Just a Mom?

Last summer I went to a high school reunion. Everyone was comparing accomplishments and talking about their fancy occupations as they held their glass of wine and felt very successful and grown-up. When I confidently expressed to my long lost comrades that I was a full-time mother of two, they tried to sound excited for me. But it was blatantly obvious that they were taken off-guard and didn’t really know what to say about such a “drab” and “unambitious” lifestyle. Throughout the evening I continued to pull out my two pictures of my two wonderful little children of whom I’m very proud. I thought about telling them about my studies in college or the work I did before I launched into the profession of motherhood – counseling mentally disturbed adolescents, working as a health and nutrition counselor, and doing missionary work in Bulgaria. But I decided to focus on my present career and tried to show that being a full-time stay at home mom was the most important and fulfilling thing for me – that it was a conscious decision and an occupation I took very seriously.

My children are 18 months and 4 years old. I hope to have two more. Yes, I relate with mothers who get only 2 1/2 showers a week after 1 p.m., who never get enough sleep, who walk around with snail trails on their shoulders from all the runny noses; and who answer a gazillion “whys” a day for their 3 year old. I can empathize with those who have put their dreams on hold and spend their time picking Play-Doh out of the carpet, scrubbing juice stains out, and driving around on errands with a potty in their trunk!  But it makes me sad when mothers and the rest of the world focus on these unappealing aspects of motherhood. Mothers everywhere commiserate over how they don’t know who they are anymore, how they never get to do anything for themselves, and how they just wish they could go back to work, school, or whatever. I hear comments sometimes that make me so sad. “Oh, I’m just a mom, I don’t have a job…” “she doesn’t work – she stays at home.” WAIT A MINUTE! “JUST a MOM?” NO!  It isn’t about being “just a mom!” It’s about being a mom and finding true fulfillment. It’s about being a mother and fulfilling your destiny, finding your true self, having fun with wonderful little people, shaping lives including your own, and finding a “season” for everything in your life.

You can be a mom and still schedule time for a cheap facial at your local beauty college once in a while, or spend an evening with your girlfriends or go out on exciting dates with your husband. You can still read great novels or study up on something you’re interested in during nap times. You can still dress in attractive clothes and wear lipstick even to the grocery store. I have been in the self-pity trap before, saying, “Oh, what about me? My life is passing me by because all I ever do is take care of the kids and the home. I never do anything for myself.” But thinking this way just made me a self-absorbed bitter mother, unable to enjoy my two little miracles who are growing up fast. You can always, and should always, make some time for yourself. And really motherhood can help you become the best person you can be. It is about you AND the kids. I changed my attitude when I really focused on motherhood as a divine calling that doesn’t steal your personality but rather helps you figure out who you really are. Indeed, my personality has thrived and my wisdom has increased. I WILL shine!!!

My home is a tiny little kingdom wherein my precious miracles are nurtured. I have adorned my house with things I’ve learned to make with my own hands and the aroma of my made-from-scratch meals fills the air (OK, at least 3 times a week). My children cover themselves at night with the quilts I learned to make for them. My son speaks words that I teach him. My daughter learns music, dance, and gardening because I’m home with her. I go jogging with a stroller and play at the park on the swings and slides. I go to the library for story time twice a month and we feed the ducks at the lake. I teach my 4-year-old how to make muffins and pour juice. I read to her and her 18 month old brother twice a day. We build forts and paint and make snow caves in the wintertime. We write letters to their grandmas, chase each other and tell ridiculous jokes. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I’m depressed, sometimes I fail; but at the end of the day, I still get hugs and no one can fire me for my inadequacies.

Being a mother and homemaker is the most incredible, difficult, and rewarding endeavor any woman could ever undertake. It is the epitome of womanhood to bear a child and love him, guide him, and take care of him your whole life long. What could be more important than to raise a happy, stable child? What other job in the world could be more complex, unpredictable, nerve wracking, exhausting, hilarious and rewarding than raising a human being?! They come to this earth with no manual and we just try to figure it out day after day. Still, the fast paced, high-tech society demeans and dismisses the job and the woman they do not understand by saying, “Oh, she’s just a stay at home mom.”

We are a poor student family, living off student loans and our savings. I could go back to work and may even have to, but if at all possible I’ll do whatever I can to keep my full-time job right here at home raising two little humans.

Challenges:  Here are a few quick things you can do to integrate the ideas in this article into your life.

  • Make a list of skills and abilities you’ve developed through being a mother.  You may start with stuff like changing diapers or determining whether a child has a fever without consulting a thermometer, but as you keep going with your list, you’ll likely come up stuff like multitasking and getting things done in an ever-changing environment.  There are things you’re learning every day – and the more you recognize how you’re learning and growing, the more you can feel fulfilled.
  • Write down the things you love about being a mom.  Keep adding to your list every day for a week.  Won’t this be something fun to share with your kids some day?
  • Write down what you CHOOSE to do that has led you to where you are in your life.  As we remember that we are where we are largely due to our own choices, it’s easier not to feel trapped or put-upon but the hard things that are bound to happen in your life as a mother.

QUESTION: When is the best time for you to have some quiet time?

CHALLENGE: Choose and complete a suggestion from the list above. If you don’t see one that fits for you, come up with a great one on your own.

Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Comments (3)

April Perry
Said this on 11-19-2008 At 09:54 pm
Thanks for sharing this great article with us! I appreciated your perspective so much. After a long day “mommy-ing,” I appreciate this reminder that I am doing good work! I’d love to read more articles by you–you did such a nice job!

Shawna Woodworth
Said this on 11-22-2008 At 10:44 am
I felt a certain thrill when I read your second paragraph and realized I could relate to every single thing you listed–those quirky things, like snail trails and potties in the trunk, that all moms (and maybe only moms?) can relate to. I enjoyed reading your encouraging article. Thanks for the time you put in to writing it.

Deborah Gardner
Said this on 12-4-2008 At 04:34 pm
Thank you April and Shawna for your comments. Since I wrote this article, I have had 3 more kids for a total of 5! Life is busier and crazier than ever before. My youngest is 16 months and is REALLY high maintenance. She cries a lot, requires a lot of attention, gets into the toilettes constantly (oftentimes they haven’t been flushed) and several times a week she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming until we bring her to bed, ug! I find my biggest moments of struggling however, are when we are all in the car, sitting in church, dinner time and bed time. Any of you relate? My new mantra is: “I am the eye of the storm….I am the eye of the storm.” I am also trying really hard to make sure my kids don’t fee like they are a nuisance to me…which they are, just kidding :). I always want to have an attitude of ENJOYING my children. They are growing up REALLY fast and it’s kind of freeking me out. That 4 year old I mentioned in this article is now turning 12–yikes! Keep up the good work moms!
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