Monday, October 27, 2008

the good mother

What is the good mother? What does she look like? Does she make perfect potato salad? Does she go to the gym reclaiming her "pre-pregnancy" body? Does she know how to dress just right, never looking like a Mom? Does she keep her home beautiful, her children happy, her husband content? Does she speak calmly to her children, never raising her voice? Does she work outside of the home? Does she stay at home? Is she well read, well educated, well trained to do her job? Does she make it look easy? Was she born with the gift of mothering or is she still trying to figure out what that is? Does she let her kids play only with wooden toys, eat only organic food, drive only in a Bio Diesel fueled car? Does she educate her children on their responsibility in this world to save the earth? Does she forbid bananas? Does she breastfeed? Does she only let her children drink out of stainless steal water bottles? Does she go to every parent meeting, ready to volunteer for yet another bake sale? Does she make perfect brownies? Does her dedication to her children manifest itself in the way her children always say "please" and "thank you"? Is she Mary Poppins with a magic carpet bag full of glitter and glue and a teaspoon of sugar to make the medicine go down?

Or....does she get up everyday intending this day to be great, hoping it to be better than the last. Does she put on the clothes that make her feel good, even if they are cozy pants? Does she scarf down breakfast as she is shoving her kids into their muddy buddies, hoping not to be late for school once again? Does she make Highliner fish sticks and fries for dinner so that she didn't have to deal with the baby going through the recycling box sucking on salmon tins just so she could make a balanced meal? Does she yell at her kids, even though she said she would never do it again and apologize to them, and herself, at the end of the day? Does she let the dishes go, the laundry pile up, the floors unswept so she can take her kids outside and spend some time with them? Does she skip out of bake sales, craft fairs and parent meetings so that she can veg out in front of a movie and forget the day? Does she cry? Does she ask for help when she feels like walking out the door to look for the life she thinks she would be more qualified for? Does she feel guilty for not doing enough, saying enough, thinking enough? Does she lose herself in her children only to find that she has in fact become lost?

Maybe she is some, or none or all of these things. Maybe the good mother does her best, whatever that is for her that day. Maybe the good mother is the one who is gentle with herself. I don't know. Today I felt like if I had hired myself to do my job, I would have fired myself 6 months ago. I do my best and still I feel like I come up short most days. I cleaned the house, made lunch, read stories, even took the kids for a hike up a local mountain, by 4:00pm, I was done. Near tears, I called my husband for help lamenting never being given the mother gene, the one that I dream other mothers have that make them love all the things that come with being a mum. He came inside, gave me a hug and rescued me, I love him so much.

The good mother is such a powerful idea in our culture, with so much value, so much worth. We all think it means something different so we can never possibly measure up to someone else's idea. What is the good mother?

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