I am not June Cleaver.
I am not Carol Brady.
I am not Claire Huxtable.
I am not Caroline Ingalls or Olivia Walton.
I am not a perfect mother. Much to my own disappointment, I never will be.
So often I compare myself to other moms, and feel like a failure.
I think about my friends who make all their meals from scratch, only serve only healthy foods, and allow sweets only on special occasions. I feel like a failure in comparison because I pass out cookies left and right, and we consider it a healthy meal if I have a veggie on their plates. I have quit trying to read the "here's what I'm cooking for supper" status updates on Facebook because when I read things such as "Tonight's supper is Mahi Mahi with mango chutney" my heart sinks. I wouldn't even know how to begin to make mango chutney and the only time I have ever eaten Mahi Mahi was when I went out to fancy restaurant without my children. To loosely quote my friend Lisa Koleszar, in my house "we are quite familiar with Chef Boyardee. Perhaps you know him too. He mostly makes Italian dishes."
I think about my friends who have taught their children to do amazing things by the age of 10. Their kids are unloading the dishwasher at age 4 and cooking lunches for the family at age 8. Before their teen years, the kids are pretty much self-sufficient people who can do laundry, manage their money and run the house without any adult assistance. My 9 year old still struggles to make his own peanut butter sandwich and tie his shoes. My kids fold the towels, but it looks really sloppy so if I am having guests come over I go back and refold them so it looks a little more presentable. My children are far from being self-sufficient. I figure I'll be lucky if they are able to move out and survive on their own when it is time for them to go to college.
I have other friends who run their households like little army units. Schedules are amazingly tight and precise. The house is always immaculate. The children always look like they are dressed for a magazine photo shoot ... not a trace of dirt under their fingernails, every hair combed to perfection. My kids usually have traces of food on their faces and I feel good if they are wearing clothing without stains and socks that match. And mostly, I just hope that if someone pops in for an unexpected visit, that the bathroom looks halfway decent and that the last one in remembered to flush the toilet.
Then I have these mom friends who give their children amazing opportunities. Their children play 2 musical instruments, take dance or drama or voice lessons ... or maybe all three! They play baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall. The family goes on amazing trips and vacations, tying in fun with learning. I try to involve my children in one extra-curricular activity, but it is often hard for me to juggle too many different schedules so I'll put all of my kids into the same activity and request that they all play on the same team. And while we love to travel, it's not something we can afford to do very often. The last real vacation we took was two years ago this month. I'm not sure that Julia can even remember it. Maybe next summer ...
Yes, when I compare myself to my friends, I feel like perhaps I'm the worst mother ever.
My friend Barb Cash is known for often stating that "Comparison is the death of contentment." How true it is! I compare myself to others until I've convinced myself that I'm not a worthy mother. And what a lie! No, I'm not perfect. I have many flaws and makes a multitude of mistakes. But I'm not a bad mom either. You see ...
I'm the kind of mom who will stop and smell the roses.
I'll stop to take my kids on a scarecrow walk around the town just because everyone is enjoying seeing the scarecrows scenes as we were driving home. It won't matter that there are groceries in the car or that it was already past lunch time. We will still stop to enjoy the moment. We'll take lots of walks around the block and stop every few feet to examine ants or watch a bird or try to catch a cricket. Life's not a race, but rather something we like to savor together.
I'm the kind of mom who loves to say YES.
My children know that if they ask politely, I'm likely to say yes to buying ICEES at Walmart or to dessert after supper, though it will probably just be ice cream without the homemade apple pie. I love to say yes to movie nights and game nights and requests for fish sticks for dinner.
I'm the kind of mom who loves to break routine and schedule from time to time.
I love to read my children just one more chapter when they beg me to keep on reading, even though it is already 5 minutes past bedtime. Heck, I'm the kind of mom that puts the kids in bed, only to get them back up 10 minutes later so that I can take them out for ice cream at Sonic in their PJ's! Don't get me wrong ... I have a schedule that I try my best to keep, but sometimes life is more fun when you throw schedules to the wind!
I'm the kind of mom who isn't worried about a little dirt and thinks that nature is pretty cool.
Not only is it okay for my children to play in the rain, but it is fine for them to go stomping through the mud puddles as well. My children and I stop to rescue turtles from the middle of the road, keep the frogs and toads that we find as pets and eat our PB&J sandwiches on quilts in the yard on pretty spring afternoons while we listen to the birds sweetly sing about summer.
I'm the kind of mom who doesn't freak out easily.
Perhaps one of the biggest compliments my children ever gave me was when Joel got red marker all over his white school uniform shirt. His teacher was worried, but Joel said, "It's okay, Mrs. Roberts. My mom is pretty cool about stuff like this because she knows I'm a kid. She'll just tell me to be more careful next time."
I'm the kind of mom who cherishes creativity and loves to learn.
Glue and scissors and crayons and paints are not just welcome in our home ... we use them often! My kids and I work together to make things like superhero masks out of felt which we glue together with the help of a hot glue gun. I let my children decorate birthday cakes, create new recipes, and try out amazing science experiments. I love it when my kids ask a questions and I don't know the answer, because that means that we will discover it together! The library and the internet are our friends, and one of my hopes is that my children will grow up to be life long learners.
I'm the kind of mom who thinks childhood is a pretty special time and it passes by far too quickly.
The truest parenting truth that I've ever heard is this: the days are long but the years are short. I've been determined to not rush my children through childhood, but rather let them enjoy these precious years to the fullest. If anything, I'm probably guilty of babying my children far too long.
I am definitely not a perfect mom. I will never be. And oddly enough, when I truly stop to think about it, I'm actually thankful that I'm not perfect and that I make plenty of parenting mistakes. It is those mistakes that make me depend all the more on God's grace. I read a quote this week that I just love: "God spreads grace like a 4 year old spreads peanut butter. He gets it all over everything!" OH, how I need that kind of grace, especially when it comes to parenting.
Father God, my prayer for today and for tomorrow and for all the tomorrows yet to come is that You will supply enough grace to cover up each of my short-comings as a mother, and that through You all of my weaknesses will be made strong. Amen.
PS: If any of my friends see themselves in the "perfect moms," please know how much I love you and how much I respect your mothering! You keep right on doing what you are doing because you do it so well! It's what makes you a great mom, too. :)