Have you ever felt like everyone else was comparing apples with oranges and you don’t even fit in the round fruit category? Perhaps you’re a banana?
When I had been married for just a few years, my husband and I bought our first home. We moved into a lovely little neighborhood where it felt like everyone was the same age as us. The women around me were starting their families and were all perfect homemakers. They had a quilt club, embroidered darling wall hangings and pillows, were chefs in their own right, made handmade cards and scrapbooks, and decorated their homes so tastefully. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to be a ‘Domestic Diva’!
I joined their quilt club. I started a card club. I copied all their recipes and painted every room in my house. I read the books for book club. I went to the play groups. I made sure I fit in perfectly.
Over time, I couldn’t keep up. I made the quilt blocks, but the quilts never got made. I copied the embroidery pattern, but never had the desire to stitch. I had boxes of paper, but lost the drive to make anything with it. I had a closet which came to be known as my UPC (unfinished project closet). I felt guilty that I didn’t measure up and even felt like I’d let my friends down. I looked at these amazing women and wondered how they could do it all?
Eventually we moved across the country. (Yes, the UPC came too.) One day I was talking to a friend who enlightened me with a beautiful new understanding. We discussed how when we compare ourselves to others strengths, we’re usually not comparing ourselves to just one woman. We take the collective good of all the women we know, embody it into one person and then expect ourselves to measure up. We expect ourselves to be the whole fruit basket.
I shamefully looked back at this ‘Domestic Diva’ I was trying to be. While I was spending hours on my sewing machine, my babies were getting sick of the same toys on the floor. Their fussiness only added to my frustration and I frequently lost my temper. When I was staying up all night to cut paper and design cards, I was sleeping in the next morning, only to be aggravated when I was awoken by little guys who needed some breakfast. I was carrying guilt for the hours of T.V. they were watching, while I was diligently devouring the next book on the club list.
When I piled up all these collective qualities and tried to be great at every one of them, it only caused stress for me and my whole family. This is not to say that these talents or skills are not good. They are all wonderful, and add so much to the beauty of a home. But, I was trying to accomplish them all at once.
Suddenly, I realized that ‘homemaker’ and ‘mother’ are not synonymous terms. You can be a fabulous mother without having a June Cleaver home.
A burden was lifted as I realized that I don’t need to be everything. I discovered I only needed a change of focus. I needed to stop pretending to be something I wasn’t, decide what I did and didn’t like to do, and then balance it with my family’s needs.
It was time for some introspection. What was I good at? I quickly realized I am not a ‘Domestic Diva’, but I do love to teach my kids. I’m good at ‘table time’. This is where I sit down with my boys at our little round, blue table and we learn. We do patterns and multiplication with cereal or jelly beans, count dice while we play Yahtzee, spell with magnetic letters, or do a SUDOKU puzzle. I can throw a bang-a-rang ninja birthday party! I love to snuggle and read books with my kiddos. These are things I can be good at, even if I can’t keep a clean and beautifully decorated house.
It’s okay if I’m not my friend down the street who makes the fabulous fresh bread. I have a neighbor whose children are involved in many sports and she makes it to every game. That’s not me.
One of my friends has the patience of Job. I don’t think she has ever raised her voice with her children in her life. I assure you that is not me either. It would be awesome to be my friend who takes her kids on ‘adventures’, but we call it ‘going to the store’.
I know moms who are wonderful about getting down on the floor and playing, wrestling, or being silly. I see mothers who work and still sacrifice time to take their kids to art classes or soccer clubs. Mothers all around me have great relationships with their teenagers, or give up their future dreams to raise a grandchild.
There are a myriad of qualities that make up the fruit basket. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are so many yummy fruits out there, and each has a unique taste. Although we may be born a certain type of mother, we can always learn from the other mothers around us. Ultimately, we need to take what we are, embrace it, and share the flavor with those we love.
QUESTION: Which fruit are you? What qualities do you have that make you different from other mothers? Are there things you’re trying to do that are just not “you”? Are they making you a better person, or would you be better off letting them go for now?
CHALLENGE: If you’re trying to be too much or something you’re not, identify what you can let go of. Make a list of the mothering strengths you have and think about how you can use those strengths to make your family better.