how warm or genuine I am, how much of an extrovert I play for limited periods, I don't really like Other People's Children much. At least on my own turf. I love kids, and I love working with kids and I am a high school youth leader at church (that's right, they actually let me near teenagers) but when I am at home, I protect it. Some people have the hospitality gift. I have the Raise the Drawbridge gift, I think. I see home as a castle, fortified against intruders, and while I love a lot of people and want to hang with them, I want to do it outside the walls. Inside, I want to sit around in my underwear, swear under my breath and leave dishes in the sink. That's just not conducive to entertaining.

Not to mention, I have very little domestic anything in me, not even beer. ( I prefer Guinness). I hate to clean house (which stems from being Cinderella to my "ugly-stepsister" family as I was growing up), the thing I would most prefer to make for dinner? Reservations. I tried for years to be a good Christian wife, and I fail miserably. There is a mountain of laundry piled as we speak. I admit it, I suck at the domestic wifely crap. But I have a very happy husband, and if you cannot read between the lines on that one, I refuse to spell it out for you. Let's just say there are some things more important than how springtime-fresh your toilets are.

I have finally, after many years, embraced my lack of mom-ness. I am not Supermom, she doesn't exist. She's about as "real" as the Real Housewives. I am not a bad mother. To the contrary, I am a good-enough mother. I don't do everything I could do for my children's comfort. I am short with them, preferring quiet to chaos more often than not. But I love them, and they know that. Even if I grouse at them, or complain that they don't put their shoes away or lock them outside because they are constantly traipsing in and out of the damn house! I only did that once, I swear, don't call CPS I love them. And that? IS good-enough.

T, who embraces mediocrity, try it

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7 sent chocolate:

angi said...

Thank you, T, you said it! I may not be perfect but I love my kids unconditionally...and they return the favor. That's all ask for in this life.

Recent blog post: Pure Joy

Michelle Tovaas Huelle said...

You are one of my favorite Moms, so there! :)

Tony Letts said...

Good blogs like yours resonate through our lives and chime when they strike similar things. My Mum didn't do domestic, she did 'business woman of the year'. One offshoot to that was that we didn't sit down together to eat. I was jealous of my friends who had family meals. As a parent I've always insisted on family meals. But I always loved my Mum very much and miss her dearly so it really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. Like you said - your kids know you love them and Jon is clearly a very lucky as well as happy man. I never had any problem reading between lines!

Recent blog post: DOWN TO EARTH WITH A BUMP

T, blog owner said...

aw thanks, Michelle! Right back at you!

T, blog owner said...

thanks Tony! Glad you enjoy the blog. I am fortunate to be happily married, and despite your protestations, I bet you are, as well.

TooManyHats said...

I grew up with the domestic diva mom - she stayed home, our house always had friends over, she cooked, baked, cleaned, and loved us. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But, here I am and I am so grateful God had other plans. I am no where near the domestic diva my mom was - I don't measure up, but I came to terms with that a long time ago. We all just have to find our own groove and go with it.

Recent blog post: Neighbors...

Redneck Mommy said...

As long as I don't turn into my mother, I will be a good mom.

But I still prefer to be called bad. Short for badass.


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